I was working on a new blog when this came in today. Don’t know if you’re familiar with The Lefsetz Letter but he’s read by ton’s of industry pros. I don’t always agree with him but you can’t fault his knowledge or passion. This was too good to not pass on!
I almost wrote about James Taylor a couple of weeks back, because he’s giving free guitar lessons on his Website, actually, since I was last there, he’s posted one more:
Although I gave up playing the guitar decades ago, I was stunned that a musician of his caliber seemed to be not only utilizing the Web, but using it to give back.
But that’s not what inspired me to write right now.
Last night, I was flipping the channels before going to bed and I caught James on Charlie Rose.
I’ll admit I checked out Letterman first, but he was doing his once a year grocery bagging competition, you know, where he gets the big winner and goes head to head and throws stuff on the floor and cheats and it used to be funny, but that was back in the eighties.
And flipping with the remote, I can’t wait for Time Warner to have an iPad remote, that truly shows what’s going on, that makes cable TV comprehensible, I saw a guy I recognized with just a few too many years on him since I’d studied him last. It was definitely James Taylor. But the sync was off. I switched to the non-HD iteration, but his mouth and his voice weren’t aligned there either, so I went back to HD.
And it’s no crime to get old. But in fine detail, James Taylor looked less like a star and more like a person. After all, these are just human beings, flawed like the rest of us, but they wrote those songs… How did they write those songs?
Not the way they do it today. Not the way those big Top Forty hits are constructed. They’re built from the ground up. And even those Nashville compositions are anything but bolts of inspiration. Brick by brick you build the song today. But great songs are feats of inspiration, they enter your brain and you have to write them down fast, before you forget them.
I was stunned, I was pissed I’d missed the first half of the show, because James Taylor was talking about creativity, something I deal with every damn day.
You can be reading the newspaper, watching TV, walking down the street, standing in the shower, and suddenly you get an idea, and you’ve got to RUN to the computer.
And sometimes it’s not a complete idea. Sometimes complete songs come to James, other times just fragments, which he has to put together with other fragments to get an entire number.
And it’s tougher now, because of the expectations. Everybody is watching. Well, not everybody, but his loyal fans. You’re only a superstar for a little while, but he’s lucky, a fan base has endured, that comes every year to see him, that keeps him alive. That’s his insight, not mine. But too often stars are delusional. But James is not. And he’s got the wisdom of years. But he can’t be an outsider anymore.
That’s how he felt as a teen. An alien. And he needed to write songs to delineate his condition, his feelings. To illustrate where he was coming from. But once everybody knew where he was at, they were watching, and that’s pressure. That makes it harder.
Our greatest stars were alienated. They were not the cheerleader or the captain of the football team. They were closer to suicide than being voted most popular. But there’s a little bit of alienation in all of us. And when they sing, we swoon.
I don’t know if some of you already subscribe to the Lefsetz letter but he’s a wealth of info and opinions :-)!! Agree or disagree I don’t doubt his passion and knowledge of the music industry. I wanted to pass today’s on, great stuff!
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