If you must judge...
How do you judge a musical artist? What role does image play? Is popularity a good indicator?
Let's take singing for instance. What makes a singer good? Hitting the right notes, singing with personality, raspy texture, smooth texture, really going for it, sounding like another popular singer, sounding unique? Okay, enough questions already. I'll tell you what I think. A good singer is someone that hits the right notes, sings with the texture or voice that he pretty much speaks with, i.e., unaffected, and can interpret the SONG with a soulfullness, be it R&B soul or Bluegrass soul or whatever type of soul. It doesn't have to be a "soul" song to be soulful. And yes, that's not a typo, song was supposed to be capitalized. Why? Because the song is the vehicle, the story line, the movie, the big magilla. Without a good song all the technical prowess in the world won't make the performance anything except a hollow shell. A good song can make you a star, but a star can't make a song good. In other words, you have to have a pretty decent vehicle right from the get go.
THERE WAS A TIME when good singing meant: a rich bell tone to his or her voice. Something that was pleasing to the human ear. Dexterity, range, nuance, phrasing, power, finesse, and intonation were all earmarks of a good vocalist. For better or worse, I think the criteria has changed a bit over the last few decades, but many of the same rules still apply.
First I want to say that regardless of the genre or style, there are great musicians in every type of music imaginable. I heard a rap group the other night that would kick butt on any stage. I know it may not be your cup, nor is it mine, but these guys and gals had mastery over their musical instruments, and they were tight. They were getting there message to their fans, and that's the point. You have to have solid tracks for music to be a means of communication. Sound quality is more important today than ever. With the new digital technology you can and should be able to hear every instrument clearly. That said, there are times when cluttered sound is what the band is going for, but generally speaking it should be tight.
Does how good someone looks have anything to do with why you should like an artist? Apparently, it has a lot to do with it. I suppose it always has. In their day, The Andrews Sisters (particularly Patty) were hot stuff. The same goes for Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Britney Spears, etc. Obviously there are those that aren't what you would call drop dead gorgeous, but they have "something" in their persona that appeals to people. James Taylor has a likable quality, certainly Louis Armstrong was one of the most beloved musicians of all time. They were also very talented individuals. Being presentable on stage is a relative term. Jimi Hendrix and Frank Sinatra were worlds apart, but the one thing they had in common: they dressed the part for their fans.
Okay, now we're really getting down to it. Is popularity an indicator of quality? Not necessarily, but then that depends. What do I mean? Well, one thing I'm trying to get across in this piece is that it's not always about talent. Sometimes it's about just liking someone. Maybe you like the way they look, maybe you think they're just cool, maybe they remind you of Uncle Fred.
Personal taste (or)
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder?
MUSICAL STYLES AND TASTE are to a great degree dictated by age appropriate behavior. Well, to a large part anyway. Old musicians know this. A lot of us started out playing rock. Rock is and has always been a form of rebellion. Hostile aggressive behavior. Take rap, another youth based music. Without trying to stereotype it any more than it has been, it's not for most people over 40. It's just not. The values, topics, subject matter, etc., are aimed towards the youth culture. I personally think human hormones have a whole lot to do with musical preferences. When I was young, I liked to rock. Now that I'm older, I "get" more traditional styles of music. I can relate to them more. It makes sense to me NOW. There's a musician joke that goes something like this. A metal rocker says, "Hey man, I heard you quit playing rock and joined a country band". To which the country player answered, "Yeah, I'm not mad at my parents anymore."
There are a lot of factors that contribute to what's good and what's not. Each of us has to decide for himself, but keep in mind there's beauty to be found in all forms of music. So, don't condemn the style, condemn the sloppy undisciplined playing, the singing off key "just" to sound like your tough. Tough can be cool, but it should be controlled even in a speed-metal band. Don't think that just because someone is selling millions of records they're automatically good. It ain't so. Maybe they photograph well, or maybe their backers put up a million dollars. That's not that uncommon these days. Of course, the backers are the ones who will see all the profits, but that's another story. Don't give the vocal award to the guy or girl that holds the note the longest and loudest. That isn't telling me anything, other than that they have a strong pair of lungs. Don't think that because a musician can play a million notes a second that he's better than the guy that can make you cry with his interpretation of a ballad. Can the musician or singer communicate the message, the song? Can he or she turn their ego off and put YOU, the listener first? If they can, and if they also have dexterity and mastery of their voice or instrument, then I think you can say they're good. Remember, good sounds good.
If you must judge my father
As most of you know, my father was a country superstar. I hate to see his musical legacy relegated to no more than a footnote of one little incident which I've spoken about in another article. The envelope thing. If you must judge him, judge him by MUSICAL CRITERIA. Judge him for his musical works: "Behind Closed Doors", "Feel Like Goin' Home", "Who Will The Next Fool Be", "Break Up", "The Most Beautiful Girl In The World", "A Very Special Love Song", "On My Knees", "Rollin' With The Flow", "She Called Me Baby", "Lonely Weekends", and countless other songs and albums that spanned a lifetime. Why, because music was his life. Music, which he gave for us to listen to and enjoy. Music, that he spent years of his life perfecting. I would also say the same for me or any other artist. Judge us by the music.
Still more stuff...
- Being taken seriously.
- How my father became a star.
- So, you wanna' be a country star?
- Who do you like better, Garth or Gershwin?
- You'll eat what you're served...
- The Media: Out with the old, in with the new.
- It's great exposure.
Thoughts on some of the people I've played with or known.
- Charlie Rich
- Freddy Fender
- Smokey Robinson
- Jo-El Sonnier
- Randy Meisner
- Billy Swan
- Flaco Jimenez
- Augie Meyers
- Doug Sahm
- Jerry Lee Lewis
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