I always felt he sang with such authority,
as if his way was how the song should be,
and let the writer of it know, in no uncertain terms,
that they could use it too, once in a while.
Like John the Baptist, unlike Isaac’s Moses,
I always heard him from the wilderness,
imagining he dined on honeyed locusts
and came in from the desert with his song.
He could employ a rumble or a whisper,
cacaphony or simple silent prayer
in service to a song’s deep, inner meaning;
he sang no song that did not have it there.
At Woodstock, he seemed like a great prophet;
I wonder, just how many lives were changed.
He taught that music could indeed work wonders,
and heal wounds better than it could destroy.
23 APR 2013
for Richard Pierce “Richie” Havens (1941-2013)
The smile that sells the message never writes it.
The sweat under the spotlights is for show.
The work it takes to make it all look easy
few understand, and most will never know.
The pain endured to make an hour’s pleasure,
the loss a pittance gained cannot recoup:
how little it seems worth to just continue.
How low is it required that one must stoop?
The easy laugh – how hard it is to fake it:
to hold the sorrow back, year after year.
The work is not enough; nothing can make it
seem less a torture and more a career.
12 APR 2013
Sometimes an act itself becomes enough
to satisfy one’s hunger for applause;
and what discomforts must be suffered through
become, to reach an end, at last worthwhile.
That any others witness such a feat
is gratifying, yes, but not required;
to truly find yourself is, after all,
a personal accomplishment for one.
Sometimes the moment of epiphany
can be so subtle, it is not observed
except as a strange ripple in the air
that takes away the breath for just a while.
Then, quickly as it comes, the moment’s gone;
and time, paused by the spell, continues on.
07 APR 2013
For forty years, I’ve sung and played;
each bar, garage or concert stage
has its own ghosts, its private songs.
They do not share them all.
Some of these venues are long gone,
while others stand with different names;
those that remain all show their age.
We all get older, year by year.
The players, too, have come and gone
to better gigs or greener lawns;
sometimes, I hear of their success
and wonder if they think of me.
In forty years, I’ve found that songs
evolve or die. To stay the same
means fade away, and is not love;
I’m missing Buddy Holly now,
and many more I’ve never met
except perchance as lingering shades
who hang backstage, behind the lights
and sometimes, hum along.
05 APR 2013
OK, so I’m now 45 years old. I’ve been playing music onstage since I was 8. That’s 37 years in some kind of band or another, on stages of all kinds, in six different states and on at least three TV channels.
And here’s the bottom line, for me.
I don’t want to play in any more bar bands. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to play at any venue (except as a huge personal favor to a good friend or two) where the main purpose for attending wherever the music is playing is something other than the music onstage. And that includes places that use as their marketing campaign something like “Fridays and Saturdays, live music” as if the music were some kind of gracious amenity that attendees got as a bonus. No more gigs where you show up to do something else, and there just happens to be a band playing.
I’ll go one further. The audience (which we’ve already stipulated has to be primarily motivated by wanting to hear live music) also must be there to see me. Not accidental live music, not breezing through town and luckily catching the only live music in on that particular evening, but deliberately coming either because they know me (or have heard of me) or because the venue has specified “ME – live and in person” and is likewise excited (to some degree) about having, promoting and paying for non-anonymous performance.
I’m not so foolish as to think it must be exclusively ME. It could be me solo, me as or in a band, or even me opening for another band that folks also are interested in hearing. It’s also not about the money – although if you’re coming to see live music, and not just getting it included in your meal (solid or liquid) like a free dessert, you ought to be willing to pay for it. It’s a privilege, not a right.
One final stipulation … when you come to see me play, it’s to hear what I WANT TO PLAY. I’m not your human jukebox.
I think that covers it. If your gig doesn’t meet this criteria, don’t call me.
I don’t want to spend another uninspiring hour
in a smoke-filled bar pretending that I care
about some great rebellion, or the poetry of freedom,
dropping names of people that I wish were there.
Even if I felt like drinking, it would feel just like more boredom,
endless motions in some pointless riparte;
just words wasted in a neverending stab at conversation
trying to forget I’ve got nothing to say.
I don’t want to mix and mingle with another group of strangers
who are only there to see and to be seen;
interested in the deception of making some great connection
over shots of cheap tequila and Jim Beam.
I don’t care about your politics, your sex life or your business,
and you damned sure won’t be interested in mine;
so what’s the point of all of this? It seems so unimportant;
and a lot like wasting too much precious time.
I don’t want to spend another minute doing this great nothing
that we seem to think is how to get along.
If that’s all there is, I’m finished; you can muddle on without me.
I won’t bother writing you any more songs.
11 FEB 2007
Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I sure don’t want to be
one of those two old guys sitting in the balcony:
a grizzled, bitter muppet who makes fun of everything
and never gets up off his ass, and on the stage to sing.
Maybe I’m a geezer, but I’ve got a youthful heart
that’s ready, anytime, to get on stage and do my part;
could be that I’ll look foolish, but I’ve done that bit before:
been some kind of a fool for almost thirty years or more.
‘Cause I can play the guitar and sing circles ’round a song;
the feeling that I get on stage can’t possibly be wrong:
that you can change the world with music, if you only try.
I’ll be an old musician, ’til I die.
Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I learned back in the day
that every kind of music’s good, in its own unique way;
from Lawrence Welk and Hee-Haw, and the Porter Wagoner show
I figured out there is no song that you can’t make your own.
Maybe it’s kinda crazy, but I wish you’d take a chance
on an old guitar picker who’s too old to learn to dance;
together, we could play some things that are worth listening to,
and change the world, if only for a brief hour or two.
‘Cause I can play the guitar; hell, I’ve played for thirty years;
that should be worth some to you, at the start of your career:
let my voice of experience assist you while you try.
to grow as a musician, ’til you die.
Maybe I’m a dreamer, my whole life spent out of sync;
why ain’t he rich or famous, I can hear some of you think.
You’re right, to some degree, but money ain’t the only thing.
Sometimes, the prize is that you get to sing.
18 JAN 2007