Leaving Something Good

The kind of bands that play
the music that I write these days
seem few and far between;
somewhere between grasping the brass ring
and the consequences
lie some broken dreams.

Just for myself, it doesn’t matter much;
but without substance,
how can we survive?
When everything is so disposable,
how will we prove
that we were once alive?

A lifetime isn’t long enough
to waste a single ounce of what you find;
in every hour’s experience
there’s suffering and pain and being kind.
To think your generation’s got it right
is tanamount to being blind
unless you’re learning from the past, living the now,
and leaving something good behind.

The kind of songs that live
in memory aren’t written
for the copies that they sell;
They represent a drink of water
in a world that seems to build
only dry wells.

And for those who’re never
thirsty, maybe it’s enough
imagining a drink;
but so many die in deserts,
waiting for a single drop;
it makes you think.

A lifetime isn’t long enough
to waste a single ounce of what you find;
in every hour’s experience
there’s suffering and pain and being kind.
To think your generation’s got it right
is tanamount to being blind
unless you’re learning from the past, living the now,
and leaving something good behind.

14 JAN 2007

Listening to John Hiatt’s Chronicles, and thinking about the parallel between some distinctive voices: John Hiatt, Richard Manuel, Van Morrison, Ray Charles, Joe Cocker. Yes, they can lay on the coals and push the volume, but each of them is most effective when they approach the breaking point: when you feel as if the next note they sing may well be their last. And it got me thinking about something I read regarding Joe Cocker — that he was willing to do physical damage to himself in order to do proper service to a song. You may well wonder, and surmise that it would have to be a pretty damn good song to be worthy of that sacrifice. Which brings up another question altogether: why inflict such self-suffering on mediocre material, on art that isn’t likely to last the month, let alone the decade or millenium?

Learn from the past, live in the now, leave something good behind. Explaining that to a generation that thinks it can learn how to play like Eric Clapton by listening to Eric Clapton perhaps is a waste of time. Talking to a Deadhead whose only concept of music is the Dead and other “jam” bands, without realizing the scope of music from which the Dead drew their inspiration, maybe is wasted breath.

But maybe it isn’t. There’s a line from the movie Footloose where preacher John Lithgow asks, “If we never trust our children, how will they ever become trustworthy?”. I wonder along a similar tangent: “If we never share with our children why our music (or anything else about our culture or lives) is important to us, and all they get is our CD collection when we die, how can we expect them to appreciate why we bothered to keep it for their inheritance?”.

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