Stuff I Like-Part 3

Make a joyful noiseThe other night I went to see “Love & Mercy”, which is a film about the life of Brian Wilson (creative genius behind the Beach Boys), focusing on the years 1962 through 1992. It is well written and acted but, it’s not about the Beach Boys so you don’t have to be a fan of theirs to like the film. It is the story of a sensitive musical genius and his struggles to overcome an abusive childhood and years of mental health issues and drug addiction. It is the best depiction of one person’s creative process that I have ever seen. It is sad and dark at times but, in the end, it is also about the redemptive power of love; one of my favorite themes.

I became an instant Beach Boys fan the moment I heard “Surfer Girl” in the summer of 1963, when I was 12, and they and the Beatles provided the soundtrack of my life for the next couple of decades. I liked other rock n’ roll groups and other types of music but, because their music was so important to my formative years, they will remain a part of who I am forever. I probably drove my parents crazy by playing the same albums over and over but, as much as I loved the Beach Boys music, I didn’t appreciate the timeless genius of it until I was much older. Not so much the lyrics, because most of those are anchored firmly in a certain time and culture but, the music itself and the amazing production arrangements – both Brian’s creations. There are some songs that still bring tears to my eyes, among them “Caroline, No”, a heart breaking song about the loss of innocence, “God Only Knows” one of the most beautiful love songs ever written (both from the classic “Pet Sounds” album) and “Don’t Worry, Baby”, supposedly about a guy’s fears regarding a drag race but, if you listen closely, I think much more is being said between the lines. In addition, Brian’s soaring falsetto will make your heart ache.

By 1965 Brian had grown creatively and wanted to move away from the “cars, girls, beach” formula but he was under constant pressure to keep delivering Top Ten hits so his family (this was a family business – the three Wilson brothers, Brian, Carl and Dennis, their cousin Mike Love, and a friend, Al Jardine) could continue to make money and maintain the band’s popularity. The pop magazines I bought as a teen presented a fluffy, happy, version of the Beach Boys lives – back in the ’60’s we very rarely knew the truth about our celebrities (or our elected officials!). A sanitized version of the reason Brian stopped touring with the group in 1966 was published – the real reasons were darker and more complicated than just a desire to “focus on song writing and production”. I had no idea of Brian’s true story until 1995 when I read “Heroes and Villains: The True Story of the Beach Boys” by Steven Gaines (if you’re interested in reading a well-written portrait of Brian Wilson I recommend “Catch a Wave” by Peter Ames Carlin).

I saw the Beach Boys in concert every year for 10 years – 1971 to 1981 – and every show was a celebration of youth, summer and good times complete with beach balls and frisbees. I saw them for the first time in 1971 with my fiancée in but in 1981 my marriage ended and I went to my last Beach Boys concert at the Providence Civic Center. Over the years I had often wished they would perform more of their new music instead of relying so heavily upon past hits and, for a few years in the early 70’s, they seemed to be doing that but, eventually they went back to the old formula. As a result of that and changes in my own life, I viewed the Beach Boys through a different prism in that last concert. Suddenly the sight of nearly middle-aged men singing “Be True to Your School” and “I Get Around” seemed sad. At the end of the concert Mike Love yelled out “Party in the bar at the Marriott – you’re all invited!” to 22,000 fans. I looked at my friend and said “Could that be real?” and he said “Let’s go and find out!” The bar in the Marriott was packed but, gradually, some of the Beach Boys back up musicians arrived and then, we saw Mike and Carl across the bar from us. My friend went to the bathroom and, as I was sitting alone at the bar, Dennis Wilson came toward me with a man holding each of his arms. He seemed to be drunk and they were apparently helping him to walk out of the bar. Dennis was always my favorite of the Beach Boys and I was thrilled just to be that close to him but, he veered towards me, stopped and said “What’s a pretty lady like you doing all alone?” I was tongue-tied! I think I said “My friend is in the bathroom” or something equally witty. He asked if I had been at the show and I said yes and he thanked me. Then he kissed me on the cheek and he and his escorts continued on their way. (Years later I read “Dumb Angel: the Life and Music of Dennis Wilson” by Adam Webb and learned what a tragically self-destructive person he had been – ironically, the only real surfer in the Beach Boys drowned in 1983 at the age of 39) When my friend came back from the bathroom he was furious that he had missed the whole thing but I told him it never would have happened if I hadn’t been alone. It was a memorable and fitting end to my decade of Beach Boys concerts.

The good news is that all the beautiful music Brian Wilson has created is still available to me any time I want to hear it and he is still creating. He has an almost unfiltered innocence and vulnerability that touches me and his song “Love & Mercy” is wonderful – after all, who can’t relate to the simple need for love & mercy in their lives?

PS/check out the absolutely gorgeous BBC production of “God Only Knows” on YouTube

Washington Oaks-Matanzas River 5-22-15

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Hidden Inspiration

ImaginationWow, three posts in a week … I must be doing a lot of thinking lately. I believe it’s important to always be on the lookout for inspiration, or at least stay open to it, because feeling inspired gives life more meaning and helps us stay in touch with our higher self. When you feel inspired your creativity flows freely, in fact, one of the definitions of inspiration is “the stimulation to do creative work” but, don’t think creativity is only for artistic people; it is an important element in everything we do. Creative thinking is needed to achieve any goal and to be a good parent, spouse, friend, employee or employee. Sometimes I have found inspiration in the most surprising and unlikely places, which is why I encourage you to keep an open mind because you never know where you may find it.

Last summer, in advance of the upcoming presidential election, I decided to start paying more attention to politics and current events and I began a self-directed education. For my entire adult life, I was apolitical and I still have no party affiliation – I have voted both Democrat and Republican. It doesn’t matter what your political views are. The important thing is that you try to be open to any opportunity for inspiration, no matter where it comes from. I started my education by listening to the news everyday from both a liberal and a conservative perspective – PBS Nightly Newshour and two programs on Glenn Beck’s internet radio and TV network, The Blaze. I expected to get a lot of new information from Glenn Beck but, I didn’t expect to be inspired by him and yet that is what happened. I bet even you “liberals” out there could be inspired by him!

Beck didn’t attend college, except for one class at Yale. He is a self-educated man who overcame a difficult childhood and addictions to alcohol and cocaine to become a self-made success. He is a creative thinker and a voracious reader on a wide range of topics. He is passionate about history and, since he believes that too much important history is being forgotten or revised, one of his many goals is to preserve historical artifacts and protect authentic history. The truth is of absolute importance to him and I respect that, especially from a man who is building a multi media company. Some of the documentaries his company has produced are among the best I have ever seen. His constant admonition of “Don’t take my word for it – do your own homework!” has often inspired me to do just that. He reawakened my interest in history and introduced me to many good books but he also inspired me on a more personal level because of his willingness to be honest about his struggles and to share how he continually works to overcome them. I recently read “The 7: Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life”, which he co-wrote with psychiatrist, Dr. Keith Ablow, and was once again moved and inspired by Beck’s honesty.

One of my favorite sayings is “When the student is ready, the teacher appears” and what I’m trying to get across here is that you shouldn’t let your prejudices or preconceived notions about someone stop you from hearing their message. You might actually be inspired!

Say what?

Say what?

 

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