Archive | April, 2012

In Love with the Devil

18 Apr

When Robert Johnson went to the crossroads, he met a dark, shadowy spirit.

He met the Devil, most people say.

I would argue that, in this case, the Devil got the short end of the stick.

Johnson’s encounter gave the world perhaps the greatest music ever produced.

The older I get, the more I realize: we need the yin and the yang, the dark and the light.  What would it be like to live in a world without shadows?  I’m not sure I want to know.

Throughout history, we’ve seen encounters with shadowy forces produce great things: great people, great figures, great art.

I just learned that Jimi Hendrix’s father was the bastard son of a wealthy white merchant from the Midwest.

Hemingway danced with the bottle his whole life, and produced A Farewell to Arms, and Old Man and the Sea.

Bill Clinton’s stepfather was a vicious alcoholic, driving Bill to transcend his terrible upbringing.  Question: If Bill had been raised in a “well adjusted” home in Severna Park, would he have become President?  I’m convinced the answer is no.  He would be the vice president of a pharmaceutical company.

Van Gogh’s insanity and his genius were inseparable.  My favorite painting of his, The Potato Eaters, is more a shadow than a display of light and color.  The painting’s true content is in the shadow, not the dimly lit faces of the potato eaters themselves.

How much great literature has come from war?  How much beauty has come out of destruction?  How many poems have sprung from the rotting yet fecund remains of dead romances?

Am I arguing for chaos, violence, pain?  No.  Just accepting that it often seems to come with the strange territory of being human.  And it sometimes produces the most exquisite things.

This song attempts to play along the edges of shadow and light, good and evil, love and revulsion.

And what’s more, it dances along the boundary line between country and jazz.

Does it work?  God only knows.