Blank page. Gulp. Deep breath. OK, here goes…
I wrote my first song when I was 14. I’m 64. Doing the math… Crikey. Half a century of songs. Not possible.
Never thought of myself as a songwriter, regardless. But it had to start somewhere.
Honest souls of my gender who took up songwriting as earnest young fools will likely admit, it started having mostly having to do with girls. As opposed to having girls, which we didn’t – but wanted to. Pretty desperately. Later, it became, of course, about how to keep them – or lose them – or get them back again.
But eventually, if you settle down and the dust gets a chance to settle, and you’ve kept at it, come the memories. And the songs fill themselves with the people and stories that made them.
For me, except for those few early, foolish years, songwriting has been something I’ve done when I wasn’t busy doing something else. Computers, demanding jobs and family come to mind. Even golf, though that came later. But through those years, I wrote when there was something inside looking for a way to get out, mostly. In kitchens, on back porches and doorsteps, more than a few roofs. A song might bubble to the surface every year or so, if I gave it the time to reveal itself. Sometimes I even wrote down the words. A few might have found their way on to a tape, which ended up in a drawer or a box or a high closet shelf. Mine or someone else’s. A later bunch are even languishing in a digital backwater of my iTunes library somewhere.
But 50 or 60 songs? Really?
Thereabouts. I counted the other day. Hard to believe there were all that many. A throw away birthday ditty here, an epic peaen to roast a pal there. A sad, loving few got sung at funerals, never to be heard again. And there were some that scratched the surface (or a little deeper) of what my life was about, as best as I could figger at the time. I hid from the ones that were too painful or difficult to write, though they were in there somewhere. And there were a few that tracked me down no matter how hard I hid from them. A song for my late brother found me in a park in Paris. My wife’s mother spoke to me all the way from Texas the night she died and told me what to say (I think). I found a way to say goodbye to a long ago girl friend which got me in deep trouble with a passel of lesbians in Berkeley. It’s true: the stories come if you wait long enough.
Camera Cuts To the Present
In the past decade, my writing has dwindled as I’ve grown settled in ways and places where problems don’t seem to require a six string Martin, a quiet corner or step, and something down deep I can’t quite put my finger on.
I noticed last fall that, for the first time in 50 years, there were no callouses on the fingers of my left hand. Soft as a baby’s butt are they. Pitiful. My guitars sat untouched in their corner for months, shaming me with silence, like a good dog will when you haven’t walked her in too long. A walk she knows – better than you – you both need.
Eventually, I put them away under the bed in the guest room, in their hardshell, velvet lined cases, toggles snapped well shut. Their own safe room. Or so I thought.
I told myself I wouldn’t take one out until I heard it calling me loud enough to wake me up from the sleep of a dead man. And I wasn’t at all sure I’d ever hear that call again.
I can’t say I’ve heard that call. And yet, for some reason which echoes faintly of an old feeling I can’t quite put my finger on, they are back in their corner, those two. Have been for about a week. Even have new strings. A couple of days ago I noodled out a nice little acoustic Chris Martin ColdPlay song I’d long hummed but never bothered to learn. By the way: no callouses are a bitch. I’d forgotten.
New callouses have started.
I have a few ideas. We’ll see. Stay tuned… film @ 11.