Thursday, November 28, 2013

Blues Singer (For B.D. Trail)

Reading Geoff Dyer's But Beautiful [A Book About Jazz] reminded me of this, which I wrote for my mentor B.D. Trail when I was stationed at Carswell AFB and taking courses via what was then Tarrant County Junior College on base. I think I was a better writer when I was a young man than I am today -- because I was trying to impress him. (He compared this to Vachel Lindsay; I couldn't see it.) The Dyer book might be the best about jazz I've ever read. Gary Giddins might be the best jazz reporter, but I think Dyer might be its best writer. Anyway, this was inspired by seeing Muddy Waters in 1976:

He took the stage haltingly, tentatively, on wobbling, calcified legs. He rested his bulky frame on the stool at stage center, a colossus in an incongruous salesman's polyester suit, and surveyed the scene before him like a monarch from his throne. His hands, which gingerly held the toy guitar, were huge, gnarled, calloused things, weathered by years of hard labor. His eyes, sunk deep in his ursine head, framed by deep furrows, regarded the world with a profound weariness. Behind him, the musicians were clock-punchers, automatons, rooted firmly to the boards where they stood, eyes shifting uneasily, oblivious to the drama about to play out before them. Before him, the audience drank and joked uproariously, a worldly congregation awaiting a secular exorcism. The music started and he was suddenly transformed, his limbs suffused with new strength, propelling him across the stage like some demented wind-up toy. The music lurched and rambled out of the sound system like a primordial beast, the metallic jangle and whine of the guitars its cry, the monotonous thump and clatter of the drums its pulse. He bent and strained as if under a great burden, the collective suffering of all the world's people resting on his broad shoulders. He ignored the rivulets of sweat that creased his brow and cascaded down his face, soaking his white cotton shirt. He clenched his fists and struck out at the air, railing at invisible demons. He sang, and another presence slowly overtook him, battling its way out of its prison inside the old man's body, using his voice to bellow out its masculinity.


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