You do know that it's all just a gag, don't you? You do what you can, of course. Suffering is real, not an illusion. There is no shortage of love, only a distribution and delivery problem. As you well know, war is our number one industry. Armaments and "defense" spending is literally #1 with a bullet, if you'll pardon a pun. Most of our military might goes where petroleum needs protection and banking makes money from making money so that makes them big war buffs.
Great, eloquent quotes are wonderful in marble but best when rolled out for battle. Dr. King famously reminded us:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Put on your clown shoes and open up your heart. I said that. Love like crazy.
All the gold these dreams are made of. Every string vibrates and I hear the music of every rock'n'roll ghost and every hero that I mourn. A needle zigs and zags in the grooves in the plastic and Elvis sings as though it was 1956.
Now the New York Times tries to tell me about whether or not there's any life in the old girl and they attempt to explain that in the final analysis there will be room for only one hero in history and, of course, that hero will be either Elvis or Dylan.
This morning Donald J. Trump, Bernie Sanders and I are all talking trash about The Times.
They refer to it as "rock" fercrissakes!
It's okay for me to speculate on breath in the patient. It's my rock'n'roll.
If you could just take charge based on an authoritative tone, Malcolm McLaren would be king.
Sometimes it feels like I'm fiddling while the planet burns all around me. Oh, I still fret about climate change and I'm certainly alarmed to find out that half my fellow citizens are dying to be lied to as long as it's done using hate speech and braggadocio. The plight of the homeless continues to break my heart and I mourn every animal destroyed in shelters. Our slide in infant mortality rates and our lack of a genuine health care system keep me awake at night and the waste of endless war all infuriate me. Did I mention my distaste in the destruction of the music industry?
Somehow, though, I'm feeling really good. Really good. Maybe it's the idea that most of the race is run. For me. Who knows? Who cares?
The beauty all around me is nearly blinding. If I have a single regret it's that I haven't paid enough attention. It's not the money or the power or position. It's the love, chump. It's the love.
When I was a kid there would be a civil war veteran at some Memorial Day event every now and then. Most of my friends had fathers or uncles who had seen combat in World War II or the Korean conflict. A small number of my high school friends went to Viet Nam. I went to school with mostly rich, white kids.
Now the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us of controls the treasury along with big pharm, Wall Street, the petro boys and the insurance industry. I have weird, vague memories of conspiracy nuts calling the early talk radio shows, babbling about this stuff. I thought they were all crazy. Heck, they were.
Another early memory is the terror of watching Nikita Khrushchev pounding on the UN podium with his shoe, insisting that capitalism would crumble. It was obvious to me that Walter Cronkite was as frightened as I was. Looking back, I think that's what scared me most.
Of all the crazies from my youth-fogged vaults, Niki's the one whose words resonate with truth. Is it my imagination or am I witnessing capitalism devour itself with glee? What are the Shell boys gonna do when they run out of dinosaur juice to peddle? Who cares? Today's executives will be long gone. Who's gonna shell out a hundred grand a month for the pill that will take care of your cancer and make a few entrepreneurs fabulously wealthy? Why, the insurance companies, fool! Well, how the heck are they able to foot the bill? The government that all the above own prints more money.
So of all these tag teams of villains, do you mean to tell me that only the military is on solid footing? Let's just say that we have watched unending war become commonplace, propped up by a perpetual fear of "them." The commies, the niggers, the queers, the terrorists, the Muslims.
Some nights I dream of watching an alligator catch its tail and begin eating.
Yeah, somebody ought to take America back- the indigenous people that we stole it from.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
The height of arrogance, I suppose, would be to assume that you were able to accept everything as it is. Everything.
Me? I'm appalled at every injustice. I cry for every wounded bird. I wring my hands over inequality. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I smash it more often than a cheap Timex. I know that somehow I'm responsible for every stray dog's sad life.
Now that I tell you all this let me add that I'm a glass half-full optimist, too.
The ones who have shown me love have made it a grand life. I surely hope that I have played some small role in lighting someone else's world. Open your arms and your heart and your mind. Sometimes in this old world we seem to act as though there's something embarrassing about love and something noble about conflict and competition.
I don't claim to know much but I can teach this course.
My knowledge as a child came from World Book encyclopedia and Photoplay in pretty much equal measure. I knew from movie magazine gossip that all famous movie stars had psychiatrists. It was no great leap to conclude that movie stars were all crazy. I liked that. Still do.
Of course it never occurred to me that I would ever have any need for therapy myself. Oh, I considered "movie star" as a career option but it was down the list behind race car driver, rock'n'roll star, juvenile delinquent and air force pilot in consideration.
Somewhere down the line a wife convinced me to go together for couple counseling. It was obvious that the plan was for the therapist to pronounce me crazy. That would allow us to change things to make for a happy household.
The venerable doctor did, indeed, pronounce me "crazy." No surprise there. When she told my wife that she was crazy, too, all hell broke loose. Tears flowed. After a few sessions I was thrilled. It dawned on me that movie stars have therapists because they can afford them. Movie stars are rich. Heck, everybody's crazy. We could all use counseling.
Eventually we had to change therapists. My wife decided that the good doctor liked me more and would always take my side. Well, in fact, the doctor did like me more. I answered questions. I told her anything she wanted to know. My mate sat stiffly, quietly praying for the forty five minutes to end, saying as little as possible. Frequently sobbing.
The pattern continued through two more therapists. Finally one pronounced us "well." He informed us that we were all set and didn't need anything else from him. We were divorced several years later.
I've repeated the pattern with more than one woman since. I'm grateful for the experience, the help. If I could afford it, if I were a movie star, I would have my own psychiatrist. I'm crazy.
Remember when music mattered? Oh, I don't want to hear from you nuts who still remember the matrix numbers off the first three Buddy Holly 45's. You know what I'm talking about. Kids don't spend their allowances on the top forty. Young girls aren't able to tell you the color of the lads's eyes from Coldplay in a game of Trivial Pursuit. Come to think of it, whatever happened to Trivial Pursuit?
Things change. Beethoven would probably stock shelves at night in a Walmart today. He couldn't flip burgers in a Burger King without a hairnet.
Does it matter? Well, I probably wouldn't be the one to ask.
Dumb is very fashionable these days. Somebody pays an ad agency to make Dodge commercials pointing out that learning is for losers. The cool kids spin donuts in the parking lot. We're told by the pundits every day that the dumb folks supporting fascists aren't really dumb. What?
The emperor's naked as a jaybird. He's got tiny hands, too.
So I mourn the loss of my innocence and my youth. Artie went up to Harlem and brought back Billie. For a little while. My pal, Ed, always insisted that youth has no concept of mortality. I never knew what he was talking about. I was young.
Now those chords from Meet The Beatles make me cry. There was a time that the sound caused the hair on my arms to stand up. Mostly just a lump in my throat nowadays.
Heroes disappear on a regular basis. Memories fade and twist. Cling to love, pal. That's all there is.
Funny thing is, I'm shy. Sometimes I have a hard time talking to people I don't know well. I show off for a living. My role is to express my feelings, to help folks find truth. What guidance counselor let me get here?
Don't read anything in here about me being unhappy in my work. All my spirit, my whole life force is invested in what I do. Don't read anything in here about taking it too seriously, either. It ain't rocket surgery.
Seems that every time rock'n'roll goes on life support something out of left field brings new life to the old girl. By 1974 big studio budgets and self important "singer-songwriters" threatened all that seemed dear to us. Malcolm McLaren, Seymour Stein and a bunch of other opportunistic vultures began shooting fish in barrels. Looking back, I'm surprised that the London Philharmonic wasn't brought in to sweeten some of the Pistols' tracks.
Jerks in suits with comic book dollar signs in their eyes have always rushed into the temple to scoop up the gold when the 4/4 beat rolls.
The first reference to "punk" as far as we know comes from a Lester Bangs review of ? And The Mysterians. Good call.
Elvis was a punk. A sweet kid. An innocent hillbilly who loved his mama but a punk, nevertheless. Jerry Lee was a punk. Gene Vincent was probably the ultimate punk. Over the years we had Little Willie John and Johnny Cash. We went from Little Richard and Hank Williams and Dion to Dwight Yoakum and Ike Turner.
The world of rock'n'roll was built by punks just as surely as the white house was built by slaves. Something about a suite at the Pierre and room service tends to change all that. As much as ol' Keith loves to reminisce about shooting out the lights to escape a drug deal gone wrong, he's been a privileged millionaire who doesn't have to carry his own amp for half a century. We're never going back.
Now I find myself an old man. I loved my mom, too. I dote on an old dog and a blind cat. I'm a punk. Always have been.
How can truth be so elusive? What is so terrifying about loneliness? How do you make the love stay?It takes a long time to find yourself. Once you do, you really should be gentle. We're all damaged, some worse than others.
You're as insignificant as that grain of sand and you're as unique as the brightest star. It was the same with Beethoven and Cleopatra.
Airliners just vanish. So do honeybees. Memories don't.
Set in my ways? Maybe. Stubborn? Always have been. As it slowly dawns on me that the world has no interest in what I declare right or wrong, I find myself listening for the cadence of "my own drum."
As long as children go to bed hungry, terrified of bombs; so long as sick people in this rich nation are denied medical attention and essential medicine; while we can find resources to finance wars across the world but can't fund education- I won't be hopping up and down chanting, "USA, USA!"
Don't misunderstand me. I surely don't believe that our government should be run based on my whims. I do believe, fervently however, that only two political parties make the decisions that run the game of politics and government in this country. I don't believe that either of them represent me or my interests or, for that matter, the interests of the majority of the citizens here.
My Church of the Living Swing, inherited from Lord Buckley, is open seven days a week, twenty four hours a day. You're all welcome, any time. What's right is right. You probably don't need a court to tell you what that is.
Love is the real currency and it's not just plentiful- it's everywhere, in abundance. Show off with it. Flaunt it. Try to waste it. Let those others fight and scuffle over the green paper and the wars. They're not the boss of us.
Well now, the old scrapbooks are full and none of it interests me at all. Some of the memories are just too sad to call up. Who decided that life would only move in one direction anyway? This is my favorite chapter in the Ronny Elliott story but I surely miss some of those characters from the earlier ones. No wonder folks need to believe in heaven.
Here I thought I had told you everything. Seems I'm always boasting about how easy it is for me to open up and reveal my deepest feelings. Now it seems that I've stumbled onto stuff that has managed to elude my consciousness for awhile and I can't bring myself to share it.
Maybe it's not too late for me to create a mystique.
Well, all of my favorite television shows have ended. All except Nashville. Oh, I hate the music part. Let me back up. I don't hate all the music and I think those two young sisters are magnificent. What keeps me home on Wednesday nights, though, is the melodrama. It's a soap opera and a fine one at that.
Those characters worrying about getting "cuts" and fretting about airplay embarrass me and remind me of everything that I dislike about the music business.
Sour grapes? Maybe. Probably.
Art and commerce don't make good bedfellows as far as I'm concerned. Never have. Never will. I know as much about brain surgery as I do hit records.
I've never had any trouble seeing the invisible prison walls that keep other folks incarcerated. The religious, ethical, legal chains that were concocted to keep us in line. For some reason I've been mostly blind to my own shackles. Oh yeah, I've dressed differently than most of my friends since I've had any part in dressing myself. I've been a vegetarian for over fifty years. Occasionally fashion and I cross paths. Not for long. Not often.
Now I've decided to keep wearing pants, at least most of the time. It's not modesty or decency. I just don't want to bother other people.
You won't catch me violating speed limits on the road. Seems like common sense and good manners to me.
Grandma taught me right from wrong as soon as I was old enough to pay a little attention. I'm not about to support any war, ever. There have never been any good ones, only twisted history. Building up arms supplies for the next ones while we have babies starving around the world is wrong. Any politician who tries to tell me differently is misinformed or more ambitious than decent.
In 1956 I wanted to be Little Richard. In 1964 I wanted to be British. Now I'm old. Luckily, I want to be Ronny Elliott. I am the act. The act is me. I preach love.
Convinced of nothing, with no concrete ideas and very few convictions, I find myself floating in the ether, a spectator in a loud, unruly land. They call it politics on the nightly news. Now, you can listen to me if you want but I really can't blame you if you don't.
The emperor's naked. Naked as a jaybird. I can see his talleywhacker from way up here in the cheap seats.
This land really is your land. Mine, too.
Oh, I'll eat cake, alright, but I'm not marching in their stupid parade. Me? I'm studying love, hoping to graduate. They're not the boss of me.
Whatever love that Marilyn felt, it must have seemed as though was slipping away with her youth and fame. She was on a path to becoming Norma Jeane again. Of course being "Marilyn" had never really filled the void. How could it? Of course it beat poverty, loneliness, abuse.
One of the most indelible memories etched in my mind comes from an interview with Elvis that I read in 1956. I was nine years old. Not much made much of an impression on me at that point in life. "Sometimes I get lonely in the middle of a crowd."
In 1960 Elvis returned from Germany and Frank Sinatra helped give him a hero's welcome. He was still our first and only king and he was back on his throne. By the middle of the '70's he was irrelevant in pop culture. Fickle stuff. Father Time with some help from a British Invasion had taken everything.
In both cases drugs had helped ease the pain until they became a big part of the problem.
Heroes die of broken hearts just like everybody else.
You would think that there would be enough love to go around.
Somewhere there's a balance between accepting and liking yourself and self awareness that allows you to see just exactly who you really are. You're perfect, you know. You're flawed, too. Nobody in the world's better than you. Or worse.
Joy is to be found in art. Not at the Louvre or MOMA. Open a jar of finger paint. Now, open another one. Money blurs the lines, obscures the beauty. You can paint, I can sing.
Seems I never made much of a Little Richard. That's alright, Bob Dylan never was much of a Woody Guthrie, either. I'm the world's best Ronny Elliott, though, and I'm not boasting.
If you're looking for heroes or a role model, let me suggest any bonobo or some anonymous Sufi poet. Study love, sing, paint and dance.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war. I remember, Grandma. I remember.
You create your own history. That stuff in the books is somebody else's story. I've tried to make mine rhyme for the most part. In spite of appearances, I'm really a glass half full kind of guy. Oh, I would still like to cure the common broken heart and end war but I know a setting sun when I see one. I watched for a green flash for forty years and saw two in a week.
I'm still working on a melody with a beauty to melt the stars, too. Knowledge of mortality keeps me from throwing a perfect game I suppose. Love really is like riding a bicycle, isn't it? I guess the art is in knowing how many chords are enough.
No governor. I was put together with missing parts and I've always known that. It occurs to me now that I wasn't designed to burn low. My real time alive is when I get to do what I really do. Circumstances have limited that. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
We're waiting for word now. I've already grieved the loss of Little Richard once, when he announced his "retirement" from rock'n'roll towards the end of 1957. Somewhere on the basketball court at Palma Ceia Playground the announcement crackled through the tiny, tinny speaker in my Silvertone transistor radio. After a couple of signs that God had sent him in Australia, Richard had decided to serve the Lord. Damn!
We lost him for four long years with nothing but a couple of gospel releases and the old 45's to keep us calm.
If there is a "god" he invented rock'n'roll and he made Little Richard. Talk about your Department of Redundancy Department!
Maybe I needed bigger dreams, higher aspirations, loftier goals. My life is altogether perfect. If I had something different in mind I would change it. Sometimes I feel like I need to create a thank you list for all of the wonderful folks who have passed through my life. Of course I would need another for all the non-humans. Not that any of them can read but I'm pretty sure that the gratitude serves the grateful primarily.
Oh, I've spent plenty of time feeling sorry for myself. A broken heart here, a perceived slight there. The usual, I suppose.
At this point, I'm lucky to remember what I wanted from life as a kid. I've had it all. I've got it all. Tell the people in your life that you love them. It may make some of them a little uncomfortable. It will make all of them happy.