“I’m A Sucker for a Good Quote”

emily_everson

by Emily Leatha Everson Gleichenhaus

Guest Blogger

I’m a sucker for a good quote.  In the past few days, something on the radio and something on TV made me stop and take notes.

PBS recently aired a show called “John Denver Remembered: A Song’s Best Friend.”  I paused on the channel because John Denver albums were a staple on my parent’s turntable and because he was singing the song “Perhaps Love.”  I didn’t know he wrote and performed that song and my friend Ron Squeri sings a beautiful version of it.

I happened upon this late in the program, so I can’t reference the speaker (who was clearly someone close to John Denver) but he recalled the last time he saw John Denver perform.  This man had noted a change in Denver’s performance and said to him, “You sang so expressively tonight and the audience really responded to that.  What were you doing?” and John said something like “You know, I owe it to Mr. Domingo.  When we recorded ‘Perhaps Love,’ he pulled my attention to the way he colored his notes with the meaning of the word. When he sang “clouds” it sounded like clouds.  When he sang “steel” it sounded like steel. So I started going though my songs and whenever there was a word where I could color the tone, I found it.  Just an interesting exercise and it works…crowds love it.”

I thought it was a sweet and wise thing to say, and an example of how even a seasoned performer should remain open to new ideas and new ways of working.

On NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday (March 14, 2009) Scott Simon interviewed the British comedian Russell Brand, who had all kinds of fabulous things to say.  Here are a couple of roughly transcribed excerpts:

SS:  Could you tell us about the breakthrough…Bugsy Malone?

RB:  Oh! That was significant.  I enjoyed that enormously.  It was the first bit of performance I ever did.  And, yeah, it seared its way into me.  I really, really enjoyed that.  I was playing “Fat Sam,” I was tubby when I was a kid. I’ve got a kind of rather mawkish Judy Garland style crazy affection for the stage as a result.

SS:  What did you feel?

RB:  Salvation.

SS:  Salvation?

RB:  Yeah.  Salvation. I thought there was a chance.  You know, I thought, oh right, life doesn’t have to be just the maudlin trudge through misery and sort of a reflexive rejection.  That it can be a right laugh!  Being able to make people laugh, even idiomatically, imbues you with power:  “Make people laugh.”  “Sense of humor,” sounds mystical.  You SENSE where the humor is, is a “shamanic” pursuit.

ME:  …I was struck by at some point in the book, you say success on the stage and in comedy and even material success when your career began to take off wasn’t enough to compensate for the…I think you used the phrase “interior sadness,” [which is why he turned to drugs].

RB:…I was once told by a swami that all forms of worship and devotion are the inappropriate substitute for the devotion we ought [to] feel for God and whether it is the love for a woman or a football team or a particular brand of candy, ultimately what we are craving is to be at ONE.

…I recognize now the fear and anxiety before performances is just adrenalin and a natural incentive to be good.

Salvation, sensing where the humor is, embracing one’s inner shaman, recognizing that performance butterflies are evidence of wanting to do a good job (a noble desire!)…those are delicious ideas!  These ideas remind me why artistic pursuits make life worth the trouble!

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3 Responses to ““I’m A Sucker for a Good Quote””

  1. Justin Ritchie Says:

    Emily,

    What a wonderful entry! I have recently been reintroduced to John Denver after not having listened to his music for a long time. I have wonderful memories of growing up and listening to his Christmas album every year. It was great to hear him speaking about continuing to learn and grow as a singer / performer.

    I really love the interview with Russell Brand. I would have enjoyed seeing that. I’ve always thought that there was a strong link between my own brand of spirituality and my desire and need to share music with others. Wanting to do a good job is indeed and “noble desire”!

  2. Emily Leatha Everson Says:

    hey justin! that’s so cool. thanks very very much for your thoughts! now, i can’t wait to hear you sing a couple john denver tunes!!

    here’s the link to scott simon’s interview with russell brand from 3/14/2009 NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101881014

    i can’t wait to read the BOOKY WOOK.

  3. Jill Leger Says:

    Aw, Em. So insightful and so much here that was new to me and marvelous food for thought. How I loved Bugsy Malone and I never knew “Fat Sam” grew up to be a famous comedian, let alone someone w/ such an interesting mind. And I love his take on pre-performance jitters.
    And as for the “color” quote–wow! I love it. I’m gonna try it.
    Thank you! And “sense” of humor…Yes! An intuitive sense. And so elusive at times–but when you nail it, you nail it. :)


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