Friday, October 17, 2014

You'll be okay, follow your heart

So he had a soul that couldn't tolerate the braggadocio and the bleakness of the biz. That's what happened. 
"It's the deal with the devil: if you want your work to be seen, it's unfortunately not just about the work. And when it becomes less about the art, then the art suffers."
I savored this interview with musician/songwriter Gregg Alexander yesterday, reading it twice, listening to the songs*. And THE song:

I loved this song. I found it because I listened to the radio--the actual FM radio--15 years ago, daily. So many blocks between 1 W and 2200 W and 10 S and 1600 N spent tromping around to this, wondering what the hell I was doing in this city after only five months. I only feel like I heard it all the time, because I mustn'tve. Some time was spent hearing this or this and straining to reach the dial when this came on.

But this was constant, at least in my head, and when, a few years later, I could obtain (not legally) and play (legally) digital music files, I found this first, or something close to it (not like I remember my first CD purchase, which was, of course, this).

The song--and its creator--were widely admired and naturally dismissed until he slipped into obscurity. Some of the admirers who stepped up were surprising; Joni Mitchell, herself once an idealistic newcomer, gave the highest praise, including the track among others by Debussy, Duke Ellington and Dylan on an album of "music that matters to her."

Gregg resurfaced later, but no on really knew it. Of course, of course he also wrote this other guilty-pleasure treasure of mine, aerial and poppy and classic rock-y, all at once.

My own well-loved digital file of "You Get What You Give" faded, disappearing sometime in the last few years between device changes and computer upgrades and virus-laden downloaded file flushes from my music storage. That's okay; it's a relic of a time past, sonically, socially, personally. But there are some things about this song that are ageless. I mean, replace some of these names, and then trawl Twitter, the New York Times, or some episodes of The Daily Show (which, incidentally, premiered in its current incarnation at the exact time that "You Get What You Give" and Gregg were pushed out over radio waves in January 1999):
Health insurance rip off lying FDA big bankers buying
Fake computer crashes dining
Cloning while they're multiplying
Fashion mag shoots
with the aid of 8 dust brothers Beck, Hanson
Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson
You're all fakes
Run to your mansions
Come around
We'll kick your ass in! 
But, for me, the bloom is still on this rose because the song's sound matches the point. The sound and the thought soar together. This song was not at shy about aspirational, and that's how I needed to be in early 1999. It says, "Remember how you did that/this with them/those? And who you are? You still are."

You still are.

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