When you have been at something as long as I have you come to a point where you begin to closely scrutinize what, if any, impact your life’s vocation has had on the world at large. I began playing guitar at the age of eight. I joined the Musician’s Union at age fourteen when I commenced playing professionally. So I have been at this endeavor for a good long time. I have written about 235 songs and recorded nearly all of them as my discography can attest to. Still, it is only prudent to take an honest look at your life and work.
I have done my best. That is something I am quite certain of and I still have the desire to do better. Luckily I am in a profession where people give you an immediate feedback. How fortunate are the performers of any art where an audience actually applauds your efforts.
As long as I can produce smiles and appreciation I will continue.
I recently saw the documentary, “Jaco:The Film.”
Most everyone knows that Jaco Pastorius was an electric bass virtuoso. He was sort of like the Jimi Hendrix of electric bass. But his life was a short and tragic one. He lived fast, played hard and died young as the saying goes.
Seeing the film made me think of a childhood friend of mine who was also a great bass player though not nearly as well known as Jaco. This friend of mine and I grew up in the same town and played in a band together in high school. We even made a record. Doug and I played together again in our early twenties. In fact, I was with him the night I met my wife.
He too lived fast and died way too young. The last time I saw him just a few weeks before his tragic death was quite an incident and it haunts me. I was driving down a street in Uptown Minneapolis called Lagoon. A car came speeding up impatiently behind me beeping the horn and then passed me. The driver of the car and I both simultaneously flipped each other the bird. Then we both instantly realized who was in the other car. We sort of laughed and shrugged. All of this happened very quickly but left a big impression.
I was shocked to hear of his death a short time later. He had achieved some notoriety and had become the touring bass player in the group of a very well known blues artist. To me Doug was, in my opinion, a sort of “Minnesota Jaco.”
When I think about this last encounter on a street in Uptown it seems a pretty good metaphor for how differently we led our lives. I was always more cautious and calculated while my friend was a risk taker and lived on the edge. Though this quality may have caused him some problems it might also be what made him such a fine musician.
He visits me once in a while in my dreams.