Monday, October 29, 2007

Singing and living the blues . . .

I went to a music club with a new friend this past Saturday night . It was probably the first time in twenty-five years or more that I visited a place like this. It was fun. My friend, a jamming partner who moved to London recently, was a fan of the featured performer at the club and asked me if I wanted to tag along. The performer had achieved some measure of success as a folk artist, decades ago, but performed mostly blues at the gig we attended on Saturday.

I like blues. It typically has simply structured chord patterns, repeated over and over again, a form that invites improvisation in the lead parts, usually played by guitar. This performer sang some songs he had written and versions of songs by Robert Johnson and other early blues greats, taking lengthy instrumental leads in each song on his slide guitar. I watched his performance with interest and watched the crowd's reactions as well. I am always curious about how people act and react in any setting, and this was a great place to do that.

During one of the breaks, my friend commented to me that he found it curious that the audience was most appreciative of the noisiest parts of the song, when the guy was almost randomly moving the slide up and down the fretboard, crashing the strings with slide and fingers both, to create sounds that were both frenzied and discordant. When the guy played some really interesting riffs, requiring real skill and 'heart,' the crowd was silent.

That is the sort of thing that I would notice, and I was impressed that my friend noticed it too. People often react to, and are impressed by, flash and verve -- more so than by substance and skill. Noise rules. Nuance is ignored. So it is in music,and so it is with everything else.

Who are the politicians that get all the attention? Why, the ones who are best at posturing, or at pounding away at the strings of our hearts, of course. It is no accident that politicians appeal to our emotions rather than to our intellect. Actions ruled by emotion are seldom rational. We do things because they 'feel' right and tend to regret them afterwards.

I enjoyed the evening listening to the blues. At the end of it, I was able to go home and would be able to choose for myself whether ever to listen to that artist again, or whether to purchase his CD's or to attend another show, if ever he is back in town again. Not so with politicians. Once you become part of their gig, once they are elected to office, you're stuck. You keep paying over and over and over... long after they're voted out of office and even long after they die. And then your kids pay and pay and pay.

Personally, I'd rather listen to a good artist sing and play the blues than to have any politician make me blue by interfering with my life and stealing my money.

How about you?


  1. You should really consider having some of this published.
    This post in particular, is one of your best.

  2. Thank you, Galt. You are very kind. I'm always gratified that anyone takes the time to read what I write and comments like yours are reward enough.