I come a little late to rap, let alone rock ‘n roll, but I never said I was on the forefront of anything. (Well, frequent flier mileage. My AAdvantage number is so low reservation agents gasp when they see it.) I was afraid of “The Twist” (come on baby, let’s . . . not) and afraid to admit as a freshman in college that I not only got no satisfaction, I didn’t fully get what they were talking about. (The Beatles I found a little more approachable. Who could fail to want to join Sergeant Pepper’s band? I was myself a lonely heart. That much I could identify with.)
And so it was odd that I was recently drawn to spend 23 hours and 8 minutes listening to Johnny Depp read Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life. (In 16 hours because my iPhone lets me speed it up.) But drawn to it I was and — to my surprise — I found it charmingly outrageous from beginning to end. Do not try this at home, I hasten to add, as the author himself feels compelled to caution several times — even with money you can afford to lose — because as unlikely as it is you have Keith Richards’ talent on the guitar, it’s even more unlikely you would have made it through his life without (a) serious prison time and (b) serious death about eleven different ways, all of them involving drugs.
Not to mention the STDs.
But to see the Rolling Stones not as one of 11,000 fans in a stadium (which I have never done), but, rather, through bloodshot eyes looking out at those 11,000 fans . . . and to learn how some of their songs got written . . . and to finally feel more or less “with it,” 40-odd years after everyone else in Pennypacker Hall was on board . . . was fun. And it could be fun for you, too. Especially if you have chores you can be doing at the same time, as I did, so you get to live this guy’s life and straighten all your closets and paint the garage at last. (I have no garage; but boy do I have closets.)
Now, I want to be clear: I am not musical. Which is odd, because my great uncle, Charles Previn, with whom I was close growing up — Uncle Charlie — was conductor of Radio City Music Hall before I was born and has more than 400 musical credits to his name over at IMDB. What’s more, he was the great uncle also of André Previn — my second cousin, whom I have never met — whose own IMDB composing and conducting credits include such minor items as “My Fair Lady” and who was once the subject of a two-part profile in The New Yorker; who was known as a jazz pianist in my youth; who has won four Oscars and ten Grammys; who was for nine years principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra; and who — despite the fact that my birth certificate reads “Andrew Previn Tobias” and that we shared that wonderful great uncle — does not know I exist. Or perhaps does, but has heard me sing.
Anyway, I should be musical but I’m not and, to top it off, I have always had a terrible time making out “the lyrics,” which gets harder and harder as the music gets louder and louder.
Then again, I have met Usher. Twice. (Don’t feel bad: I had no idea who he was, either — “what do you do?” — but he’s huge. And mononymous. Like Cher. Or Prince.) And . . . well, it just seemed to me I should watch the Grammys this year. A first for me, which I’m only halfway through (the rest safely stored on TiVo), but hey: I even watched the Superbowl this year. I am seriously flirting with popular culture, if not yet fully committed to it.
Kind of the way the fictional Queen of England in Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader discovered books late in life . . . and, having read one, found that one rather . . . enjoyed it . . . and read another.
I still can’t make out the lyrics very well — for a full summer, as I may have told you, I thought Lady Gaga was singing “cherry pie, cherry pie” when in fact she was singing “can’t read my, can’t read my” (poker face) — but at least I know who she is and that she’s done something to her hip that’s required her — just yesterday — to cancel her entire tour . . . what’s happening to me that I know this? — and so when someone sent me Macklemore’s “Same Love” video, never mind that I had never heard of Macklemore, I found it pretty great and decided to save it to share with you on Valentine’s Day. Today being that day as I type this, I almost have. Watch. Six minutes.
It’s about love.
And here is Mackelmore — is everyone mononymous these days? Macklemore who? — on thrift. This one is even better (if you can handle the explicit language) — it’s an ode joy. The joy of frugality. Roll over, Beethoven.
Now there’s something this site can get behind.
Have a great weekend. Happy Valentine’s Day.