Music. I come from a lyrical family: people torn between jobs-that-pay-the-bills and artistic temptations. My father was a jazz guitarist—never managed to make a career of it. Most of my aunts have terrific voices (mine ain’t too shabby either). Out west, I have a few distant relatives who’ve established themselves as esteemed artists. They’re the lucky ones; those who’ve leapt into the uncertainty of a career in “art” and haven’t wound up destitute. I consider myself lucky, too, even if I’m not of their renown or caliber. Now that I’ve made a career of writing, I can’t imagine doing anything other than tending to the voices and stories in my head.
Music, though…I don’t know where I’d be without it. While I’m certainly not a musician, lyrics, beats, and tunes resonate inside me as if I were. I tap my feet and fingers whenever I hear a catchy rhythm. I sing along, and often without regard for who’s listening or what they might think. Music is a universal expression. Even if you don’t know the words, humming will do. Even if you don’t know the language, pain, love, and fear can be translated through the power of a performance. Take opera for example, which is traditionally sung in only a few languages, and still gives laymen like me the “shivers”.
Similarly, you don’t need to be an expert in poetry, song, visual art, sculpture, dance, or theater, to partake in these disciplines. I’ve tried my hand at a couple of those callings—to differing degrees of success. I’m sure that I’m not the only artist, or human being, who dabbles in multiple artistic pursuits. While writing, I almost always sing at some point. In fact, and to the consternation of my neighbors, music in my household starts from about 7am and continues till around 4pm. My discerning cats often perk up from their naps to enjoy the mix: classical, jazz, UK pop, movie soundtracks—whatever most compliments my mood and creative flow at that moment. Indeed, and only in the most intense periods of creativity—where I’m working through a real knot in the story—do I require absolute silence. At all other times, a low, steady tune stimulates what regions of my brain writing doesn’t, and contributes to the lyricism and musicality for which I strive in my work.
Music heals and inspires. Even when I wasn’t a writer, music constantly circled the space around me. I grew up in a slightly racist neighborhood and kept my young olive-skinned self happy by crooning along with the poster child for mixed-race inspiration: Michael Jackson. I discovered my ennui and polar-extremes of happiness with Morrissey, Kate Bush and Ah-ha…In my darkest days, I clawed through a tortured coming-out process and suicide attempt on the shrill brilliance of Pat Benatar. Then later, once the self-loathing faded, I grew and accepted myself while dancing to the campy titillations of the Pet Shop Boys.
So many musicians accompanied me on my journey through life, and I consider them among my closest friends (not in a deranged stalker way—poetically). I think of these men and women as my fellow sufferers: persons who cried out into the universe and demanded that their voice be heard. Every artist shares that need: to have their love and pain known and defined. We are the screamers into the void.
Today, I’m screaming along to the soulful beats of Fleur East. Some damn fine retro beats guided by the chanteuse’s smoky 1970’s voice. God, she’s good. Have a listen. Scream along with me. The universe will hear you, I promise.
All my love,
P.S. Reminds me of a younger Tina Turner (with her own uniqueness and flavor, though).