All I hear on the radio are the same old sixties and seventies hits—now going on a half century old. I guess many of us are wondering, “where did the music go?” I think I know. We are in one of those doldrum periods, like in the Sargasso Sea, where there is no wind and sailing ships got stuck there for there was no way out. This happened in the simple, unadorned, saccharine sweet fifties.
Then comes the mavericks: Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, James Brown, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Jimmy Hendrix, Willie Nelson and Jerry Lee Lewis. What were they? How did they get there?
They were different; they had a random uniqueness and they were off the grid and they kicked ass because they were good and knew it. They rode high in the saddle and didn’t look back. Sure, they had problems, but it didn’t keep them from playing their music.
I could name writers, painters, sculptors, artists of every genre who bucked the system and moved over and beyond the old mossbacks that tried to stop them. They then set the standard.
I remember when Elvis took the old blues song by Big Mama Willie Mae Thornton, “You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Hound Dog,” and made it into a golden hit. Hear her on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCKNErNkMRw. The mossbacks, resisting the juggernaut of huge popularity of black Rhythm and Blues and its kickass child, Rock and Roll, had Pat Boone, the vanilla wafer with white bucks to sing it. It was pathetic. He even tried to do Little Richard’s “Tutti Fruiti, wop bobba loobap a bop bam boom,” and some others that were total flops. See Little Richard doing it on youtube:
Rock and Roll rolled right over that crap like a Sherman tank. Black American music was blowing the lid off of White American music, and the young white kids were going wild.
When I grew up in the forties and early fifties, it was before Rock and Roll, and Rhythm and Blues were just hatching. There was only AM radio and I was around 14 or 15, and was fiddling around with the car radio (I was driving at 15) and picked up a powerful station coming out of WLAC Clear Channel Station WLAC out of Gallatin Tennessee. I heard my first rhythm and blues. I thought my head was going to come off. I had never heard anything like it. It had rhythm and soul. It was nothing like the current pop music of the time—Mills Brothers, Ink Spots, Vaughn Monroe, Frankie Laine, Bing Crosby.
Then the regulators of social activity, the censors, those who had been holding the energy of youth down got scared, and tried to suppress this Vesuvius that was on ever teenager’s doorstep from erupting. Pat Boone was washed out to sea on a wave of hot lava, laughing at his prissy assed efforts at soul.
The rest is history.
Then Don McLean sang in American Pie about the music dying. That music still lives in all of us who lived and loved in that blessed time. But something did die, and what died was the random uniqueness of new musicians, artists, who blew through town and then moved on into memory, leaving their songs that linger in its wake—like remembering the fragrant spring during winter—and a bit of sadness at its leaving.
Where are the mavericks who are real musicians like those guys? Give us some real music again.
The lesson for writers is that you should always think outside of the box, realizing that there is no box; the only box is that restraint you put on you. Write that book, that poem, that story. Nobody will laugh at you. Peer pressure and what others think is the killer of the sacred random uniqueness that sets the pace, that makes the difference. Your story is worthwhile writing and can save your soul from the despair of squashing your own uniqueness. Let me write it for you if you can’t. Don’t languish in the doldroms of your own failure to confront your talent, the beauty that is you.
Write that story. You owe it to yourself. Come out of hiding–you could be the butterfly that blasts out of your chrysalis and lights the night–or you could be one whose courage can be an example to timid souls who need your inspiration.