For the Love of the Work of Music
I think I was in my late twenties when I first uttered the words, “Be careful who you sing with.” At the time I was youthfully taken by the mystique and allure of it all — the lights, the greasepaint, the delight, the diesel, and even the detritus — the naive idea and even sometimes the parallel universe reality of a life made up of days spent speeding down the highway with a Honeysuckle Rose-informed tribe of folks who were looking for some unknown chord within themselves like I was. It was all terribly romantic in my mind — the singular purpose, the not quite but veering toward wholehearted embrace of a peripatetic life, the bonds created on the stage, the studio, and beyond between me and those who spoke my language, rolling to the next town after the show before the magic died in the one we just played — I’ve fallen in love, in one way or another, with everyone I’ve ever made music with — for the moment at the least, for forever at the most.
I think that’s what music does to us. The ability of melody to say what can’t be spoken is a divine gift that can bring great comfort to the individual, but to experience it with others transforms that comforting power directly into empathy. All art has the ability to make us feel seen and understood, but when we link arms and sing together, we can know each other on a level that doesn’t need explaining, whether the song is joyous or mournful, silly or serious. I felt it in my childhood, I feel it in my time traveling on roads and across oceans with the cast of characters that make up my band of whatever sort (definition: a group formed for a mutual purpose), I feel it with audiences, and most urgently I feel it with my son, who doesn’t speak, but has seemingly endless melodies inside him. Whether on a macro or micro level, for me there is still nothing more mysterious and alluring than the power of music.
These days I know better than to mistake a great musician, songwriter, or singer for a great anything else (do with that what you will), but I still think that in harmony lives pure love. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t survived a dark night of the soul because of a song. When I think about that on a collective level — how a song can bind us together, at least for a moment — I find more romance than I ever found in those early days when I was running after a tune for my own good. Rather than sticking to my own warning about being careful with whom we sing, I think we should all be being careful just to sing, period. Sometimes there’s nothing left to do. And who knows — we might fall in love with each other.
What an honor to have had, and still have, musical messenger as my occupation.
In deep gratitude,