By Hans Ebert
If every industry used the power of music to attract consumers, there just might be more honesty in the world that will make this a happier place- or, at least, more of a thinking person’s world, and not the vapid moment in time it can often be when one sings, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” or Peggy Lee’s sad lament, “Is that all there is?”
A few of us were talking the other night about music and how damn lucky we are to have been born at a time when so much great music was created- music that has become the soundtrack to our lives, music that has been the Voice of political change, and music that we carry with us in our hearts and minds to get us through those dark moments that can creep up on us when we allow our minds to wander off with Tom Thumb to Juarez where there are some hungry women who can sure make a mess outta you.
Music is the great leveller that brings all us together. Think about what a simple question like, “What are your five favourite songs?” can lead to. There’s an almost magical chain reaction that brings complete strangers together, helps friends know each other even better, and this simple question often leads us to a long and winding road of conversation- remember, face to face conversation as opposed to tweets and Facebook likes?- that leads us from all the different songs of the Beatles to the individual music produced by John, Paul, George and even Ringo to Dylan’s body of work, the songs of Carole King, the Eagles, Bobby Darin, Paul Simon, Prince, Don Henley, Bowie, the Stones, and all those songs that have such personal memories attached to them. Songs like “Desperado”, those very real personal stories turned into songs we can identify with by Jimmy Webb, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell and Brian Wilson plus all that Feel Good music of Young America, courtesy of Motown, and the infectious of Pop music produced by Phil Spector, and before him, the musical inventiveness of the great Les Paul.
Again, how lucky are so many of us to have grown up with so much music in our homes and with so many musical heroes- heroes some of us have met in person, and just how proud we are of those times, which can never be taken away from us. Keith, Mick, Stevie, Paul etc are mentioned like we do when mentioning friends. We might never have met them, but we know them through their music. We know them on a first name basis. “What about that Keith, man, how does he keep rocking on?” “Yeah, but what about Mick, Ronnie and Charlie?” And we’re off again sharing our favourite Stones’ songs, which, somehow, leads to Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, the Flying Burrito Brothers and how those wild, wild horses couldn’t drag me away.
There’s Truth Juice in music. It’s an intangible thing- a feeling that can’t be put into words, but which we can all understand. The sharing of music is what’s the most rewarding because it brings back the art of conversation. We simply don’t talk enough, anymore. We might think we do, but messaging on WhatsApp, sending an email or tweet or posting a “like” on Facebook is void of emotion.
Frankly, there are those days when one wishes all this technology disappears and we return to a more simple time. Perhaps it’s these simpler times that made the songs so pure, so real, so much more melodic and with words that that reached heart, head and home, and musicians were real musicians.
Music, at least to me, makes us better people as it removes all the flatulent chest pounding, and pretences. In other words, music drowns out the clutter of bullshit. There might be some oneupmanship involved, but this is like playing pop trivia, and, again, a sharing of information about everything from how underrated the Zombies, the Kinks, the Animals, Nick Drake, Badfinger and Ian Matthews are to the great musicianship of Mitch Mitchell, John Martyn, Richard Thompson, and remembering the work of the hugely overlooked Buffy Saint Marie.
Like the recent passing of David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Cilla Black, Merle Haggard etc, no one lives forever and we must steel ourselves to when we have to say goodbye to many more musical heroes.
Though life will never be the same without these iconic figures around, their music and those of everyone else who left us decades earlier lives on, and for this, we must be eternally grateful.
After all, music is a language that has no barriers- only a rainbow of sounds that the politicians, the business world, and all those others who never grew up with music around them, will leave this world so much poorer.