It's not my job to make sense of this world. My path has always been well marked, well lit. For me. Raised by women and exceptional women at that. I suppose I was spoiled. I prefer to think that I was well-nurtured.
Was I born for the rock'n'roll or was the rock'n'roll born for me? Who knows? Who cares?
Too shy to be a ladies' man, too selfish to be a saint.
Don't dreams count for anything in this game? First thing you know, it's time to go home. I heard some doctor on the radio the other day saying that seventy is the new seventy. Dang!
Wouldn't you know it. Finally I am mature enough for high school. Well, junior high, but I don't think they have that anymore.
I've got some melodies left in me to melt stars, break hearts, stop traffic. Seems funny now. I've always been too busy with the heartbreak game to work properly. Without it I would never have had anything to write about.
Who's in charge here? Get me somebody in retention. Who's the boss?
With three days to go, we're down to two hundred and nine famous people alive on the planet in 2016. If you spend your time on social media or if you're in the Rolling Stones you know that Keith Richards and Betty White are in the mix.
There have long been celebrities famous for being famous. Maybe they've always been around. I'm not sure. I grew up wondering just what Orson Bean's job might be. Just which movie role established Zsa Zsa's movie star reputation? Later I was lucky enough to work with Monte Rock III and I'm still a fan.
It seems to me that reality tv has changed the entire game. Kardashian. Kanye. The fat guy from Survivor who went to the pokey. Combined with autotune reality tv has eliminated any need for what was once called talent.
When I start to spew a line or two about the president elect and consider a description of the man and that stuff on his head, I check Google to save time. I'm not a hard worker, not an original thinker. Immediately I come across:
An ambitious corn dog that escaped from the concession stand at a rural Alabama fairground, stole an unattended wig, hopped a freight train to Atlantic City and never looked back.
Really, I can't do better than that.
As an anonymous performer in a celebrity world I bid adieu to 2016 with the rest of you. As my pal, Ed Brown, put it, "Youth has no concept of mortality." I do. All of the lessons are about loss.
In the twilight of a rough year, Little Richard lives quietly in a penthouse suite in a Nashville hotel. Chuck Berry has given up his regular St. Louis gig. Fats is alive in New Orleans but won't play in public. Of the first wave, only The Killer is booking dates.
My rock'n'roll memories are like clouds. You look away. You look back again and they changed, they're gone.
My remembrances of romance are flimsier.
The records play and there's evidence that I was fortunate enough to rock, to roll. Faded photographs seem to show hearts breaking slowly. If I played to avoid success, I seem to have succeeded. If I loved to avoid happiness, I'm a star.
Well, boys, the fashion game was knocked back on its stilettos today once again when the private jet of Olga Groshnev skidded off the runway at Putin International in central Moscow and erupted into a melon/fuchsia fireball.
Ms. Groshnev, born Boris Badnook, a strapping communist, was charred beyond recognition in the year end disaster. Her beloved poodles, Thunder and Noogies, were the only survivors.
W reported that Ms. Groshnev's charred skeleton was removed from the smoldering hunk clad in charcoal shreds. There are no details available on the other passengers. The pilot, Bernard Dawson, was ejected through the windscreen and scattered on the tarmac.
The crash is under investigation but is being attributed to bad luck.
Ms. Groshnev is credited with the baloon dress revival in the Kremlin. Her signature vodka hues revitalized the stagnant haute couture scene in the former USSR.
I'm starting to think that maybe I've told you all of my stories. You know- two hats, the hot rods, the pets, Elvis, the loves and losses and the death of rock'n'roll. Oh, yeah- peace and love.
There are times that I'm pretty sure that I've played you all of my songs, too. Worse yet, more than once. Occasionally I make out a song list for a show. Of course I don't pay any attention to it. I just do it because other folks do. Now I can sit and stare at titles and not see one song that I'm anxious to share. Oh, I write new ones but they're just like the old ones. Love comes, love goes.
The radio show? Same thing. There are days when I struggle to put together a playlist. Sometimes I just stare at the titles, pretty sure that I've played every song that's worth playing. Most of 'em last week!
It's way too late for any re-invention, not that I'm capable of any such thing. I'm younger than the president-elect but I don't know anything about running a government.
Hard to believe but I have nothing to tell you today. It's not discretion. Not really. I just don't want to tip my hand in the dharma game. Everything comes slowly to me. Really slowly. The amazing thing is that everything comes to me.
When I tell you that I love you, you best believe I love you, L-U-V.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
So, the story goes that this baby, this Arab, this Jew was born homeless surrounded by barnyard animals. Turns out he was a son of God. I am, too. I know it's none of my business but you are, too. He came to be known as the Prince of Peace. This week we celebrate his birthday. We're kicking it off by getting back to the arms race.
We've got homeless people on the sidewalks of every major city, schools without books and folks going without medical care because they're uninsured and have no money.
Meantime, let's take back our country. Let's make America great again. Guess I'd better be careful- too much talk about peace and love and the F.B.I. will have me back on lists.
Mostly it's tables for one with a couple mixed in here and there when it gets late enough in the diner. I had been in the neighborhood for a couple of months when one of the waitresses asked me, "Do you live anywhere?"
All of us lonely souls imagine that we're "people watching."
I've said it here before. The emperor has no clothes. Find your riches. If it really is green paper, fine. Play along. Be aware, though, and warned again- they cheat. If you wake up orange and have to pay folks to keep other folks from killing you and consider yourself a winner, good for you. Just keep telling yourself that she married you for your charm, the goodness in your soul.
The value of love is zooming way past 20k. Way past. Deal in real currency. Call your broker. Call your mom. Call a neighbor. Adopt a stray.
Why do some of us insist on clinging to facts? Is the irony of reality TV destroying reality lost on all of these folks? Magic describes everything that can't be explained to me. I believe in magic. Meantime, I become more "me" every day.
Now that I've managed to hoard every single thing I've ever wanted I finally realize that I don't need anything. Ghosts? I've got them, too. The love that I've known lives in my heart, my soul. The ones that I've lost live in my dreams. The only thing that's different is that they come around when they come around. I have no say in the matter.
Love is like energy. It can't be destroyed. That's reassuring to hopeless romantics.
Drama? Who needs it? It's best on TV. The sneak preview of Nashville on CMT has it all. Even on regular network television we were treated to bigotry, sexism, infidelity, payola, murder, suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse, misogyny, racism and bad country music.
In the early episodes the producers shelled out money to Buddy Miller and T Bone Burnett as consultants to make sure that the music was hip. You know, edgy. None of us are watching TV for good music, fercrissakes.
Now I'm able to give in further to agoraphobia and still have sin in my life. Don't call me on Thursday nights beginning in January. I'm busy.
Maybe the real beauty is in the mystery. The concept of non-existence is pretty much incomprehensible for me. I guess I never really thought of myself as introspective. Now, no matter how much time I devote to pondering my life, I don't claim to know a thing about George Ronald Elliott.
Oh, I mean what I say but I'm always saying something different. Keep an eye on me.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
Events disrupt my loneliness sometimes and for that I am grateful. Am I alone because I'm socially awkward or am I socially awkward because I'm alone? As someone once famously asked, "At this point what difference does it make?"
The radio has become my prom, my bachelor party. Once a week I'm allowed to play my music for folks and tell strangers that I love them. I do. I love them. By the way, when I say "my music" I mean stuff that I love. Big radio hits and songs that never got on the air. Old ones and new ones, dirty songs and gospel records.
My radio "career" is a lot like my musician life. I don't know what I'm doing and I'm probably not capable of learning.
Everything's changing for me. Again. I'm back outside. Once I was invited, peripherally, into society. Romance did the trick. More than once. I thought society was changing. I thought I could help. When romance left me washed up on the shore, society stepped right over me.
For eleven years I thought I was protecting the earth moving steadily up some shaky ladder in the government. It took me most of those eleven years to figure out what should have taken six months. The government is not going to save the environment. Money determines application of law. Hero is a relative term.
Near misses and close calls marked my rock'n'roll career as a young man. That's okay. I was raised pulling for the underdog. When the Americana Music Association was launched I was right there. I figured that finally there was a place for me. My records went to the top ten on the new charts.
It didn't take long, of course, to recognize that this was just a bunch of folks who wanted to wrest the power from the old guys in a rotten business. The music was incidental. As money poured in from aging rockers looking to extend sagging rock star careers those folks got what they wanted. I hope this doesn't sound like sour grapes. There are tons of wildly talented musicians within the fold of the AMA. They're not going anywhere without somebody's money working the deal, however.
All of this pales in the shadow of a bigger cultural shift in our society. Is it a coincidence that rock'n'roll fades into the shadows as war becomes perpetual? As bigotry and hate come back into fashion? As science and knowledge go out of fashion?
It's okay. I'm comfortable out here. More comfortable, really. Once an outsider...
There is racist americana memorabilia all over my house. No friend of mine is offended. Sadly, the Obama presidency has convinced me that we haven't moved all that far from the hate and bigotry that I grew up with.
It's obvious that I have my heroes. A few of them are white. The idols who shaped my life are, for the most part, descendants of slaves. Little Richard. Memphis Minnie. Chuck Berry. Tampa Red. Bo Diddley. Muhammad Ali. Fats Domino. Lead Belly. Butterbeans and Suzie.
Oh, I could fill the page but you get my drift. I should add here that my main white hero shared most of these idols. Elvis swooned over Jackie Wilson, Wynonie Harris, Clyde McPhatter, the Ink Spots.
When I watch Amos and Andy, I'm reminded of a sad period of American history. I'm always entertained, though, and I'm forever lost in the genius of great artists. It infuriates me that Duke Ellington, Spencer Williams, Cab Calloway and Louis Jordan ever had to shuffle to express their genius. Obviously I will leave out the names of more heroes than I can cram in here. One that I can't omit, though, is Martin Luther King, Jr. He changed everything for all of us for the better.
My point, if in fact I have a point, is that this culture, built on this land that we stole from others,
comes chiefly from the oppressed children of slaves that we brought over in the hellacious hulls of ships from Africa.
Luckily I have no heirs. There won't be a long line at the door as they drag my lifeless corpse to the compost bin. My real treasures look like trash. Literally. My piece of wood that Elvis stepped on. Eric Clapton's Coricidin bottle that Duane used as well. My little Tiny Tim picture from the subway stop photo booth that he made for me. A rock from the foundation of Woody's house in Okemah. My stuff doesn't look anything like what you'll find on the walls at any Hard Rock Cafe.
Is it too anthropomorphic of me to put up a Christmas tree for Jamaica? Even if I just drape a single strand of pink lights from Walgreens on a parlor palm?
By the way, you two women who called me socially awkward- you were right. Who knew? That's rhetorical. I don't need anyone making it worse. Now, about that "arrogant" description- I'll just patiently wait for an apology.
My big, new plan is to start an Elliott Love Prize. If I just award it to someone who has passed on through this life, then I don't have to worry much about coming up with cash. This year, for 2017, the prizes go to Robin Williams, Lottie Adams and Lord Buckley. Congratulations and thank you for your love, your magic.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
What I don't know can't hurt me, right? Well, I don't know. The ride ends. It always ends. You have to wonder if the last dip on the rollercoaster track is behind you. What if I didn't scream enough? Oh, well.
There are only a few notes and twenty six letters in our alphabet. Apparently each of us can see about ten million colors. Seems to me that surely all the songs have been written. All the stories, too. I'm pretty sure I've seen most of my ten million colors.
North, South, East and West. Eskimos, de old folks at home, Manhattan skyscrapers and cowboys. Maybe my mind doesn't work like yours. I was wired for another century, another world. As dignity grows fainter in history's rearview I grow wistful. Sentimental.
The therapist asked, "Ronny, would you consider that you're more sentimental than she is?"
Upon reflection, I'm more sentimental than everybody. Dang.
Hey, Baby, they're playing our song. In 1956 Brigitte Bardot was twenty two. I was nine. That didn't affect our love affair. Of course the mademoiselle didn't know a thing about it. Still doesn't.
Walter Mitty's got nothing on me. I've broken my arm, my nose and my foot. Not bad divided by this number of years. Oh, and my heart. Nine hundred and seventy three times. Doesn't do much for my average. Even Knievel's got nothing on me, either.
These moments of clarity come so infrequently. I don't know anything and I know so much more than before. Am I unraveling or is the world? Does it matter? Politics is not science. "Political Science" is a college course. Economics is not science. Ask a real economist. Ask Paul Krugman.
Not much impacts our life more than politics unless it's economics. It's like the NFL. It's like reality TV.
Me? I miss my Leroy Lettering set. Test patterns. I long for that sound that radios made while the tubes were warming up and the dial was scanned for your station. Most of all I miss love and romance. I'm too old for it now. To be honest I'm not sure that I ever had it. I miss what I took to be love.
I did have a Leroy Lettering set. I was no good with that, either.
Worrying about worrying. Now that will keep you up. Turn your hair gray. Trying not to worry- that's worse. I'm no good at drinking any more. Maybe I never was. I've gotten what I wanted, what I needed, from drugs.
Now it's me and the dog and the rock'n'roll.
This is what I've always secretly longed for.
"What?" you ask, "Sitting around in your underwear ending sentences with prepositions?"
Yeah, you do it because you have to do it. If you're lucky your Col. Parker will eventually find you. Your Henry Higgins, Your Brian Epstein. If you're really lucky, really lucky, he won't. You'll do it all your life because you have to do it.
Let me be blasphemous here for a minute. Picasso was a brilliant young painter. He was probably a genius. He broke new ground along with a few of his contemporaries for awhile. Then he got rich. Famous. Not surprisingly he wanted to get laid. Then he spent years as a hack, putting both eyes on the same side of the nose because he could. He was Picasso. At the end he painted erotica. He was an artist again for a bit.
Elvis changed the world. The planet had never seen or heard anything like that. Never. Then he worked Vegas. He went to Hollywood. Along came the white suits and the scarves. Voila! The first Elvis impersonator. His name was Elvis.
Oh, I could go on. I won't. Yeah, I wish somebody, somewhere would mail me a hundred bucks for a song or two. Don't hold your breath.
The normalizing has begun. Why do I feel like the gangplank has just been pulled up and while gazing at the hole in the hull, I notice the captain stagger by. Drunk. Belligerent. I begin to notice a look of panic on the face of most of the other passengers. I hear fear in their voices.
The crew, most of whom I heard calling for mutiny just moments ago, are now busy jockeying for a seat at his table for dinner tonight. There's no way this bucket will float til dinner!
This is just one of those weird dreams, right? Doesn't even feel real.
Maybe we'll come back in style. America, I mean. The U.S. It almost certainly won't happen in my lifetime. When I was a kid it all looked to me as though we had peaked, maybe with the Big One, WW II. Audie Murphy. "To Hell And Back."
We should have quit the war game, gone out a winner. It all reminds me of a fighter who just can't stop. You always end up greeting gamblers at the casino, mumbling, shuffling and nodding. Dignity gone.
Even as Chinese and Russian kids were taught to hate and fear the Americans, they still wanted our Coke. They longed for our Levis. Oh, how they loved our rock'n'roll.
Maybe I'll whine a bit about Viet Nam. That wasn't the first war we lost but it showed that we should have quit earlier.
How do I address the middle aged, rich guys who hop around, overstuffed in leather, rhyming like sixth graders to recorded music and a turntable while holding their crotches in a move copied from a dead pop star from thirty years ago, without sounding merely old and crotchety? It makes it worse for me that nobody in the hep SNL audience has the nerve to yell out, "Hey! You have no talent. This isn't edgy. This is stupid. The emperor has no clothes."
Things change. I know that. I hope Little Richard doesn't see any of this.
Television newscasts seem almost biblical. Flooding. Fire. Drought. Never ending war. Oh, I'm not blaming the media. They have their own problems.
Technology exists to make our lives spectacular. We have resources to feed and house the population. Instead we choose to put into office as president a symbol of royalty who brings his own gold throne to the job and not much else.
This era is going to make a fine Masterpiece Theater series someday.
Life changes. Everything changes. Turns out orange really is the new black. The elite have to maintain some type of militia to protect them from the hungry. Some rules never change.
Maybe your big memories of Sunday night are from '56 and Elvis changing your life on Ed Sullivan. More of you probably sit around at the reunion and brag about your family watching the Beatles at 8:00 Eastern Time. Yeah, I know. Your dad didn't like them.
Me? I never got over Ed congratulating Fidel live as he sat on the front of a tank rolling into Havana. Fidel, that is. Ed was onstage in Manhattan. He flew down to interview Castro and mentioned that he was bringing the kind of democracy to Cuba that we needed.
So Fidel's gone. He was my favorite revolutionary. Oh sure, I was crushed when he morphed into a stereotypical dictator. No more than I was disappointed when Elvis dyed his hair black and gained seventy pounds.
Be careful with your heroes. We're all fragile and they are, too. Hurt people hurt and we've all been hurt.
Which ones do they kill? They kill the Kennedys, Dr. King, John Lennon. They kill the ones who threaten war with a message of peace. You don't have to be a Christian to know the story of the Prince of Peace.
Me? I'm for the good times. You know- wars end and sailors kiss pretty strangers on the street. I watch men I don't know bid five, ten, fifteen million dollars for old cars on TV. Oh, they're not to drive to work or for little road trips. They're just to own.
Of course I see the same homeless families on the street that you do. I wake up early worrying about the children in Aleppo. Knowing that we round up stray, abandoned pets for euthanasia is never far from the front of my mind.
Somehow I have always been one of those people who has everything he wants and more than he needs.
If you can't share what you own with the others, share your love. No spare change? Give him a smile. Give her a hug. We're all in it together. You're not driving that Bugatti to the corner. You're certainly not taking it to heaven.
Blessed with obsession, life frequently overwhelms me. Now Michio Kaku explains to me that God, with a capital G, is a math problem. Not to be outdone, I am hereby pronouncing Love a geography lesson.
Just as I was beginning to feel old because I don't dance much, it occurred to me that I never danced much. I remember that I won a dance contest at Alison Lewis' party in the eighth grade but I've always been suspicious that it might have been because her mom liked me.
We're down to a two party household for the holidays this year. Jamaica is gonna have to get used to all my love and all my attention. We don't fight much.
On a planet where pop stars pass over on a daily basis with Mondays off, sometimes it's hard to remember whether or not you have a purpose. Whether you ever had a purpose. Guard the palace, I suppose.
Broad shoulders and a southern drawl will get you on the radio but it won't bring you love.
I've dreamed more than a lifetime. Sometimes I dream so hard that it wakes me up. Sometimes I'm not sure which is the dream and which is the life. Is that me or is that the reflection in the mirror and the voice on the radio? What difference does it make?
We all want to believe in heaven. Try to book your passage while you still believe. Let's face it, that's all that counts. Everything's some form of energy and all energy is some form of love and if energy can be neither created nor destroyed, then all love is forever.
Lonely is a state of mind and my cerebrum is the capital. I don't care, of course, what people think, but what do they think? Kindness brings happiness. I know that. It will get you aluminum siding and magazine subscriptions, too, if you're not careful.
Maybe old newspapers are the answer. Nah. Turns out they had wars, too. The obituaries break my heart. I'm reminded that Pinky Lee died, not to mention Eleanor Roosevelt.
Nobody puts taps on their shoes or cards in their spokes or Vitalis in their hair.
Oh, I'm not complaining. I was out of fashion before it was fashionable.
The last time the moon was this close I was one year old. The next time around I'll be dead as a doornail. I seem to be washed up on several shores and several accounts. I have lived most of my life as an outsider of some kind. Now I find myself an elitist. An intellectual. Don't tell my high school graduating class!
What's so funny about peace, love, science and understanding?
Some things stay with you. When I was a kid there were bottomless wells all over the place. Well, that's what they told me. Every old well that we would come across in Jemison, I would ask, "Aunt Noot, is that one bottomless?"
"No, not that one, honey," she would always assure me.
I'm not sure that I ever actually saw one and I'm not sure what fascinated me, no, terrified me about the idea. Seems obvious now that you can drown in six inches of water as easily as a bottomless well. Now, yeah.
It took a long time to realize that ghosts aren't scary and that monsters are just men and women who were never loved. The only thing to fear is loss and it's always right around the corner.