“Rock stars come and go. Musicians play until they die.” (Eddie Van Halen)
If you were given the chance to regain the youthful energy of a rock star in your life, would you go for it? But let’s not deceive ourselves. For such a glamorous time might not turn out as all that it’s advertised to be. For you might find that your exuberance to perform as you like yet be popular with your audience might not both be easily obtained. Thus, how willing would you become to compromise those high standards of musicianship that might have originally enticed you to pursue this artistic path in the first place? It’s likely that your health might enter this equation as well as you ponder ways to keep up your physical stamina and emotional “high” to entertain others amid a rigorous “gig” travel schedule. As a rock music hero, you might also brood at times over how “solid” the human relationships in your band exist. For ultimately, rock band performers must work together as a musical and financial unit to play on over a longer period of time.
But let’s not shed grief about those humbling realities of rock star fame. For I present to you Johnson, our musical genius who desperately relished as 2020 ended, the opportunity to relive the youthful energy of such wildly entertaining times. For as an aging “baby boomer”, he once experienced musical stardom as a dynamic, horn section member and backup singer in a promising rock band called “Zodiac Groove.” He seemed fixated as well at this moment about the tempting allure of drug use and “groupie girl” options that had been available to him before and after after gigs on the road then. Know then that those vivid memories of these glamorous times to earn Blood Sweat& Tears/Chicago like status thus influenced Johnson to discover on this day an unexpected re-connection on Facebook with his old rock band mate, Joey. For over forty five years ago, this talented musician played trombone with Joey, the “fast hands” drummer of this busy touring band “on the road” during his college days. How then could Johnson manage telling Joey when they met in person, why he had quit music altogether to pursue the more conventional path of a classroom teacher? For he seemed envious of Joey’s successes in continuing his musical legacy to thrill audiences with his magical drums in live band performance throughout his entire adult life on the road.
So it seems logical to assume that Johnson unlike Joey at that moment, might have wasted his natural talents by foregoing a bonafide musical career. Yet upon closer inspection, the evidence seems clear that both of them faced uncomfortable moments of doubt as their respective careers “played out” periodically over time. For gifted drummer Joey found that his need to earn a steady paycheck forced him at times to weigh the option of joining country music bands who churned out uninspiring tunes of crowd pleasing “twang”. Similarly for Johnson, his fervent commitment to protest during the Civil Rights movement would drive him to abandon his Applied Music aspirations as a professional performer and thus divert his attention to changing the world for the better as an American History teacher. Yet this idealistic “calling” to “shine” in the classroom would tragically vanish at that time amid fifteen, tough years of urban missionary teaching at troubled, inner city public schools in Miami.
Ultimately though, as Johnson delved more intimately into those nostalgic flashbacks in the mid 1970s years, he would find good reason to fully embrace a “glass half full” rather “glass half empty” concept about his rock band past. Consider back then in 1972 how the matter of his “well grounded” girlfriend Rita “played out”. For he would unexpectedly re-connect with Rita after an extended time breakup upon spotting her presence in a crowded audience as he played on stage at a college fraternity gig. In retrospect, Johnson would later realize that it had been Joey’s caring presence as his housing roommate during those challenging days in college that had motivated him to become more careful about making decisions at this critical juncture in his life. In this regard, Johnson now also concluded that it had been his friend’s timely advice to “wise up” at that time which enlightened Johnson to resume his dating relationship with Rita. Happily it seems, their marriage soon after college graduation would not dampen Johnson’s free spirited enthusiasm for finding live performance “highs”. So in fact, Johnson’s trusting covenant with Rita has thrived from their honeymoon to this day, as their inspired intentions to travel sets the stage to orchestrate so many unexpected moments of wanderlust excitement globally throughout the years.
You might thus wonder how deeply the lingering Corona pandemic in 2020 has impacted both of these talented musicians . For while Johnson sorely misses the thrill of hearing live music amid the shutdown, Joey faces the challenge to find live crowd options to perform now. It’s only fitting then that Johnson now exhibits a strong vision to pick up his t’bone and play together again with Joey as a way of counteracting his intense Corona emotions. For rock music stardom can never die for those who always dream to “shine” in the right moment. In fact, there’s a tune playing in Johnson’s head right now. Click on the link below.
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Or maybe more than that.
I’m assuming I know Johnson and Rita. 😉 The rock musician is a side of you I never knew about. I’m impressed! It’s a difficult life, traveling and playing gigs. But, being on stage surrounded by a pulsing beat and cheers from eager fans was certainly intoxicating, wasn’t it? . I too gave it up when the 60’s collided with the 1970’s. But, my memories are indeed still sweet, as I’m sure yours are too. We are lucky enough to have encompassed a lifetime of memories by this time in our lives, and the beauty about music is… that every time we hear a song from the past, we remember the melody, the words, the sounds, the smells, of our youth. And our past comes flooding back to us. What a gift that is!
I don’t know about you, but being in a band was a wonderful experience while it lasted. I, however, chose another path. Recently, I thought I’d take it up again but, sadly my hands are now arthritic and while my mind still knows how to play, my fingers are useless on a guitar. But in my head? Oh…in my mind when I close my eyes I’m center stage again, my 1962 Gibson guitar held lovingly in my arms as I lean into the microphone and sing “The House of the Rising Sun”. And I look across a wall of screaming and clapping teenagers piled inside The Ft Lauderdale Armory to hear The First All Girl’s band in South Florida. And I smile. My rock star days are long gone, but I helped set the stage for other girls in Florida to pick up a guitar and play. And I know you affected people when you picked up your trombone. Your tune may have changed to educating, but there’s still a rock star lingering deep inside.Because Rock stars never truly retire or die you know. Their music plays on…
Lovely blog Jim. ✌️❤️🎸
Rock stars may come and go but their music is forever! Rock on and Happy New Year!
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You too Eugenia.
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Lesley: Yes those characters are who you think they are. You also get it that we performed in teaching with rock star enthusiasm that carries over to our life no matter any age inflicted physical limitations. Happy New Year.
Nice share and so reflective. You hit a lot of key notes of time, music and events. Best wishes for the new year.
I fervently hope the horn sounds like BS&T, Chicago and Leonid and Friends can still be appreciated in the music business. Thanks for commenting. Stay well .
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