This protracted period of forced solitude and just my age, in general, have been instrumental in my recent musings about my life and so-called career as a musician.
One thing I have noticed for some time now is how people who are not involved in the music biz have some false notions about the reality of it. A comment I have heard many countless times goes something like this, “Gee, you are really good how come you never made it?”
This question used to annoy me for several reasons. First of all, I don’t like the implication that somehow I didn’t ‘make it.’ Second, who says I didn’t make it? Third, what is meant by the term ‘making it.’
I realize this comment was meant as a sort of compliment, but it proceeds from the false idea that fame equals success. When you look at the great number of musical artists who enjoyed great, and sometimes almost “obscene” fame, yet ended their life in misery, it becomes obvious that fame in and of itself is an inadequate reward.
I am aware of my worth and equally aware of my limitations. I have no illusions of grandeur and yet I know I have used my time well. Luckily I have lived long enough to gain this modicum of wisdom and self-realization.
This whole problem stems from what motivates a musician in the first place. For me, the priority was always (from the start) the music, and the “presentation” or “show biz’ aspect was secondary. I did very little to create an image. Even an “anti-image image” can be a pre-meditated approach.
When I was younger, I was vain and foolish enough to hope I would gain some sort of high notoriety, but when that eventuality didn’t avail itself, I adapted. I am good at adapting. In fact, I am somewhat of a virtuoso in terms of adaptation to reality. It is key to any sort of survival.
As a musical artist, I have re-invented myself several times and it is good and necessary to adapt. After all, in the end, these variations of self-reinvention are all still based on the essential personality that is never changing.
My philosophy these days is based on the concept of ‘karma yoga,’ which roughly means you do your work without expectation of reward. It is nice to be recognized and appreciated but it is not essential. The sooner a musician (or any artist for that matter) realizes this, the better.
Unfortunately, it took me quite some time to learn this. But better late than never.
In my estimation, I have ‘made it’ anyway. First, I have lived my life as a musician and made my own music. Second, I have recorded this music and it is easily available to anyone in the world. Third, I can never be a ‘has-been’ because I am always in the process of ‘becoming.’
We spend most of our lives becoming. We are all on the quest to “become” the best and most relevant version of ourselves. For me, this becoming has been best exemplified by the music I have written.
This music, in it’s purest and most concise form, is the mirror reflection of my becoming. Part of it has been the result of the processing of life’s trials and tribulations.
I have slowly learned to let go which, in itself, is a slow if not lifelong ordeal. Part of letting go means courting dignity and grace in the face of disappointments. And disappointments are many in the life of most musicians because unreserved intention and even talent do not guarantee success.
I have no idea why I have been so driven and relentless in creating my little tone poems, but something deep inside myself assures me that it is the best use of what talent and instincts God and nature have provided me with. It’s the best way I can serve the greater good during my time in this quaint old vale of tears.
As my wife often reminds me, “all you can do is all you can do.” All of this, of course, is an effort to, in some small way, best express what Maurice Ravel called, “life’s mysterious thrill.”