Have you ever played that “If I could have been anything, what would I have been,” game? Most of us don’t end up in our dream careers, but most of us do have dreams. Care to take a guess as to what mine would have been? Coffee roaster? Sounds pretty good. Professional motorcycle racer? Sweet. Actually, I think you’d be pretty shocked to find out what my dream career is. Rock ‘n’ Roll guitarist. Yep, I always wanted to be a guitar player.
That’s pretty odd coming from a guy who can’t carry a tune to save his life. Unless you count those silly flutes we all had to play in elementary school, I have never played any instrument in my life. I can’t read music at all. Don’t understand it in the least; it might as well be a foreign language. Yet all my life I have envied guitar players and dreamed of doing the same.
It was yesterday’s passing of Chuck Berry that got me to thinking about this today. I was born in 1960, so I wasn’t really much of a music fan until my early teen years in the 1970s. However, my siblings were all older than me, with my brother being some 11 years my senior. Because of that, I was not only influenced by the music of the 70s, but also the 60s. I clearly remember thinking Chuck Berry’s Jonnie b Goode and Nadine were just beyond cool.
Ever since my teen years, music has been a huge part of my life. I’m a guy who likes solitude…but I don’t like quiet. In my mind, life needs a soundtrack and my many musical heroes provided the inspiration that I marched to. I listen to music a lot…loudly I might add…in my car, at the gym, at home when no one else is around and in the garage when they are. I even have bluetooth speakers in my motorcycle helmet. Music is very important to me. I like nearly every genre too. Blues, Country, Rock, Jazz, I’ve even been known to listen to a little classical music on rare occasion. My daughter’s love to make fun of me by saying every time they come to visit, I have a Bruce Springsteen concert playing on the television. Not true: sometimes its the Stones!
Music takes me places, and for a dreamer like me the vehicle becomes almost as important as the destination. Those musicians that have meant the most to me over time have been the ones who have had something to say. They spoke to me personally, like they knew exactly what was going on deep down in my soul. I like a good guitar riff and a catchy melody, but I love a well-placed verse. Musicians that can write a meaningful prose, they get my attention. Chuck Berry was considered a pioneer when it comes to turning poetic verse to music. Many followed: Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Neil Young and Van Morrison, just to name a few.
There are 4 musicians (groups really) in particular who have shaped and influenced my life. They began to touch me in the 70s and they still do today. It is not that I’m stuck in the Classic Rock era and refuse to move forward; I am always searching for someone new. However, it is this quartet that became the soundtrack of my world: the Rolling Stones, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and, of course, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Jackson Browne is right there with them).
They were all more than individual talents; together they formed something bigger than they could ever be alone…a Band. And the leaders of those bands could write a song. It doesn’t matter to me that you don’t agree. It doesn’t matter that the words of this entire blog seem totally foreign or silly to you. Unless you are like me, it won’t make a bit of sense. When I hear Springsteen sing, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is it something worse,” I am moved emotionally. In fact, Springsteen has so many lyrics that move me, I couldn’t count them all. When I hear Seger’s Night Moves I am immediately transported back in time:
How far off I sat and wondered
Started humming a song from 1962
Ain’t it funny how the night moves
When you just don’t seem to have as much to lose
Strange how the night moves
With autumn closing in…
Tom Petty shook my rambling soul that often struggled with the pursuit of a normal and responsible life when he sang:
Well, I don’t know, but I’ve been told
You never slow down, you never grow old
I’m tired of screwin’ up, tired of going down
Tired of myself, tired of this town
Every one of those artists I mentioned would say they owe, in part, their inspiration to Chuck Berry, so I guess I owe something to him too, as he fed the men and women who later fed my dreams. I suppose only a romantic like me would make such a big deal out of something like music.
I know, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll…but I like it.