Tuesday, June 22, 2010

She may want a "World Without Tears" but she doesn't want a world without music

I love music. Those two people who read my blogs have probably picked up on this by now. I wanted to be a famous musician, but I was too darn lazy to learn an instrument probably.

In my brief rock career, I learnt the value of good songwriting partnerships, but I also learnt that if those partnerships hit the doldrums, lyricists are washed up if they can't play an instrument well enough to write their own music and go solo. That realisation was extremely frustrating for me.

Both of my young sons learn the guitar. My oldest has been learning for four years and he's getting pretty damn good. My youngest has been learning for only three months, but he hadn't even learnt that many chords before he was writing his own songs, both with lyrics and instrumental! He loves U2 and he probably wants to be the next Bono but with Edge's guitar chops as well thrown in. Good on him!

I never forced either of my sons to learn guitar. The eldest expressed an interest when he was 7 and the youngest probably wanted to ape his older brother. So I'm not living vicariously through my sons. Maybe neither of them will try to make a career of music, but they'll have a skill which will give them and others lifelong pleasure. The youngest is a born performer. He already has several busking gigs under his belt and he's made some reasonable money. He knows he has the "cuteness factor", we call it, so he wants to milk it while he's got it. "Cuteness" is all washed up by about age 8 or 9. He already makes more money than his brother if they busk apart, but simultaneously, because his brother, although handsome as all get out, has to rely on his skill because, at 11, he is all washed up for "cuteness".

But I digress (as I often do). I love music. If you ask me who my favourite artist is, I cannot say because I love so many and when one is right for one listening mood, one other artist may not be, but will come into their own on another day.

But it often strikes me, when listening to music, how few musicians reference other musicians in their songs. Writers often seem to refer to other writers. Perhaps not in their poems or stories or novels, but often in essays and other non-fiction.

Lucinda Williams, one of my musical loves, often name-checks other musicians in her songs: Howlin' Wolf, ZZ Top, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn and a host of others.

Lucinda Williams knows deep down in the marrow of her songwriting bones that art doesn't exist in a vacuum. One of her albums is called World Without Tears and she sure seems to have some sadness and disappointment in her love life, but she knows she'll never have to endure a world without music and neither should any of us.

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