My unfiltered thoughts about everything.
I’m quite obsessed with aging singer songwriters. I think its because I feel they’ve written their entire career, quietly hoping that, in the face of their own mortality, they’d have something meaningful to say about their vantage point. The songs that come out of that place, that fragile, vulnerable crossroads, represent the grit of wisdom and, in equal dosage, the uncertainty of time. It’s this incredible moment where art captures the emotions of a fading life. If you don’t see the brilliance in that, in the chance to get up close and personal with death, safely I might add, you can go back to the youthful exuberance of whatever else you listen to. For me, it really is a chance to think on the monumental importance of the time I’m given.
Kris Kristofferson has made three mortality based records, all rough hewn, stripped down, mostly acoustic pieces that don’t try at all to hide the craggy remnants of his voice. It’s all the more powerful for its raw intensity, for the sand paper sound of one mans fight to stick around. The wisdom dispersed is, without a question, deceptively simple. On a song called “Closer To The Bone”, he laughs at the cruel game of age, singing, “ain’t you getting better, running out of time“. He wishes he could take what he knows now and live out that life again, smarter, more slow to anger. But that’s the trade of aging, you attain the wisdom as you slowly head into the valley. When you’re in the sunshine, at the top of the hill, you don’t know a damn thing about yourself.
When Warren Zevon found out he had three months to live, he hunkered down in the studio and crafted his final masterpiece, a guest heavy album simply entitled The Wind. The record isn’t self congratulatory. It’s boldly self deprecating, at times painfully morbid, and at others, care free and joyous. He goes through the motions in one song cycle, touching on each facet of his impending demise with courage and wit. Mining the depths of his intellect, he reaches for something real, that you can take with home with you. It’s one of those records that puts life, warts and all, under a microscope, and it doesn’t flinch when the cold hand of death is rapping on the chamber door. In fact, it turns up the guitars, one final middle finger to fate.
Records can change your life. I have many I can name that have done just that. But, when I’m asked what albums have taught me something, something I can hang on to, that isn’t fleeting, I point them towards Kristofferson or Zevon. Those albums articulate a moment in time that no one, especially in the flush of youth, prefers to ponder. For whatever reason, I’m kind of the opposite. I want to know everything I can about that stretch of the journey.