Keith Tuma Musicology

Are we going to play or pose? the legend asks. Ever sideways as a front man, reluctant to give straight answers to dumb questions, he’s angry at the crowd; he’d rather not be photographed. He wants to be playing music, and who can blame him? He’s played so long. If he stumbles backwards over a monitor while berating his audience nobody thinks he will break a hip, though there’s little that’s Chaplinesque about him anymore. He plays the Great American Songbook as if it’s soon to be his book, songs for music lessons and old timer shows. I don’t recognize this one, some say of his own songs, or worse, they do and don’t like them played that way. He knows there’s nothing deader than last year’s beat. He plays, and while some people like it more want to be able to say they were there to hear him play. So he poses, but only for so long. Soon he will be with the other legends—Monk percussive and sparse, offbeat; Jerry with the baroque arpeggios and Jimi burning his guitar; Aretha and Marvin who could melt an audience in any key —and the not so famous too, exploded stars already almost forgotten: Cherry Wainer with her popcorn eyes, Lefty Dizz bending the blues on his slide. Love is love not fade away. Right.

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