Friday, July 30, 2010

Lying with His Eyes while His Hands are Busy Working Overtime

I'm not regarded by most with whom I share the planet as blood-thirsty, vindictive or vengeful. If they have an opinion on me at all, it's usually as some variant of road kill with hair on the Human Highway and when working for a complimentary description, they might say 'he doesn't have very smart opinions, but he sure is funny when he articulates them.' Today is different, today is not the same. Today, I'll make the action and take snapshots into the light.

Wednesday evening by sheer chance, I stumbled across the PBS presentation of the concert in the White House for the Library of  Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to Sir Paul McCartney. Inveterate (and a lousy one at that) channel-surfer that I am, I had missed at least twenty minutes of the ninety minute special, joining it as Emmy Lou Harris was performing For No One, from The Beatles' Revolver elpee. I've always loved her voice but am not great at placing people in the here and now, so I had trouble sorting out at whom I was looking though I knew the voice. I didn't have that problem as Elvis Costello and Dave Groh hit the stage to offer versions of Penny Lane and Band on the Run, respectively that were transcendent. 

I was eleven (but almost twelve) years old when The Beatles performed on the Ed Sullivan Show. I had no older brothers or sisters to dilute my focus with Elvis or Peter, Paul and Mary. When they lept out of the RCA TV in the corner of the room, and its little 3 inch cloth-covered speaker, I still think four and a half decades later, I saw the face of God. If you are not of the generation that felt the earth stop the first time you heard them, with all due respect to whomever you enjoy musically, you have my sympathy and condolences.

There is no way to place the music of George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr into anything resembling a meaningful context because before them, there was no frame of reference, and after them, no means of comparison. It's like asking someone for an opinion about gravity or photosynthesis. They are forces of the universe beyond personal opinion.

I was joined while watching the show by our daughter, Michelle (yes, she's familiar with a certain song, as is the President of the United States) a college-educated young woman in her early twenties who can take any instrument and coax music from it, who grew up (as did her brother) with a parent who has collected thousands upon thousands of vinyl albums of every genre of music (since about 1963), lining the walls of our living room from the floor to the ceiling, around the entire perimeter of the room. 

Such is the appeal and power of the music these four (then) very young men made and that, even now, at sixty eight (?) McCartney still makes music (his band, on stage at the White House, was amazing and his ability to find people who can both complement his music and challenge him, simultaneously, is a gift) that speaks to our children, the way it still speaks to us, boring old fossils some of us are. I smiled so broadly I feared the top of my head would fall off. Every note, every vocal quaver, every harmony delivered exactly as I remembered it--as it has become embedded in the DNA of billions of us so that he dare not miss a line, or skip a beat. 

The only thing harshing my buzz are news accounts that the murderer of John Lennon is eligible for parole with those hearings set for early next month, and the Internet cottage industry that would like to discount any possible threat his release might mean to Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, or either of his children, Julian and Sean. Meanwhile back here on Earth among the six or so billion of us scurrying around, I won't ever forget Mark David Chapman and I doubt, if you're over age of forty, you will either. If The Beatles formed the soundtrack for our growing up years, wherever those years were geographically, what does that make Mr. Chapman?

Yeah, I'm the guy who'll answer 'plaid' when asked for my favorite color because I'm just too wishy-washy to make a decision, but I am relentless on where Chapman should spend the rest of his life (and then be interred after death). If that means I have to mail my 'I'm really a nice guy' membership card back to somebody, gimme the address and an envelope. I have the stamp-go ahead and cancel it. Like a lizard on a window pane.
-bill kenny

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