My brother, Dante, runs one of my favorite blogs focusing on Metal, and recently featured an interview he held with former Iron Maiden and Wolfsbane singer, Blaze Bayley. It intimate and revealing look into his struggles.
Another of my favorite Metal blogs has been running a series of ruminations on individual songs from Metallica’s first four albums. A few entries that are must reads – not because they express exactly why *I* had thought those songs so interesting, but because they might pique your interest if you’ve never really listened to them, or if you are fan, provide you with a new perspective (he’s also a guitarist so there is that ingredient as well). Among my favorites:
Erika Meyer shares what it was like learning to play guitar, fighting to make it happen, being a woman, and being told a few times along the way she had ‘no talent’: “How I Learned To Play Guitar”:
In 2000 I was a 32-year-old single mother with a four-year-old daughter. Looking for work as a web developer, I moved to Portland, Oregon, only to find that Portland is a town where it seems EVERYONE is in a band. I would watch my (male) friends in bands and sometimes find myself in tears, because deep down, I still wanted to be part of it. I’d been out of all urban ‘scenes’ and living a pretty isolated backwoods life since 1990, so I was largely unaware of the shifts that had happened in underground rock during the previous decade.
Around my 33rd birthday, I decided to ask for my guitars again, as I had every few years or so since 1990. Amazingly, this time, my mother returned them. I don’t know why she really kept them from me, and I don’t know why she finally returned them, but I immediately started to play. Thinking, “I want my daughter to experience music hands-on”, I bought a little practice amp and picked up where I’d left off, but this time with a new attitude. I decided right away that I no longer cared about ‘talent’. I decided that ‘talent’ didn’t even matter, that what matters, in fact, is passion and commitment. I knew that if I kept on the way I’d had been, I’d go to my death with some serious regret. It was time to take this as far as *I* wanted, regardless of what anyone else thought. I had thought I was playing for my daughter, but really, I was doing it for myself.
That change from a focus on talent and skill to a focus on passion and expression was a huge and important mental switch. I was finally giving myself what no one else had quite given me: permission to play guitar on my own terms. And more than that, I gave myself permission to ‘suck’. And with permission to suck comes the ability to rock, and to overcome all the fears and insecurities that had been holding me captive.
I had begun to understand, also, by this point, a lot more about psychology behind art. I remembered when I was a kid, my friends would tell me, “I can’t draw” and I would say, “Anyone can draw!” I knew it was just a matter of practice and learning to see and to trust your instincts. So I thought, “What if it’s true of music, too? What if anyone can make music?” I also knew by then that artistically frustrated people often try to put down or discourage other artists, so I decided I wouldn’t internalize other people’s negative projections about my abilities or my right to put time and energy into music. I’d focus on what I knew in my heart to be true: that I have just as much right to rock as Mick Jagger does. Maybe even more.
I was going through my song library tonight, strumming my guitar, and ran into one of Shannon Campbell’s (now Shannon Gunn) old tunes, “Less Like You” from around 02 or so. “Pet Rock Star”, it was good to hear your voice again. I hope you are doing well, from one old blogger to another, from back in the day.
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
“I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling.
I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built.
I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.”
That’s Woody Guthrie on songwriting. You can hear Will Greer reading those words, plus a great set of original recordings from Guthrie and Lead Belly, on the Smithsonian Folkways collection, “Folkways: The Original Vision”.
Ronnie James Dio, one of the greatest songwriters and singers in heavy metal, passed away this weekend.
I put together a Ronnie James Dio Playlist on YouTube to try and share some great moments, but no one song, or article, will be able to capture his influence on the genre, and the positive uplift it gives thousands of kids who look for a place to belong, a music that sings of fighting for something against incredible odds, all wrapped in a cloak of fantasy, sorcery and lightning.
The following three threads have great discussion: