Friday, April 04, 2008

Ruminations on this cruel art by Rick Koster

Rick Koster is a (former, it appears) songwriter who is now performing an online reporters gig for The Day in Connecticut covering music, books and dining. He's written a wonderful article that I've comment on the site (see if that gets posted) and you can find the online article here.

I just wanted to add a couple of poignant excerpts (from my non-published, yet still artistic, perspective):

I long ago reconciled myself to the fact that, in the music biz, talent is just not that often rewarded whereas some estimably not-gifted cheese-bags end up with platinum sales and renown. Go figure.

I say this quite without bitterness because I never considered myself a special songwriter. I do think I was in a band that deserved to “make it” (whatever that means), and I was fortunate enough to play with two guys, Nick Shannon and Ernie Myers, who by all rights should be rich and successful songwriters — and aren’t.


I think most of the generally acknowledged great songwriters — or even the songwriters you yourself might particularly enjoy that maybe aren’t as famous as you think they should be — would all tell you the same thing: that, yes, a great deal of the process is hard work but there is also that magical creative spark that some folks have and some folks don’t. And if you’re a conduit to such things, well … it’s just something you can’t teach or learn. You either have the gift or you don’t.

I didn’t — though, again, in my opinion, my pals Ernie Myers and Nick Shannon are that good. One of these days, I’ll put some of their tunes up here and let you hear some of their stuff and you can tell me if you like any of it.

What, you ask, is with all this seemingly self-indulgent stuff about songwriting? And why would you care?

Well, probably because a lot of you are songwriters — or would like to be. As I said, it’s a fun thing to do and all it requires is a guitar or a piano or whatever and the willingness to sit down and give it hell. This town is full of songwriters, some better than others, but it underscores that it’s a great and therapeutic pastime.

I hope we all keep up that "therapeutic pastime", so may the Muse be with us all...


Tom St. Louis said...

So many successful songwriters have said, "If it wasn't for that fateful meeting with Joe Jablonski, I never would have made it".

I remember reading an interview with Paul Simon where he said somesuch.

When you look to his song catalogue, it's hard to imagine him not making it.

The suggestion seems to be, if we are to follow this post to its logical conclusion, that there are untold classics sitting in hard drives all over the place, remaining obscure.

Back in the old days before Stephen Foster...songwriting was just doing a variation on an old tune...or occasionally coming up with a little snatch of melody and attaching some doggerel to it. I can see them on their back porches.

"Hey, listen to this little thing Doc made up."

This whole Sonwriting As A Career option is a whole other thing entirely.

I met an older quite successful songwriter who told me about his days at the Brill Building in the early 60s in New York.

There was an old Jewish man with a big schnozz and words of advice for my friend and his friend who was a big star a few years later.

"Your songs are your children. Look after then now and they will look after you in your old age".

They snickered behind their hands. Then 30 years later this guy's back catalogue saved him from utter ruin.

I guess the big challenge is how to get them to market.

I am terminally agnostic about "production". I have decided I'm going to keep 'em raw, despite the good advice from people in the publishing business.

Maybe it's career suicide. Oh well. You only die once. Why not die obscure if you don't manage to break through? At least you will have had the creative joy of making songs on your own terms...

Tom St. Louis

Renz said...

I like that thought Tom... and how obscure can you be these days when your creative life is on your "hard drive" and you can choose to expose it to the world and let those who find it and enjoy it do so...

Keep the faith!

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