Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Not Going With the Masses...Music and Writing

Tom Schreck, author of the Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries

Doing what everyone else does and feels is boring.

You can sense it in an author's writing when they're being unimaginative and you can sense it in every day life when you talk to people who absolutely "L-o-v-e" what they're supposed to love. It's why the malls are filled and why you can always get a parking place at the museum.

When it comes to pop culture I experience this every time I choose my art by what the reviewers say. I read, listen or watch something that is supposed to be classic and I feel disappointed.

Well, I've quit doing that. Now, I like what I like without apology.

No where does this ring truer for me than in music.

Here's some examples:

Give me Etta James over Aretha Franklin

I don't think this is even close. Etta sings better and has way more feeling as far as I am concerned.

Give me Ben Webster over John Coltrane

Jazz snobs will cringe but I think most of Coltrane's stuff is unpleasant. Ben Webster's stuff is smooth.

Give me Sam Cooke over Marvin Gaye, James Brown or just about anyone else in soul

Voice, styling--it isn't even close

Give me Waylon over Willie

Though I like them both.

I just don't get the genius of Bob Dylan

Give me Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits over Clapton

Again, not even close.

Forgive me, but to me, all of today's country sounds the same...exactly the same.

Micheal Buble and Harry Connick don't sound like Sinatra

They don't swing and they don't have the pizzaz. Why not listen to the real thing?

Give me Louis Prima over Louis Armstrong

Sacrilege, I know, but for me he's a better trumpet player, better vocalist and funnier.

And the idea that Elvis's 70's music wasn't any good is just stupid. Most critics regurgitate what other critics write without ever listening or thinking.

I think it was Count Basie who said: "If it sounds good, it is good."

What does this have to do with writing? Probably not much but if you'll allow me to stretch the reasoning, think it over.

Are you writing stuff in characters without really thinking and feeling? Are you conjuring up stories because they are comfortable like all the other books you've read?

Think more for yourself and don't apologize. Just like in music reach for what YOU like, not what you're supposed to.

...and any other musical thoughts?


  1. Damn. I love how you make me stretch. How you make me think.

  2. Not even going near the music scene. First, because I just don't listen to most of the genres you've named. Genius of Dylan? He was revolutionary in his time, but genius?!? I have an amusing story about him, which I don't think I can tell in a public forum.

    Your basic point, though, is spot on. There's a place on the scale for all types of arts and craft and it serves no purpose to make false comparisons, especially ones that are even academically useless.

    We have to write for an audience, but, to modify Pogo, we have met the audience and he is us. We have to be our first readers and write not rote, but what excites us.

    Thanks for the post.


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