Greetings… and welcome to A Music Listener’s Journal!
I’m both really new and really old at this: new at blogging, old at writing about music. Beginning in the mid-’80s–long before the internet–I spent about ten happy years as a freelance journalist writing record reviews, concert reviews, and artist profiles for music magazines like JazzTimes and Billboard, and public relations materials for record companies and individual artists. Mostly, I covered the jazzy-er side of the music spectrum. And was it fun! I mean, what’s not to like about interviewing musicians, hanging out in recording studios, chatting backstage, munching on the goodies in dressing rooms, enjoying cocktails at launch parties, and making many lifelong friends?
But don’t get it twisted: I am not now, nor have I ever been, a musician. I can’t read music, I don’t know JACK about the technical aspects of music. The only qualification I brought to my writing about music and musicians was being a consumer (aka a Listener) with only personal taste—and, respect for musicians who are honest about what they give to us. (How do I know who those are? Can’t explain it. It’s just a feeling I have.)
Of course, I was enjoying music long before I got paid to write about it. My music taste is eclectic, international, non-trendy, and always–hopelessly–years behind what’s “popular,” so I can’t describe it–sorry! Although, as this blog progresses, you might see a pattern. But I’m not making any claims. This is nothing but personal fun.
Yet, I have always been very sensitive to the clash between art and commerce. Back in the days when artists had to be a slave to record companies and radio, I would always see–and remark to the artists–that it was they who had the power, because the corporate structures operate out of fear based on the bottom line. That is, the artist has the gift and creates the art, while corporations and their executives can be fired at any time. So I’ve always admired the bravery of the independent artist, that artist who can navigate any business-related bullshit and still hear–and be true to–his or her own muse. It’s so great that technology has enabled creative control to now be fully in the hands of the musicians who want it; I can feel, and share, their excitement.
I’m honored that some of my dearest friends are musicians. Because to me, as a Listener, musicians are angels with special gifts that they give to us… gifts that never stop giving. How freakin’ cool is THAT?? Yeah, I’m mushy about it. So sue me.
Three omens led to the idea for this blog.
First, I’ve been reaching back into my music library quite a lot lately. And I’m not talking about my electronic library that lives on my hard drive. I mean the physical vinyl and cds that live on actual shelves in my living room. You know the deal: I hear a song in my head and next thing I know, I’m having a private Friday night dance party with me, myself, I, and my disco 45’s! Or my 70′s soul, R&B, and what was then called “jazz fusion” (I’m no purist, though; labels and categories creep me out). All the while, I marvel at how, even though I’ve been listening to this music for decades, I hear something new whenever I play it again. So yeah, I play it again. And next thing I know, here come the memories:
— wonder what happened to this group?
— I remember the record store where I bought this album!
— she was so nice when I interviewed her for Billboard!
— what the HELL are they singing?
— damn, how did this album get so OLD?
Second, through the magic of the Internet I’ve been constantly reconnecting with musicians I’ve known, connecting with new ones, and learning more about my favorites.
And third, I came across a trove of writings from my music journalism days, which further fueled my trip down memory lane and propelled me back into writing.
So, with all of that magic swirling around me, I decided to fling open the doors of my music library and share my thoughts about what the music and musicians represented in that library have meant to me. It’s not scientific, it’s not technical, it’s not reviews; it’s only my expression of gratitude as a Listener who has also had the honor and privilege of sitting on the periphery and observing.
Randomly conceived, heartfeltedly (yeah, I just made that up) delivered, and lovingly dedicated to those who make the music that makes me smile: A Music Listener’s Journal.