Sam Cooke’s A Change is Going to Come remains one of the most powerful songs of all time. For myself, it’s near impossible to hear without goosebumps. Those opening vocals…
So it seemed that authenticity and the natural form of expression wasn’t going to be my forte. In fact, what I found that I was good at doing, and what I really enjoyed the most, was the game of “what if?” What if you combined Brecht-Weill musical drama with rhythm and blues? What happens if you transplant the French chanson with the Philly sound? Will Schoenberg lie comfortably with Little Richard? Can you put haggis and snails on the same plate? Well, no, but some of the ideas did work out very well.
So, I learned enough saxophone and guitar and what’s euphemistically called “composer’s piano” to get my ideas over to proper musicians, as we have here today. And then I went on a crusade, I suppose, to change the kind of information that rock music contained.
From David Bowie’s 1999 Berklee Commencement Address
When commencement addresses are good, they’re great – ie; David Foster Wallace, Steve Jobs, and David Bowie. When they’re just okay, they’re terrible – ie; mine. There’s many things to love about David Bowie, however, one thing that really comes through in his 1999 speech to the Berklee graduating class is his humanity. He’s appreciative of their time, and never takes himself too seriously. In addition to the above passage, the recounts of his time with John Lennon were extra special. I’ve got to imagine any scene with the two of them together had to be next-level inspirational.
Here’s another snippet from the speech:
Towards the end of the 70s, a group of us went off to Hong Kong on a holiday and John was in, sort of, house-husband mode and wanted to show Sean the world. And during one of our expeditions on the back streets a kid comes running up to him and says, “Are you John Lennon?” And he said, “No but I wish I had his money.” Which I promptly stole for myself.
[imitating a fan] “Are you David Bowie?”
No, but I wish I had his money.
It’s brilliant. It was such a wonderful thing to say. The kid said, “Oh, sorry. Of course you aren’t,” and ran off. I thought, “This is the most effective device I’ve heard.”
I was back in New York a couple of months later in Soho, downtown, and a voice pipes up in my ear, “Are you David Bowie?” And I said, “No, but I wish I had his money.”
“You lying bastard. You wish you had my money.” It was John Lennon.
David Bowie, 1947 – 2016
Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.
Josh and I met as a freshman at Bloomington North. We didn’t start off as best buds. In fact, quite the opposite. As to how and when the shift took place between us, I’m not quite sure, but we grew to be the closest of friends, brothers. Where there was one of us, the other was sure to be close by. We managed to get away with a lot of stuff in our years together, and as life gradually pulled us in different directions, I knew that there was always a spot for me at Josh’s table. No matter how much time had passed in communication between us, I could always count on him greeting me with the biggest, toothiest grin possible, which if you knew Josh, you undoubtedly experienced yourselves.
Josh passed away a week ago, today. He was not only one of my closest friends, but an incredible human being. A truly selfless individual and one of the few on this Earth who led a life that wasn’t motivated by personal gain, but in service to others. When Josh’s mom suffered a debilitating car accident, he cared for her in a way few, myself included, have the capacity to. Professionally, Josh worked with those who are often overlooked by the rest of us, doing his best to ensure that they were given a shot at a life filled with dignity and respect.
If there’s anything to be taken away from this sudden and devastating loss, it’s for us to step up and fill the void in his absence wherever possible. Be kind to others as he was. Strive to greet those around you with joy and treat them with patience and not with judgement or contempt. For Josh knew we are all in this together, doing our best to figure it out along the way.
I miss you already buddy, may you rest in peace.
What you’re bringing, it matters to you; it’s real and you’re not doing something just to sell me or to get my eyeballs for a second.
Brian Koppelman from, The Moment, with Seth Godin
Yes, I know that #authentic has become the go to buzzword of the moment for brands, marketers, and anyone with a half-baked mission statement. However, if you can look beyond the word as just another bullshit hashtag, and get to the core meaning behind what it takes to produce authentic work, there is a lot of value to be had. Lately I’ve been struggling to achieve authenticity in my work, nor even fully understood what it meant to be authentic.
By Ben Weaver. Full transcript below.
I come up in the bottoms
Through the brambles, the streets, and the singletracks
The river carries it’s shoulders out through the fields
Everytime it rains the crows post on snagwood and swallow stones from the holes in an old lightning bolt’s shoe
We’re the new great explorers who the saw the legs off, sit on the ground
Plant water and moon smoke in our shoulder blades and pedal joints
We wade in the stems like sunlight, rope swings, towless swims and rooster crows passing in apple trees
We go forward by circles bounding by and by as salt and lotion collects on our skin
Going back up cloudless coming back down again as fish tails and black eyed peas
We live like coyotes listening to sage brush counting the days between rain
We know the weather by being out in it
We know the way by watching it unravel
As a white horse shows red dust or an orange thread pulls from the seam
We’re the new great explorers
Seeds of sun expanding in the shadows
Places where the rivers come together and herons listen to frogs and spiders
We make the wind exist
We make blue sky out of our breath
Through the brambles the streets and the singletracks
We claim the day with our legs
We are the new great explorers
We are the bicyclists
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…
I’ve been hooked on Aziz Ansari’s original series Master of None. It’s excellent for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the show’s fresh take on the opening title sequence. Episode 4 titled “Indians on TV” turned me on to the above cover of Jumping Jack Flash by Ananda Shankar.
More from the music archives >.
Have you ever called someone up, and you’re disappointed when they answer the phone? You wanted the machine. You know, and you’re always kind of thrown off, you go “Oh, I eh, I – I didn’t know you were there, I ah – just wanted to leave a message saying, sorry I missed you.”
So here what we have is two people who hate each other, don’t really ever want to talk, but the phone machine is like this relationship respirator keeping these marginal brain dead relationships alive. And we all do it — Why? So that when we come home, you can see that little flashing red light. You go “all right, messages.” You see, people need that. It’s very important for human beings to feel they are popular and well liked amongst a large group of people that we don’t care for.
From Jerry’s opening monologue of “The Bubble Boy” episode which originally aired in 1992.