(Published in "Studio Systems" May-June 2001 issue)
Recently Bob Dylan seemed to be featured prominently
in every newspaper in Mumbai. The great poet was celebrating his 60th
birthday and had chosen to observe it in a low-key manner. Mumbai however
decided to pump up the volume with a concert where dozens of singers got up
on stage, many of them singing songs that they had never cared about before!
Like an out of town musician friend observed on the day of the concert,"
Nobody thought about Dylan for all these years and suddenly everybodyís on
the bandwagon!" Nevertheless a good time was had by all and I am sure
that would have pleased Dylan.
Dylanís sixtieth birthday got me thinking about the great artistes who have continued to be strong and so prolific even after many years of creative involvement. Among the names that come immediately to mind are Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Sting etc from the Rock world. Michaelangelo, the great renaissance painter and sculptor, was said to have been active even in his seventies and some of his best work is from that period. Back home in India, we have the great singers, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Kishore Kumar, etc. and music composers like Naushad, Shanker Jaikishan, and even Anu Malik, who has been around for 25 years and is reaching greater heights every year! I would like to make it clear at the outset that this is by no means an exhaustive list as there are countless others who merit inclusion. What intrigues me however are the techniques used by these artistes to constantly reinvent themselves and be enthused about doing similar creative jobs over and over again and at times bettering themselves too.
Every artiste has, over the years, developed his own bag of tricks to nudge his creativity. It is said that Einstein had a special room, which he entered when he had to solve difficult scientific issues. And there is the case of a famous Japanese inventor who did his best thinking at the bottom of the swimming pool! He theorized that the increase of Carbon Dioxide in the body led to a rise in his level of Creativity. Recipient of the maximum patents granted to any inventor, one of his inventions was a notepad that could work underwater! Works on Creativity have listed numerous such techniques and Iím sure that they are very individualistic and need not work on everybody. Yet what distinguishes all these great artistes from everybody else is their insatiable curiosity and their absolute need to grow. They are almost like children who constantly need to know why and how!
God bless these great individuals who have given us these priceless works of art and science and hope that they continue to find new ways to enrich our lives over the years!
Dylanís contribution to the Rock World on the lyric front went a long way into making Rock Music an art form that needed to be taken seriously. All the great political and business leaders in todayís western world have grown up listening to Rock and they have always acknowledged their gratitude to its liberating influence. However an interesting aspect to the popularity of the music were the wrong lyrics that sometimes got through because one could not make out what was being sung. In the old days, we did not have the luxury of the net, which, I must add, is a wonderful source for lyrics. A lot of the artistes did not publish their lyrics on the albums. Thankfully that did become the fashion later on but the albums started disappearing and we started having those tiny cassettes. Out went Album Art and the lyric page and we were left dreaming up those lines once again. Of late, the cassettes sometimes carry lyrics and the CDs definitely do but I am truly embarrassed by what lyrics I had to sing in the old days. I recently downloaded the lyrics of "Sunshine of my love" a favorite Cream song of mine and I could not believe my eyes. Here was a song that I must have sung a million times and so many of the words that I sang were totally wrong! In this particular case, I did prefer my words to the original as all musicians are not necessarily great lyricists but to go through so many years without knowing what the original authors wanted to say puts a new twist on the whole issue. One of my favorite new artistes SEAL has an entirely new viewpoint to this entire issue. He never publishes his lyrics on CDs, as he believes that he would like every listener to interpret the lyrics as he/she hears them and so each song becomes his or hers own personal experience distinct from everybody else. Of course there are artistes known to consciously slur words as a style so that a mystery is created around what is being sung!
Jim Morrison and Mick Jagger lyrics are a nightmare to follow as is very well known to millions of their fans all around the world. At times I wonder whether I should have got to know the real lyrics of "Sunshine of my love". In its new form, the old magic of the song just does not seem to be there anymore. Who knows, SEAL may have been right after all!