Thursday, November 30, 2006

It Was Reet Petite

Jackie Wilson says:

When you are a performer, you need to give people a compelling reason to pay attention to you. There is no other advice in the world of entertainment. That's it.

Jackie Wilson was not in need of this advice.

One of the great failings of Rock and Roll music is that it is more or less based on a great fraud in performance: it tries to make that which is easy appear hard. When you see guitar players grimacing over simple little barre chords, and singers acting as if they are being subjected to pein forte et dure because they're mumbling, off-key, that they are dissatisfied with their current state of affairs, it's all nonsense. Rock music is really simple to write, sing, and play; and for the most part, the actual execution of the notes on electrified instruments is kind of a delicate and decidely unenergetic affair. The windmilling arms and bashing is nonsense. It's the misdirection play, imported from football. They're thrashing around like that because nothing much is going on, and they're very afraid you'll catch on to that eventually.

Jackie Wilson personifies the obverse. That which is NOT decidedly easy is made to seem effortless. It's hard to sing like Jackie Wilson. It enters the realm of metaphysical impossibility to sing and dance like that. And it brushes up against the margins of human alchemy to do it all with that kind of projected insouciance. He's smiling the whole time he's running a marathon, while carrying a big heavy bucket of art the whole way.

Get yourself some music that looks easy, but is very difficult indeed. Eschew the music that is made to look hard, but is essentially of the caliber of a chicken pecking a toy piano. Jackie Wilson is as good a place to start as any.


Callimachus said...

One of the surprise pleasures of listening to the "Million Dollar Quartet" session tapes was hearing Elvis gush over the performance he saw "this colored fella" do in covering "Don't Be Cruel" -- who turned out to be, the liner notes explain, Jackie Wilson. No surprise, either, that the one time Van Morrison really got it all together on a song was when he was channeling the man.

SippicanCottage said...

Calli- "Channeling" is the perfect word for Van Morrison singing "Jackie Wilson Said."

He did not have his skills. He was possessed by his vibe for a moment. It was enough.