February 15, 2010

In my life

A few years ago I gave away my 1990 BMW 325i 4-door sedan to a young Irish fellow from County Cork. I hated to see the car go. I had owned it for 12 years and put 160,000 miles on it. It never needed major mechanical work, I had babied it with oil changes and my own tendency toward conservative driving. Still, it had 230,000 miles (I was its second owner) and I was loath to drop another $1600 on a timing belt change-out, and young Sean, handy fellow that he is, could do that sort of thing himself. So I gave him the car, which for all that did not change his itinerant lifestyle all that much (car mechanic, carpenter, inventor, guitar player, Shabbos goy [that last I leave for the cognoscenti]).

And in return he gave me a book, about the size of a trade paperback, that has all the chords and lyrics to every Beatles tune.

I think I may have gotten the better end of the deal. The car eventually died. The complete works of the Beatles never will.

I am of the mind that it takes time, decades at least, for musicians, composers, performers to take their rightful place in the hierarchy of the all-time greats. You can't tell right away what will hold up as the years pass. I would say, without question, that Johann Sebastian Bach belongs there near the top, but he died in 1750. Just the Brandenburg Concertos alone ought to qualify him, but I'm partial (as a string man) to his lute suites, minor masterpieces of contrapuntal art. But what I was thinking, as I thumbed through that Beatles book, something that I had never tumbled to before: the Beatles, and specifically John Lennon & Paul McCartney, were the greatest song writing duo in the history of the Western world.

That one had sort of slipped past me. Now I'm the kind of cornball enthusiast who regularly extols the virtues of such contributors to the Great American Songbook as George & Ira Gershwin, and Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and Hoagy Carmichael and Duke Ellington, Cole Porter and of course those two guys who wrote all the songs when you can't remember who wrote those songs: Irving Berlin and Harry Warren. But for sheer range, diversity, lyricism, beauty, inventiveness, tunefulness and just simply overwhelming output and consistency of excellence - those two British kids, neither of them formally trained in music theory (or even musical notation), who just heard sounds in their heads, beautiful poetry and unforgettable melodies, over and over again. They were the best.

Why should it not be so? Just because they came of age at the same time I did? Well, so be it. It's my birthday and I shall indulge myself in such subjectivity. Besides: it's true.

1 comment:

  1. hammerud2:27 PM

    Happy Birthday and God bless you!