Musicare’s Person of the Year: Bob Dylan, Friday Feb. 6th, 2015

Being on the production team for another year of the Musicare’s Person of the Year event is always an honor and a privilege. But this year took amazing to another level. That’s the hardest of the hard to do, because each year pays tribute to the music industry’s icons. The cream of the cream of the crop….
It wasn’t that the amazing artists who played performance tribute could dip into arguably the most prolific body of songs to chose from. It wasn’t the entertainment industry’s best and brightest who rushed to their seats in anticipation of seeing and hearing a man who made a career out of not being seen nor heard, unless it was on his terms. And it wasn’t even President Jimmy Carter himself introducing him as a man who’s words had more impact than all of the Presidents combined.
It was the approx. 43 minutes that Bob Dylan spoke. He spoke about his career, influences, inspiration, detractors, critics, the global social mindset when he began, through his over 50 year career, and right to that very night. With razor sharp recollection and acumen he was like that person you thought was sleeping. Sleeping in his own world. But he was always paying attention. More than many of us who claim to be more alert to this humanity and the ground we inhabit. He fooled you, he fooled me, and he fooled even those who have been watching every move he has made.

And his words bounced, dipped, jumped, and hugged. Spontaneously they cut sharp then round, saucy then soft. And with the bump and rumble of the most skillful wordsmith who had the advantage of preparation. You could hear how his songs were born. Not far from his random thoughts. I was witnessing a once in a lifetime event….

He left me with life changing phrases. One that stands out is his recollection of a conversation with Sam Cooke, when Sam said ” a voice should not be judged on if it’s pretty. It should be judge on it’s ability to convince you that it is telling the truth.”

Towards the end it was obvious he was not going to perform. In the beginning I would predict I would have been, as others in attendance, disappointed. But I would not trade his words spoken for any performance. I’m sure all others would agree as well.

We heard the voice that expressed what generations could only think. And he somehow had a voice that would enlighten while giving you the feeling that he was just like the rest of us. if there was one common thought it would have been ” he is telling the truth.” That same thought the world had when they first heard his songs in the beginning. When he was changing the world one song at a time.

I walked to my car after saying goodbye to my friends and collaborators and looked forward to silence to make sense of what I experienced. And I thanked the author in my heart who seeded my love of music, for gifting me this night…..

Reflections on the MusiCare’s 2013 person of the year Bruce Springsteen tribute Friday, 2/8/13

17 albums, 20 Grammys, 1 Oscar….so far.

The night was star studded from wall to wall. From Jason Mraz , Jimmy Web, Tom Brokaw, to every head of every record label, to ( fill in almost every major recording star you can think of, and then some ) all had something in common – they respectfully and enthusiastically claimed their seats as fans this night. Some stepped up to perform. Elton John, John Legend, Alabama Shakes, Neil Young, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, to name a few. The galaxy was aglow in tribute to the Boss.

But what left me with a lifelong impression was Bruce himself. He attended with his immediate and extended family in tow, complete with their boyfriends, cousins, and distant uncles. All present surrounding him in honor. Even his 87 yr. old mom upped the fundraising by throwing in one of her famous home cooked Lasagna dinner to help the cause.

And after all the tribute performances were through and Bruce stepped up to the podium to speak, all witnessed an ageless soul for his art display why the ages haven’t slowed him, despite his staggering success.

He spoke plainly ( and with ample use of sailor language! ) of the musician’s life, heart, and struggles. And how, as his song says, we should take care of our own. He even confessed that his initial motive for considering being MusiCare’s person of the year for 2013 began with his wanting to promote….new music! His relentless drive to connect again and again through song and art.

He is a regular Joe kind of guy. You could tell he wasn’t smooth with all the showbiz banter. But man, he spoke from the heart. And that heart was the same as a guy who netted $25.00 per gig in the beginning days, after paying his band and his bar tab, to a guy worth 100+ million. His last words were ” Somebody give me a guitar! ”

He then launched into a set that would have exhausted a man easily half his age. My favorite moment – when he introduced his departed bandmate Clarence Clemmon’s son just prior to him ripping into one of his father’s classic sax solos. You could hear the DNA with every note. All the progressive 1%ers abandoned their showbiz cool restraint and packed to the front of the stage. Once again Bruce did it. He made an almost religious experience out of his performance, and the alter call summoned the most jaded industry person as new fans.

When the music stopped he hung out after meeting with everyone, vs. some in his league who felt that beneath them. And when it was time to leave I recognized that everyone had that same look in their eyes that I had, and have witnessed with each time I have seen him perform before. That look of being transcended, satisfied, and energized. And the knowing that they just experienced a true legend. But not a “sing the oldies I am done doing newbies” legend. This guy has a ton more show in him, and many more stories to tell.

I concluded my duties and took myself home. It was way past late. I was bone tired, but all I could think of was getting to a guitar and playing every Boss song I know. I felt proud to be a songwriter and musician….