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Friday 20 May 2011

Nothing To Live For: Say What You Need To Say

It's 2.43am, Saturday morning, and I'm listening to 'Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay' by Otis Redding. And I'm thinking - how the fuck did he do this? Why is it SO perfect? Is it his voice? Is it the guy who co-wrote the song? Is it a fluke?

Film Director's tell people the one they're currently filming will be their best ever, and they mean it. But you never know. There's a scene in one of my films that makes me cringe, because me and the actor fucked it up. But no-one notices, they love the scene. Meanwhile other scenes I think I got close to perfect, and they mean nothing to people.

When you create a body of work, you look back to some pieces with affection, and some make you cringe. But when you're creating them, you never know.

Why is the Otis Redding song so good? And why does Elton John's "Your Song" resonate with EVERYBODY? Elton wrote the music for that track in thirty minutes. People spend five years writing crap.

I guess the only thing to do is create.

The rest is out of our control.Anne Frank didn't realise the context her diary would be in. Otis didn't plan to represent an era, and Elton didn't know It'd still be a concert favourite all those years later. 

Some pieces of art are just heartbreakingly perfect. Make your best friend put down the Blackberry and watch "The Apartment", get the DJ at the party to play "Build Me Up Buttercup", and lay down in your bed when the world is sleeping and listen to "Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay".

Most of what we make is drivel. Our best attempts make everyone snore. But something else is possible.

If we just create.

Anne Frank knew her time was up. So did Warren Zevon. So did Tupac. And in a different way, so do Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood. Maybe being reminded of what lurks around the corner gives us the drive we need.

Otis died at TWENTY SIX. Fuck. Maybe he knew too.

"Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay" wasn't even released yet. Otis didn't get to see the impact he'd have on the world. I mean, some guy is writing about him at 3am on a Friday, 44 years later, that's pretty special.

Anne Frank's diary is still a big seller. The world needed it. The world needs it. And Tupac still has hit records, people need the message.

Art truly lives forever.

This stuff is so important that I want to wake everyone up and scream it at them.

Simplicity is best. Be truthful. Anne said "I'm Jewish and I'm trapped." Tupac said "I'm black and we're being mistreated and we're mistreating ourselves." Elton said "This is your song," and Otis said "This loneliness won't leave me alone."

Think about that for a minute. Saying "I'm trapped because of who I am" is hard, even in a modern, non life-threatening situation. And when you say "This song is for you," you're vulnerable like crazy. And nobody ever admits "this loneliness won't leave me alone".

They dared to make their art about who they were as human beings. The things we struggle to say.

Come to think of it, when Elton made that masterpiece, he was trapped too. Wow, that's a 3.15am revelation if ever there was one. "I'm trapped because of who I am" precisely explains a huge part of Elton John's life back then. It's not just a love song, it's him singing a song that society didn't want him singing to the person he loved.

We can't obstruct ourselves or rule anything out if we want to make great art. We have to lay it all out on the table -- show people who we really are.

It's not a masterpiece, but I'm now listening to a John Mayer song now. The lyrics are fitting:

"You'd better know that in the end,
It's better to say too much,
Than never to say what you need to say again.

Even if your hands are shaking,
And your faith is broken,
Even as the eyes are closing,
Do it with a heart wide open.
Say what you need to say."

SAY WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY. You might die at 26. Leave a legacy. Don't guess at what a legacy is, or what's cool. Just create.


  1. Great post, Kid. As always you get straight to the heart of what you need to say.

  2. Man, I love this post. Amongst many things, the fact you can see similarities between Anne Frank and 2Pac makes me happy beyond words. Way, way beyond words.

  3. This was very relatable to my own work, and therefore, it is gratifying to find another artist who can see the importance of transparency. Well done! Take a look at my "Musing" entitled "A Historical Perspective" and you'll see what I mean.

  4. I loved this post and not just because Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay is one of my favourite songs and also one of my dads. Great art can make us see difficult truths and address them. My father was half way through writing a novel when he died at 42. I've always got that in the back of my mind. You never know how long you are going to be here for so you might as well try and do something creative and that you believe in while you can.

  5. I think great art, no matter what the medium, happens during those amazing moments where the artist taps into the depths of their soul to connect with the universe through expression.

    Ultimately an artists job is to communicate. The greatest artists resonate intensely with us because we know these emotions and finding a kindred soul makes us feel less alone.

  6. Ok I'll confess i didn't read the article. But in many ways I didn't need to because i got it, whatever it is, from the opening. Quoting my favourite ever song and being compelled to write how you felt about it gets a quick shortcut to kinship in my book.

  7. Have just discovered your blog. And this, along with "Somewhere over the rainbow", is incredible, heartfelt writing.