Flying gives me unimaginable pleasure. It can also bring that same feeling to passengers - even airline passengers. But the number of people who can fly at any given time is fairly limited, as is the duration of their flights.
Music, on the other hand, is enjoyable to those who create it as well as those who listen to it. And anyone can listen to it, at any time. We all have radios. Or Walkmans. Or what we used to call "home stereos." Or iPods. Or MTV when they used to play music videos. Theoretically, we could listen to music 24/7, if we wanted to. And I know some people who come close to that, who always have a radio playing in the background or foreground.
Joy. That's it! Music fills us with joy. And it's the easiest, cheapest, most convenient way. Make a joyful noise! Without music, our lives would be pretty dreary. We'd have no soundtrack. Music is uplifting. It makes us feel good, moves us, makes us want to dance. It's primal. I'm no psychiatrist, but can someone explain why that is? Hearing music has an emotional and physical effect on me. Never fails.
We have XM Radio in the our helicopter. When the boss is onboard, we usually have to listen to ESPN, but when I'm by myself, it's always tuned to a music station. Prior to that I'd wear my little ear-bud Walkman (lately iPod) headphones under my green David Clark headset.
Okay, so I was babbling in a previous post about iTunes releasing George Harrison's catalog. In the comments section, someone brought up the Concert for George. It's an ironic thing in music: All these great talents get together to perform after someone famous dies. It's a shame that it takes such an event to spark a get-together like that. But I'm not complaining.
The Concert for George took place in London's Royal Albert Hall on November 29, 2002, a year after George Harrison died of cancer. It was probably the best concert in the history of concertdom. Maybe the greatest concert that ever will be. I mean, it was that good. Click on the link and click-through to "Performers" to see the luminaries in attendance. It's a veritable "Who's Who" of rock music. Many of the names may be somewhat unfamiliar to you because they are not "stars" but the background and session musicians or "other" members of famous groups who make the music that is credited to the star or lead singer. But we music fans know who they are. And in the Concert for George they are the backup band from heaven. Except that they're not...you know...dead. Yet.
I've been watching bits and pieces of the concert on YouTube for a while. Haven't gotten off my ass to actually order the DVD, which I should, but I'm happy to just watch the performance of certain songs over and over. The finale, the everybody-on-stage version of "Wah-Wah" has been viewed 33,496 times. I probably account for 33,000 of those views.
It is a magnificent song. If rock and roll is performed, minimally, by three guitars and drums, imagine that multiplied threefold. There are at least nine guitarists on stage - and not just any ol' schlubs either, guys like Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne (of ELO), Tom Petty, Dhani Harrison (George's son), Mark Mann (who flawlessly recreates some of George's solos) and Andy Fairweather Low. There are three full drum kits, manned by Ringo Starr (of course), the incredible Jim Keltner (the absolute best session drummer you've never heard of), and Henry Spinetti (another long-time unknown who's career spans back to the '60s band Procol Harum). Then there are a host of other astounding performers...various percussionists, keyboards (Paul McCartney on one piano, Billy Preston on another), strings and horns and backup singers. Talk about your joyful noise!
I cannot imagine what that must have sounded like in person. I would have given just about anything (yes, including the left one) to be there. It is certainly proof-positive that old men can still rock.
It was a somber occasion, to be sure. As the Beatles die, it means our generation is dying. It reminds us quite clearly that we're all getting old. But leave it to Ringo to lighten the mood. Introduced by Eric Clapton, he comes comes onstage and immediately starts cracking jokes. Ringo simply cannot be serious. He's an incurable goofball. Before stepping up to his rightful place at the drums, he stays at center-stage and launches into a song that he and George co-wrote. It's one of his biggest hits, "Photograph" from 1973. It is an awesome song about lost love, maybe one of the best. It is touching and profoundly sad, yet at the same time upbeat and catchy. Ringo being Ringo, he can't resist dancing around...should I say joyfully? I guess it's because music makes us feel good even when it's about a sad subject. He sings:
Every time I see your face
It reminds me of the places we used to go
Now all I've got is a photograph
And I realize you're not coming back anymore
Ouch! I don't know who he wrote that for back in the 1970's, but even Ringo admits that the song has new meaning now that George is gone. The song is especially poignant when he sings,
I can't get used to living here
While my heart is broke, the tears I cried for you
I want you here to have and hold
As the years go by, and we grow old and grey
When Ringo sings that lyric, he turns and looks at Eric Clapton who winces noticeably. You can't help but smile at the irony. Did Ringo ever think he'd still be singing that song when he was old and grey?
Got to give Ringo credit, it's a sad song, but he doesn't make it morose, which it certainly could have been. He gets smiles out of people, including the normally-dour Jeff Lynne and the usually-taciturn Clapton. The feeling on the stage is so obviously upbeat. When Ringo again sings that line about only having a photograph, Dhani looks up at a huge photo of his Dad that was mounted above and to the left of the stage. It could have turned awkward, given the context, but Dhani then looks at his goofball "Uncle Ringo" and smiles broadly at something Ringo does off-camera. I don't know how they do that. I get choked up just watching and listening to it; they were actually there.
Click on the link below and watch the magic. Watch as musicians who aren't even "on-mic" sing along with the songs. Watch the smiles, feel the joy. Watch as Ringo starts singing and Eric Clapton leans over to Dhani Harrison and says something (maybe "He's such a nut!") that cracks Dhani up. Watch as, later on, Ringo sings, "Every time I see your face," and points to Clapton. Watch the hug that Ringo and Eric give each other at the end. These guys are all obviously good, life-long friends brought together in celebration of another, departed friend's life.
It is impossible to watch this incredible performance and not be touched. For that's what music does: It touches our very soul.