Monday, August 18, 2014

Tasting the Pain, Singing the Blues

I listened to almost nothing but Pink Floyd for an entire summer. Every album. Then I realized why I was so depressed. I was 16. Musically innovative, expansive, deep, but fu**ing depressing. So I stopped listening.

I have never seen "Old Yeller." I have no desire to see it. If you know the dog gets shot in the end and everyone cries their eyes out, why subject yourself to it? Why make yourself sad when you don't have to be? Who does that? There is enough sad in life anyway, without looking for extra.

And that has mostly been my life aesthetic. I want art, music, film. literature, poetry that inspire; that elevates my soul; that makes me wonder; that turns me on and gets me riled up; that makes my heart race; that sends me off to contemplate the Cosmos.

But then I found a different kind of sad. Blue sad. Blues sad. I don't remember when I started listening to Delta Blues music, but it has been a while.

The lone blues man, with his guitar and his loneliness, sometimes without even a guitar; with his suffering, sitting on a porch step or a curb. Hungry. Feet hurt. He knows the kind of sad that has always haunted me.

He wails of our ultimate alone-ness in the world. He cries out about Love's impermanence. He frees his blues soul through his fingers, his tapping foot, his raspy voice. If you don't believe me, listen to Son House.

There is no emotion, no music, more primal than a blues howl. And yet, sometimes when I hear it, it doesn't sound exactly sad. It's cathartic. It can be transformative. Like somehow turning his heartbreak, his alone loose into the Universe, changes it.

But I don't know that. And neither does he. And that's where the blues plumbs the depths and the heights. The blues man sings his song out into the Universe; he wonders if the Universe or anyone else in it hears him at all, or gives a shit.

And then, hearing no reply, hearing nothing back, he knows it doesn't fu**ing matter;

He's going to sing anyway. Because he has to.

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