Sunday, April 7, 2013

Art for art’s sake?

Sunday, April 07, 2013

            I didn’t know last night was to be the last performance of Love Assassin or I might not have gone – I’ve seen too many great people giving up on their art, and remember the time when my then best friend, Frank, gave up his craft as a singer/actor for a “practical” job when they changed him to the second shift.
            He didn’t have a family to raise, or even rent to pay (he lived in his family’s house), but something compelled him to give up, and it pissed me off.
            Maybe I would have gone to Maxwell’s anyway, even if it was to witness the death of a great band. I was that hungry for down and dirty rock and roll.
            I always ache for it until I get there, and even then, among the clamor of cymbals and the wail of guitar, I wonder why I gave it up.
            It’s not age – at least not in the county of years, but rather the wear and tear, rock and roll being an endurance test to sort out the wheat from the chaff: those who fall into excess or do not have “the stuff” it takes to make it.
            I keep thinking back all the years to that parish hall in Paterson when I first saw a group with the silly name of Eric Lemon’s Milk Band and realize talent doesn’t always count, or ambition or dedication to craft or even luck.
            Some rockers never stop even when fortune has abandoned them, love of “the life” or habit of craft moving them ahead when all else has faded from them – men and women who believe in something more than just success or failure, fortune or poverty. This thing lacking in all the bands I was associated with over the year, who despite great talent and massive ambition, eventually quit.
            Two years ago, I mourned more than the death of a talented guitarist when one of the lead guitarists passed away, but the passing of a dream – my memory of his performance still vivid when in reality he hadn’t touched the guitar in years.
            I felt wounded from his giving up.
            A twinge of this touched me, too, last night, when the lead singer for Love Assassin announced that this was their last performance, bringing out all the old feelings in every way, the triumph of being great and the pain of not making it in the commercial world, the plague all great performers suffer even sometimes after the world has acknowledged them.
            “This is not a bad thing; it’s a good thing,” he said, trying to convey to the disappointed fans that there would be life beyond the band, something I have heard so many times over the long years, I almost laughed, a shadow in the shadowy otherwise unchanging world of a club I had frequented often as poet, writer, even singer since the 1980s – and once, in another incarnation, made a delivery here as a truck driver, more than a disappointed fan, mourning not the loss of a band, but of an idea that art may not after all be immortal, when deep in my heart I always believed it could be nothing else.

1 comment:

  1. It is a bit heartbreaking to see people give up on their dreams, isn't it? If for no other reason, then seeing other talented people do their thing can be great inspiration for other creative people. It's even sadder to watch them lie to themselves about how they're doing the right thing.

    But the reality is people go through phases. Sometimes it's all about work or family or in the case of your one friend who chose the second shift, the need to feel successful at something, even if it's not your passion. The world of art/music can be very demoralizing when it's not going the way you want it to.

    BUT I do think that people who give up on their art or just don't make time for it are, in general, less happy than those that stick with it. I actually gave up on my art for about eight years to focus on my day job, and I really wish I hadn't. Finally three years ago I came to my senses and now the only way someone could get me to give up my paintbrushes is if they pried them them out of my cold dead hands.