Hindsight, they say, is 20-20, but I must have an astigmatism or something, because it takes me a long time to focus. One indication of this is popular music of different eras. Outside of the 1960s and the first half of the ’70s, I liked very little of what was popular at the time. These days, however, I’m able to turn back to the music of the 1980s and even some of the ’90 and like a lot of what I hear. For me, the same holds true—in reverse—where my own music is concerned.
My regular readers, those who have migrated with me from my old blog, know what I mean when I use the term, “The Big Dump of 2001.” For the rest of you, here’s a brief explanation: Through a scam enacted against me by a storage facility in Denver, in 2001 I lost nearly everything I owned. I wasn’t alone. both my mother and my eldest son lost their things as well. Family heirlooms, musical instruments, an entire collection of family photographs, correspondence dating back to the late 1800s, furniture, art, and nearly every piece of music and song I’d ever penned. It has taken me years to lose the hole in my gut this loss created and even now, late at night when I’m trying to sleep, the ghosts come back to torture me. Usually, I can philosophize it, but it’s not easy. Up until just this week, though, I counted my music as the greatest loss to me. I mourned that loss for years.
But the other day during rehearsal it occurred to me that this particular loss might actually be a blessing. Knowing I could never do it myself, the Universe cleaned my files, so to speak, tossing out all the stuff that wasn’t quite up to par. It became obvious to me that the songs I do remember are the good ones. When a fragment of one came back to me as I sat there, I realized that it, frankly, just wasn’t a good song. This gives me the unique opportunity to start building a really good body of work now that I’m more seasoned as a musician and better versed as a lyricist. Like stones in my pockets, the old stuff was holding me down. You know the kind of stuff I mean. Those songs, poems, stories, paintings, whatever, that you kind of cringe at whenever you come across it. The stuff that has a way of gently nipping at your confidence.
The newer songs I’ve written, those penned in the past five years, are really pretty good, if I say so myself. I have more creative muscle than I had when I was younger. I’m better at discerning good songs from bad, and I’m not afraid to be brutal with myself while I’m at it. And best of all, I won’t have all that old stuff for people to pick apart after I’m gone.