He wanted to be a gospel front man. That was his greatest desire. He definitely had the voice, looks and charisma to do it. But it was not to be. Instead of Elvis Presley becoming just another in a long line of gospel lead singers, he ended up having to change the world in order to fit inside it.
I often think about how Elvis must’ve felt in those early days, banging around Memphis and Nashville, trying to get a gig and being told he was too this or not enough of that. I have heard those same things before. And I know how disheartening it can be to not feel like you fit in anywhere. It’s easy to simply give up and decide that this world wasn’t made for someone like you; that you’re thinking about things in a way that no one else will understand or relate to. I’m sure Elvis felt that way a lot in the early days. He wasn’t really country. He wasn’t really blues. He wasn’t really gospel. What WAS he?
I’ll bet a lot of people think those thoughts …you know …the ones we have as we’re drifting off to sleep. We wonder if we should even voice what we’re thinking. Will anyone else get it? Will everyone laugh at us? Will this idea be just another stupid notion that should’ve never been allowed to get into the actual air? Yeah …let’s just act like that idea didn’t happen. And then we press on into our daily routine.
But I think Elvis is an object lesson in allowing sparks to become flames; in allowing yourself to evolve quickly and dramatically. There were crucial times when Elvis could’ve allowed self analysis to paralyze his forward motion. But millions of fans are glad he didn’t.
I have a theory that the world you live in dictates what it needs from you. And the world Elvis lived in didn’t need another gospel music front man. It needed someone to kick down the door of experimentation and musical divergence. And so, by simply following the muse, Elvis became …well …Elvis.
Clement Clarke Moore was a professor of Greek literature and a highly touted intellectual. He wrote books that boggled the minds of the intelligencia of the day. But his desire to be remembered as a leading thinker would ultimately not be realized. Because of a little poem he wrote for his children, one Christmas eve, he would forever be known as the man who wrote, “Twas The Night Before Christmas.” See, at the time, the world didn’t need more books on Greek literature as much as it needed a poem to cozy up to on Christmas Eve.
Vincent Guaraldi was known as Dr Funk and was a renowned jazz pianist. His contribution to music, however, wasn’t innovative voicings or ground breaking riffs. His unique stylings, played underneath a cartoon world of children trying to make sense of holidays, would be where his genius needed to land. And it has become a part of American iconography. The Peanuts music is as much a part of our collective psyche as The Battle Hymn of the Republic or the National Anthem. And every holiday season, that music takes me home in ways nothing else can. THAT’S what the world needed from Vincent Guaraldi …and that’s okay.
Ronald Reagan wanted to be an A-list actor. But instead of going down in history as one of America’s greatest leading men, he went down in history as the man who stood in front of the Berlin wall and demanded it come down. The world needed to change …and he was the man history chose to change it.
As I approach my upcoming birthday, I think about this subject almost daily. As long as you are still alive, able to move and breathe and contribute, you have no idea where your road will take you. And if you can surrender everything you think you are and everything you wanted to be, it might take you places you’ve never dreamed of. If you can consciously let go, the winds of destiny will carry you into worlds you’ve never seen.
It will probably not feel the way you want it to feel. It will definitely not look like you thought it would look. But it might be more amazing than you thought anything could be.
Maybe all your training isn’t going to be used for the thing you thought it would. Maybe all your experiences are taking you somewhere completely foreign, where those experiences will be used in a way no one could’ve ever predicted. Maybe your personality is uniquely designed for a destination you would’ve never chosen for yourself.
Sometimes all it takes it simply releasing the thing you want the most …to get to the thing the world needs from you.