Sunday, June 24, 2012

Perhaps for just one shining moment: Authentic

The study of the life of the artist is usually disappointing, although it sometimes enhances the appreciation of the art itself, adding to the meaning, illuminating the process of creation. We usually prefer the legend, one reason we liked Cormac McCarthy better when he was still a legendary recluse.

In their biographies and memoirs, the women of the folksinger era get higher marks in our estimation than the men.  Carole King, Judy Collins, and Sylvia Tyson are more endearing than James Taylor, Bob Dylan, and Ian Tyson.

Still, I'm glad to have read these books, and I still enjoy a lot of the music from that time.  Here's an interesting if rambling quote from cowboy/folksong artist, Tom Russell, from Four Strong Winds:

"Everybody thinks the folk scene was all namby pamby, nicey nice...but it was still competitive and there were people behind the scenes running it as a business.  These songwriters were all trying to outdo each other and you had to have a lot of courage and guts, and a strong front if you were an insecure person.  They were all trying to cut each other.  People were vicious to one another, yet the public image was of all socialists and peaceniks. . .The competitiveness killed some of these guys.  It was hard-core people playing hard ball.  Survival of the fittest.  You needed a tough shell."

There was of course the divide between the Beats and the traditional folk singers.  Then the divide between the traditionalists and the commercial groups like the Kingston Trio and the Brothers Four.  Then the divide between the traditional folk adherents and the people who wrote their own folksongs--a tradition started by Bob Dylan according to Ian Tyson and others, which suddenly created a headlong trend.

Whenever, however briefly, authenticity actually becomes popular, the Orwellian capitalists begin selling the appearance of coolness, false images quickly repackaged and mass marketed.  The authentic then become less easy to see because of all those phony chameleon look-a-likes who keep changing in order to maintain the appearance of coolness, as marketed by Hollywood and Madison Avenue.

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