Authentic Discourse: Five Memorable Quotes From An Artist About An Artist
In these data-driven days, increasingly filled with public relations team curated interactions and pay-per-click recycled filler content found online, authenticity can begin to feel like a fleeting or fossilized notion at times.
That feeling doesn’t just apply to us as consumers of culture, but also to the artists called upon to provide us the multimedia mystery meat to feed an insatiable beast.
Yet there is still knowledge, insight and perspective to be gained on both sides on a daily basis, particularly now that we have the deepest collection of archives in human history readily available to us, quite literally in the palm of our hands.
You just have to have be willing to cut thru the mess of web-based bloat to get to the good stuff, which is what we here at The Wudder would like to help do for you.
One of the better ways to gain understanding into the artist is through the eyes of a fellow artist if they are speaking freely and able to articulate their viewpoint.
The Five Spot brings you five notable quotables that we believe meet this criteria, handpicked for either your informational enhancement or personal amusement.
There’s a lot of crammed into these two paragraphs on funk, punk, race, faith, fame and more but that last line “once you believe your part…” is the crown jewel.
This level of third-eye vision and interplanetary hard-worn funky wisdom must be in some part why George is still very much alive at age 75, still making a song this hard in 2016, while Sid was done at 21.
It also speaks to why Johnny Rotten disbanded the Sex Pistols after one album, reclaimed his birth name John Lydon, quickly formed the post-punk band PiL and eventually left London to live in Los Angeles full-time where he continues to stay to this day.
It also reminds me of something that The RZA said during his eulogy at his cousin Russell Jones’ (aka Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s) funeral in 2004, which is that he felt a degree of guilt for allowing his friend and family member to run with that moniker because a name can contribute to your creative identity, then put you in a box where you have to live up to the persona that you’ve created for public consumption in your personal life. By the time ODB had died at the age of 35, he already looked much older and appeared almost too tired to remain alive.
George Clinton: "We make it satirical or funny, not point blank aggressive like maybe the punks. You know why? 'Cause we are the direct descendants of the 'You're fucking up'; the end result of the 'You're fucking up' society. This is us. But that's a dangerous one to play with because the fact still remains that you will get popular. And if you get popular you might believe it. And if you believe it then you'll live and you'll die being a pawn for real. So I have to play with it because when I come off stage I wanna tuck it away somewhere. It's too intense otherwise.
"Look at that cat Sid Vicious. That's serious programming right there. They directed him so oncee could not stop himself from where he was going. It's happening throughout society but it's especially strong if you're in the theatre. Once you believe your part, once you can't step back from being what they want you to be, it's all over."
Joni Mitchell on Prince, New York Magazine, 2005
Game recognize game. I love it when my favorite artists love and admire each other.
But even when you were somewhat obscure, so many musicians were citing you as an influence or even name-checking you in songs.
Of all the musicians and rappers who have cited you as an influence, whose work do you appreciate most?
Prince. Prince attended one of my concerts in Minnesota. I remember seeing him sitting in the front row when he was very young. He must have been about 15. He was in an aisle seat and he had unusually big eyes. He watched the whole show with his collar up, looking side to side. You couldn’t miss him—he was a little Prince-ling. [Laughs.] Prince used to write me fan mail with all of the U’s and hearts that way that he writes. And the office took it as mail from the lunatic fringe and just tossed it! [Laughs.]
Jerry Garcia Discusses Eddie Van Halen, Frets Magazine, 1985
Best casually dismissive destruction, in the form of a musical deconstruction, ever.
Full disclosure: I wouldn’t consider myself in any way, shape or form a Deadhead. As a band they certainly have had their moments and virtues but personally I never appreciated them nearly as much as their more ardent supporters. I never understood how they had two drummers that could barely managed to sound like one solid one. I suppose Phil Lesh is a talented bassist but he’s not anywhere near my short list on the instrument and his singing voice will cause the family cat to run away from home. Their keyboard seat was akin to the Spinal Tap drummers. Once, in a moment of inspired inebriation and impassioned musical debate during a Dead versus Stones debate, I shocked an entire fraternity party in college into stunned submission by declaring “Bob Weir, is a glorified gym teacher…with an Elton John fixation”.
What a long strange trip it’s been but the crazy thing is two decades later, I still know what I meant by that statement and even continue to feel that way to a degree.
One thing Deadheads and I can agree upon is a love for Jerome John (Jerry) Garcia.
My love for Garcia just happens to prefer things like Legion of Mary bootlegs, the first live double-album by Jerry Garcia Band that has “Waiting For A Miracle” on it, Well Matched with Merle Saunders, Shady Grove with David Grisman, Old & In The Way and the Garcia album. That being said, I am indeed forever glad that I did get to see The Dead once before Jerry Garcia passed away, as an 18-year-old overlooking the second level railing directly above the Garcia side of the stage, in the old Boston Garden, where Jerry was playing with his back to the crowd like Miles Davis when it wasn’t his turn to sing.
Jerry was a musicologist of the highest order, I love this particular quote as he speaks of favoring feel, personality and soulfulness over technical proficiency because I feel similarly, even though I will fully concede that Eddie Van Halen is a bad motherfucker and I have certainly enjoyed some of his band’s early records at points in my life.
What are your views of young guitar players now?
Well, it's a little hard for me to listen. The thing is, they're much more accomplished than they used to be, but that just means that the instrument itself has a much better book than it used to have. The electric guitar has an enormous vocabulary and several different kinds of mediums, all of which have expanded enormously in the last 10, 15 years. That's all to the good - it just means the instrument has expanded. But young players, even if they're really brilliant technically, there's a thing like a guy like John Lee Hooker or somebody like that who can play two or three notes so authoritatively on a guitar. There's like 60 years of real mean person, right, who can scare the pants off you in one or two notes played with such immense authority and such soulfulness. There's that, and that's a real thing. For me, I'd much rather hear something like that than a lot of facility.
Do you ever listen to people like Eddie Van Halen?
Not seriously, no. Because I can hear what's happening in there. There isn't much there that interests me. It isn't played with enough deliberateness, and it lacks a certain kind of rhythmic elegance that I like music to have, that I like notes to have. There's a lot of notes and stuff, but the notes aren't saying much, you know. They're like little clusters. It's a certain kind of music which I understand on one level, but it isn't attractive to me.
Questlove on Amy Winehouse, from the Okayplayer Boards, 2008
I am including this for two reasons:
1) To show you that this is just a small glimpse of the kind of jewels that Questlove used to bless us with while commiserating with his flock, on the ant farm he and Angela Nissel created, during the site’s first decade, before he got like 5 more jobs to add to the 20 that he already had and migrated over to Twitter for brevity’s sake.
2) I just wanted to stunt about the fact that I was in attendance at The Five Spot, the regular venue where Black Lilly was hosted (an OKP/TastyTreats-sanctioned event) weekly dating back to 1999 and continuing thru the next decade. I guestimate this happened winter 2006 after Back to Black dropped but before Amy was banned from entering this country. Caught her in a Philly club with Questo, Jilly from Philly and others for five bucks at the door…and this is my way of both rubbing that in while also letting you see a side of the dearly departed Amy Winehouse that might make her a bit more human to you….all told in a by Quest in his trademark posting style.
1024. "amy winehouse"
In response to Reply # 275
something tells me she knows all that shenanigans is attention getting.
cause that crazy person that be in the press....ive never met that jawn.
matter of fact....this is who i met.
it was black lily day in philly and my computer was in the shop at springboard and i just landed in philly from an atl gig. it was sunday afternoon round 12ish and i double parked to get my jawn out the shop on walnut.
thing was cop made me move and parking was 2 blocks away on locust.
walked past cvs
walked past brownstones
bar on corner
amy folding clothes at drier
"aim?.......the hell you doing here?"
i looked and no one was around. security nada....nothing. just her and them damn ballet shoes.
i was weirded out cause in the world of "entertainer acting like joe shmoe" i thought i had that shit on lockdown.
i mean EVERY singer i know got a latch who pack they clothes and irons and all the shit i do normally. so that shocked the shit outta me.
i told her about black lily and i offered her a lift.
she said she'd walk there.
i was like you are amy winehouse walking in the murder capital of the USA ill lift you.
she said "nonsense gimme address"
which of course i just knew was the brushoff.
she walked to lily!!!!!!
Huey P. Newton on Bob Dylan, from Seize The Time by Bobby Seale, 1968
I guess many would say that Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the original Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, wasn’t an artist but I’d respectfully disagree.
You don’t make massively impactful movements or shifts in cultural dialogue with such iconic imagery and distinct style, while influencing so much art that came after it (for example, there would be no PE without the BPP) without a creative artist’s vision.
And all art is left up to the interpretation of the individual absorbing it and feeding it thru their own filter.
Doomed Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones thought it was about him.
A reporter at the infamous 'electric' set in Newport '65 would ten years "out" himself as the Mr. Jones that Dylan is referring to but that doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
Then there's Huey P. Newton's take, recounted by Bobby Seale (co-founder of the BPP) in his autobiography.
Later we moved to Beverly Axelrod's house to finish the paper. This was about eight or nine blocks south of the Haight-Ashbury district over in San Francisco. It was a nice, big house, and we moved over there for room and space, and to get things together. We righteously got it together. Eldridge and Barbara Auther were pounding out some articles.
We called up a white Mother Country radical photographer, got him together, and asked him to shoot some pictures of Huey because we knew it was necessary for us to try and get a centralized symbol of the leadership of black people in the black community. We had to centralize it in some way, so we decided on a picture of Huey. This photographer came over with his cameras and his tripods, and Eldridge set the scene. The photographer took a number of different shots. We got a wicker chair and African shields, and we had a shotgun over there, and Eldridge said, "Take the gun and put the spear here." He artistically put that picture together that everyone sees of Huey P. Newton sitting in the chair, with the shotgun and the spear, and the shields sitting on each side of the chair.
The shields were very important, because Huey was articulating that we use the spear and the shield, and the shield is very significant. Huey would say many times that a long, long time ago, there was a man who invented a spear, and he frightened a whole lot of people. But, Huey said, the people invented a shield against the spear. The people weren't so frightened after all. So this is really what Huey P. Newton symbolized with the Black Panther Party - he represented a shield for black people against all the imperialism, the decadence, the aggression, and the racism in this country. That's what Huey P. Newton symbolized with us. That's the way we projected it. The headline of the Party paper was THE TRUTH ABOUT SACRAMENTO, because there were so many lies about the Black Panther Party, and the Black Panther Party in Sacramento. Lies by the regular mass media - television and radio and the newspapers - those who thought the Panthers were just a bunch of jive, just a bunch of crazy people with guns. Many and many an Uncle Tom and our backward brainwashed black men had a misconception about the whole thing, when you get down to it.
While we were laying that paper out, in the background we could hear a record, and the song was named "Ballad of a Thin Man" by Bob Dylan. Now the melody was in my mind. I actually heard it, I could hear the melody to this record. I could hear the sound and the beat to it. But I really didn't hear the words. This record played after we stayed up laying out the paper. And it played the next night after we stayed up laying out the paper. I think it was around the third afternoon that the record was playing. We played that record over and over and over. Lots of brothers stayed right over there with a lot of shotguns for security. It was a righteous security in those days. There wasn't any bullshit.
Huey P. Newton made me recognize the lyrics. Not only the lyrics of the record, but what the lyrics meant in the record. What the lyrics meant in the history of racism that has perpetuated itself in this world. Huey would say: "Listen, listen - man, do you hear what he is saying? " Huey had such insight into how racism existed, how racism had perpetuated itself. He had such a way of putting forth in very clear words what he related directly to those symbolic things or words that were coming out from Bobby Dylan. The point about the geek is very important because this is where Huey hung me.
I remember that the song got to the point where he was talking about this cat handing in his ticket and he walked up to the geek, and the geek handed him a bone. Well, this didn't relate to me, so I said: "Huey, look, wait a minute, man." I said, "What you talking about a geek? What is a geek? What the hell is a geek?" And Huey explains it. He says, "A geek is usually a circus performer. Maybe he was an experienced trapeze artist who was injured. He's been in the circus all his life and he knows nothing else but circus work. But he can't be a trapeze artist anymore because he's been injured very badly, but he still needs to live, he needs to exist, he needs pay. So the circus feels very sorry for him and they give him a job. They give him the cruddiest kind of job because he's not really good for anything else. They put him into a cage, then people pay a quarter to come in to see him. They put live chickens into the cage and the geek eats the chickens up while they're still alive . . . the bones, the feathers, all. And of course he has a salary, because the audience pays a quarter to see him. He does this because he has to. He doesn't like eating raw meat, or feathers, but he does it to survive. But these people who are coming in to see him are coming in for entertainment, so they are the real freaks. And the geek knows this, so during his performance, he eats the raw chicken and he hands one of the members of the audience a bone, because he realizes that they are the real freaks because they get enjoyment by watching what he's doing because he has to. So that's what a geek and a freak is. Is that clear?
"Then to put it on the broader level, what Dylan is putting across is middle-class people or upper-class people who sometimes take a Sunday afternoon off and put their whole family into limousine, and they go down to the black ghettoes to watch the prostitutes and watch the decaying community. They do this for pleasure, or for Sunday afternoon entertainment. Of course the people are there and they don't want to be there. The prostitutes are there because they're trying to live, trying to exist, and they need money. So then that makes the middleclass and upper-class people, who are down there because they get pleasure out of it, freaks.
"And this goes into the one-eyed midget. What is the one-eyed midget? He screams and howls at Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones doesn't know what's happening. Then the one-eyed midget says, give me some juice or go home. And this again is very symbolic of people who are disadvantaged. They're patronizing Mr Jones, the middle-class people. You know, they're not interested in them coming down for entertainment. But if they'll pay them for a trick, then they'll tolerate them, or else they'll drive them out of the ghettoes. This song is hell. You've got to understand that this song is saying a hell of a lot about society.
The white society and the middle-class society are surprised to see that black people will pimp chicks on the block. They come down that way because they looked at black people as freaks. They thought black people were in a big freak bag. They thought they had niggers all figured out. But black people were not even niggers. Black people were not backward and apathetic. Huey says that whites looked at blacks as geeks, as freaks. But what is so symbolic about it is that when the revolution starts, they'll call us geeks because we eat raw meat. But the geek turns around and hands Mr. Jones a naked bone and says, "How do you like being a freak?" And Mr. Jones says, "Oh my God, what the hell's going on?" And Bobby Dylan says, you don't know what's happening, do you, Mr. Jones? And to hand him the naked bone was too much - was really too much.
Eldridge Cleaver explains in Soul On Ice that the black man has been led around by the white man, the white omnipotent administrator primarily - big businessmen who manipulate and bullshit and control the government. The black man has been led around, and was projected as being led around, with a little piece of string, cord string, that could be broken in a minute. The string was tied around the black man's neck, and the black man was projected as a big gorilla. He was a gorilla. He was inhuman, and he couldn't talk. He's not supposed to be able to think. But the gorilla beats on his chest and says, "I'm a man."
One of the symbolic things that Eldridge was pointing out with this thing was that Cassius Clay said: "I'm the greatest" - the symbolic thing of him beating on his chest. He said in fact, "I'm a man." He said, "I'm a strong man." What shocked the racists, what shocked the omnipotent administrator, is that he looked up at the big gorilla. The string had been broken and he saw this gorilla beating on his chest saying, "I'm a man." That was Cassius Clay. Cassius Clay would brag. People misunderstood the bragging. All Cassius Clay was saying was that he was defying all this omnipotent, racist bullshit by stepping forward and saying, "I'm the greatest! I can't be hit." He beat on his chest, and when he said that, the white racist omnipotent administrator who had a hold on the string had to ask himself, "Well, if he's a man then what the hell am I?" And that's what Bobby Dylan meant by the geek handing Mr. Jones the naked bone and saying: "How do you like being a freak?" And that's the whole meaning of the question. If he's a man, if he's not a freak, and he tells Mr. Jones he's a freak, then Mr. Jones has to ask, "Am I that?" That's symbolic of saying that if he's a man, what am I?
This song Bobby Dylan was singing became a very big part of that whole publishing operation of the Black Panther paper. And in the background, while we were putting this paper out, this record came up and I guess a number of papers were published, and many times we would play that record. Brother Stokely Carmichael also liked that record. This record became so related to us, even to the brothers who had held down most of the security for the set.
The brothers had some big earphones over at Beverly's house that would sit on your ears and had a kind of direct stereo atmosphere and when you got loaded it was something else! These brothers would get halfway high, loaded on something, and they would sit down and play this record over and over and over, especially after they began to hear Huey P. Newton interpret that record. They'd be trying to relate an understanding about what was going on, because old Bobby did society a big favor when he made that particular sound. If there's any more he made that I don't understand, I'll just ask Huey P. Newton to interpret them for us and maybe we can get a hell of a lot more out of brother Bobby Dylan, because old Bobby, he did a good job on that set.