Random thoughts on my Sabbath...

A few days ago, Di and I had a date at a local club:  we had an incredible dinner, drank the best Spanish red wine and listened to some of the local guitar players during an "open mike" sequence.  It was a ton of fun... and got me thinking about a few things (odd as that may strike some!?!)

+ Once again, I was reminded of the "generational sound" that each player articulated. The young 30-something guys tended to sound like Dave Matthews or the Goo Goo Dolls unplugged, the 60-something guys veered closer to John Prine and there was a little bit of Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, Bare Naked Ladies and just a touch of Sister Hazel thrown in, too.  One young man was bold enough to offer a righteous take on Leonard Cohen's classic, "Hallelujah," in that perfect Jeff Buckley iteration.  I know that when I go solo, I err on the side of U2, Bill Withers or Dave Von Ronk.  It was fun to hear the sounds of each generation in the singers and I give thanks for how deeply music flows through our veins.

+ During one particularly painful set, however, the words of Bob Dylan came back to me:  And I will know my song well before I start singing... Man, I've been there before - that's part of the beauty of open mike nights, right - to give you a chance to learn from your mistakes?  I can still remember times in my high school band, Creepin' Jesus, we thought it would be fun to try out a new song for the first time in the middle of a gig.  The simple songs worked but once we tried Sly and Family Stone's "Everyday People" - and once Spooky Tooth's "Waitin' for the Wind" - live without any practice.  Let's just say "train wreck" would be generous.  In so many ways, Bobby still rings true:  I will know my song well before I start singing...

+ I think that works for more than music, too:  yesterday a few clergy and I were sharing about how we have matured into our respective ministries.  And one person said something like, "I found out I just have to be fully my real self.. then trust and possibilities start to appear."  Amen, sister, amen!  We can't fake it (forever), we can't steal from others forever either.  At some point, we have to be real and grow into what that means over a life time of ministry.  I will know my song well before I start singing.  Same applies to jazz improvisation, I've learned:  gotta practice, practice, practice and feel, feel, feel before you're ready to go public in prime time.  Anything less sounds like it.

Philip Toshio Sudo puts it like this in his little book, Zen Guitar:
It has been said that in modern life we will each have our fifteen minutes of fame. If that is so, when the spotlight swings your way, do not shy from it. Step into it and show what you're made of.  Prepare yourself, because in this world of instant celebrity, privacy is a thin veneer. One chance occurrence - tragedy or good fortune - can propel you in front of the nation. You must be ready for this at any moment.

And the way you prepare yourself is to live life the same regardless of who's watching - with integrity. Be who you are and do what you do and you will have no need to put on airs for people. Your actions will be appropriate to the occasion because they'll always be true. So whether you are living in the spotlight or alone in the wood, show true humility and grace and you will know what it means to play Zen Guitar.
Here's Bill Frisell doing "A Hard Rain's a'Gonna Fall" the tune from which cometh the Dylan advice

Comments

Black Pete said…
Amen and amen, brother. Been there on the unpreparedness, too...
RJ said…
It is so humbling and hard - but good to experience and learn from, too.

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