Saturday, July 13, 2013

"The Hero Isn't So Much Unsung, Here, As Unrecognized..."

Old saying.

It's the thought that counts.

More on that in a moment.

I came across this article on written by LZ Granderson.

A young, black, gay man.

And I mention that not to sneak in one last, gasping Paula Deen reference (although, I guess that's exactly what I've done), but, rather, to give you a perspective on the cultural background of the fellow sharing his thoughts.

These thoughts.

LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and was a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary.

(CNN) -- Of all the parts that make up my somewhat quirky life, there are few things that raise a stranger's eyebrows faster than discovering I love country music.

Not a "I like that one song by Lady Antebellum" kind of love for country music either. Mine is a "Barack I would love to join you and Michelle for dinner next Saturday, but you see I have tickets to see Eric Church so ..." kind of love.
When did this love affair begin? January 24, 1988. The night I met Randy Travis.
Back then, it wasn't uncommon for families to gather around the television, and mine had done so that night to watch the American Music Awards. Michael Jackson was receiving a special honor, and Whitney Houston was scheduled to perform. At the time, those two were the most popular singers on the planet but for me, the night belonged to Travis.
I had never heard of him or his mid-tempo ballad "Forever and Ever, Amen" before the show.
Everyone knew who Kenny Rogers was, but usually the only country music you heard in my house was the theme song to the "The Dukes of Hazzard."
But something about the purity of Travis' voice captured me.
And even at the relatively immature age of 16, I found his portrayal of never-ending love so beautifully constructed by the lyrics of "Forever" that to this day, it eclipses almost every other love song I have heard.

In fact, when I put together a brief video asking my better half to marry me, "Forever" was the only song I put on the soundtrack.
That's why I was so sad to hear Travis was in critical condition in a Texas hospital. He was an unlikely voice of my youth. About as unlikely as you could be.
Instead of listening to the latest from L.L. Cool J or Public Enemy, I would go to the record store and play his song "Diggin' Up Bones" over and over again. My friends would snicker and mock the twang in his voice. What they couldn't understand was that the various inflections in Travis' voice were the commas in the stories that he spun. Stories so universal that a white adult man from a small town in North Carolina could touch a skinny black kid in Detroit without ever meeting.
When I'm in the car singing "Forever and Ever, Amen," I imagine someone 1,000 miles away is cranking that song up in the car and for three minutes and 31 seconds, we're connected.
"They say that time can play tricks on a memory,
make people forget things they once knew.
Well, it's easy to see
It's happening to me
I've already forgotten every woman but you..."
Complete strangers can stand silent next to each other in an elevator and not even look each other in the eye. But at a concert, those same strangers could find themselves dancing and singing together like best friends. That's the power of music. And when you've experienced this magical bond with strangers, there is even a greater connection to the artists that provided the vehicle for that bond.
That's why it's hard for to see Travis this way.
We've all watched once-beloved music icons such as Jackson and Houston fall from grace in similar fashion -- ensnared by drug abuse, publicly humiliated, fighting for and sometimes losing their lives.
As Travis lies critically ill in a hospital bed, those of us who count ourselves his fans, pray his story doesn't end in the same way.
But we've watched the declining grip he's had on his life for a handful of years now.
The bitter divorce.
The uncontrollable drinking, the arrests.
And now this. It's just sad.
Because of Travis, I learned Waylon Jennings was the man who sang "The Dukes of Hazzard" theme song.
Because of Travis, I have developed lifelong friendships with some amazing people who work in and perform country music.
Before Travis, I used to think "soul music" had one certain sound.
Because of Travis, I learned that wasn't true.
It's a pretty safe bet that every country music fan appreciates both the personal sentiments expressed on Randy's behalf, as well as the positive things this young fellow has say about country music as a genre'.
Rightly so.
And if there's any nit to be picked with his sharing, it is, admittedly, not a large one.
But, in my humble o, still worthy of said pick.
The impact that Randy's singing had/has on LZ is obvious.
And since LZ is a "civilian", music business wise, it's understandable that he would overlook something that has been, traditionally and unfortunately, eminently overlookable.

In the world of acting, it's expressed like this.

"If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage".

Simply put, if nobody writes, there is nothing to perform.

Laurence Olivier was once lauded as one of the great actors of his generation.


Without the words written by William Shakespeare, however, Olivier's star might have shined just a little less.

The Nashville Song Writers Association, a respected advocacy group looking out for the interests of those who aim to make a living creating catchy tunes and catchy lyrics has a pretty catchy slogan of its own.

"It all begins with a song".

Well, okay, not all that catchy.

But, "if it ain't on the page..." was already taken, so one does what one must.

The point, almost tediously obvious by now, is actors have nothing to act if writers don't write.

And singers have nothing to sing if songwriters don't write.

But, quick, pop quiz.

Who was the star of, say, Raiders of The Lost Ark?


Now, who wrote the script?



Who are Don Schlitz and Paul Overstreet?

Uh, nice try.

But, no, they didn't write the script of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

They wrote a lot of hit songs in Nashville.

One, in fact, titled "Forever and Ever, Amen".

Sung, as it turns out, by a guy who turned LZ Granderson into a country music fan.

Good job, Randy.

And Don.

And Paul.


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