This very week, twenty five years ago, I was fighting with a woman, battling my weight, trying to hang on to a house, uncertain about my future, getting asked at parties if I was still “doing the music thing,” all the while having no idea whatsoever how or where I fit into the music business landscape. I had absolutely nothing to offer the woman I was fighting with (the one I was about to marry) …and no clear direction forward. I was 24. And life was going to be an uphill climb for this college dropout with one niche skill set.
Now, after millions of miles travelled, millions of dollars earned and lost, hundreds of pounds gained and lost and gained and lost, millions of records sold, hundreds of songs written and recorded, twenty-three number one hits garnered, seven publishing deals, three management deals, two record deals, a book deal, critical acclaim, shelves full of awards, the adoption of two gorgeous children, a charitable organization founded, and THIS blog (that is read by thousands …sometimes millions …of people) …I am still fighting with the same woman. I’m still battling my weight. I’m still trying to hang on to a house (just a bigger one). I’m still uncertain about my future. I still have no idea whatsoever how or where I fit into the music business landscape. I still have pretty much nothing to offer the woman I’m still fighting with. And I have no clear direction forward.
25 years later …and I’m exactly where I started. EXACTLY. I might as well be wearing the same clothes. Someone literally asked me YESTERDAY if I was “still dong the music thing.” I’m 49. And I’m not as pretty or as perky as I used to be. And I still have no college degree.
I wonder if we are somehow programmed to be what we are …no matter how much we try to change. Are we set up to just run around in the same circle all our lives? I wonder.
One of my most (and LEAST) favorite Ray Charles songs is “Born To Lose.”
“Every dream has only brought me pain …”
Believe it or not I can relate to that. They tell you to chase your dreams. But they don’t tell you what the price will be to catch them. If they did …you wouldn’t chase them at all. You would find a job you could tolerate and do it until you retired …then collect your pension. You would eliminate stress and take well-worn paths. You wouldn’t peer down those dark, unkept roads. Your curiosity would remain in check and you would stop believing in miracles. And you would be safe and warm in your bed every night. You would know where your childrens’ next meal is coming from and how your mortgage was going to be paid. You wouldn’t sit on stages, staring at audiences, chugging whiskey straight, hoping they like you enough to buy your records and T-shirts, so you can send the money home in time for grocery day.
Living in your own skin eventually catches up with you. I have literally been making the same mistakes my entire adult life. Even when I think I’m breaking out of the box I’ve been in, and changing everything about my paradigm …somehow, I find myself right back where I started …staring at the same person in the mirror I was staring at when he was a teenager.
I’m currently obsessed with a show called West World. It plays with the idea of artificial intelligence and how it might be programmed. Eventually, the intelligence gets “too” intelligent and realizes it has been doing the same thing over and over again – sometimes for decades – to please some master who controls it. The metaphor for humanity isn’t lost on me.
I often wonder what we truly have control over and what we are simply here to do.
I don’t like having conversations about the music business or writing and performing. Whatever gift I have is something I didn’t ask for. I don’t know why music and lyrics always made sense to me. I don’t know why I know how to do what I know how to do. And I can’t teach it to you. And I don’t want to. And I don’t really want to be able to do it myself. But I do know how to do it. And I have no idea why.
Believe it or not, I am uncomfortable with being complimented for it. Because I’m not sure I have anything to do with it. I’m not sure I ever did. And I wish every day of my life I had been born to something else. I wanted to be a football player. But my body couldn’t take the punishment. I would LOVE to have been a business tycoon. But I don’t have the vision or acumen for it. I read about great leaders and sometimes wish I had that ability …to lead people toward something. But I’m never secure enough in where I’m going to want to be responsible for bringing anyone else along with me.
And so I march around and around in these same little circles. Maybe you do to. Maybe that’s what we do.
The only thing I really care about anymore is love. Whatever or whomever our programmers are, have left some clues as to what this “powerful play” is all about. And somehow it boils down to love. I also think music plays a role there somewhere. Whatever language is being spoken on the other side of this temporal plane, is in the form of music. I am convinced of it.
And it’s not about hit records or super-star tours or clever, Bluebird songs, or singing competitions or songwriting competitions or anything we have saddled the art of music with. It’s about connection and resonance and healing and redemption and soul therapy. And that drives me to only want to make music that makes me want to dance or cry or pray or laugh or pump my fist …whether it earns me any money or not.
I have a strange feeling I’ll be right where I am RIGHT NOW …25 years from now (if I live that long). I have a feeling I’m programmed somehow to do the same things over and over again; to make the same mistakes; to ride the same waves; to crash on the same shores. I have a weird feeling this is what I was born to.
But in that repetitive circle, I’m going to keep looking for glimpses. Eternity is in there somewhere. Love is in there. Hope and joy is in there. And music is letting us see behind the curtain. The closer I get to the seeing behind the curtain …the crazier I get. And I think that’s the point.
Once you can let go of all convention and pretense …THEN you’re ready to see it …to be there …to immerse in the higher place. THEN your patterns vanish and you are ready to finally see the face of God.
Maybe that is where all the programming leads us. I hope with all my heart …that is true.
Merry Christmas, friends …and Happy New Year.
I’ll see you all on the other side …in the next pattern.