Joi’s Notepad: Embrace the curse

Posted on 20 February, 2017 by Team Wishberry


This has been the most tragic year in music, in terms of the people we have lost. All trendsetting legends. Unique icons. Musical superminds - David Bowie, Lemmy Kilmister, Prince, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Glenn Frey – the list goes on..


Allen Ginsberg famously commented on the two biggest singer/songwriters, of the day Cohen and Dylan, saying - 'Dylan blew everybody’s mind, except Leonard’s.' Weren’t we all blessed to be born in an era when songwriters wrote as if their life depended on it. As if it was literature. As if a William Blake or an Oscar Wilde was judging them. From years on the road, to life experiences on solo highways, dark alleys, alcohol and drug fuelled frustrating nights - that is what made them. The limelight had to be earned. Wasn’t as easy as it is today, when you make a video of yourself on a smartphone and ‘publish’ on social networking.


Cohen’s life came out burning through his poetry. Sincere, mad, not easy, dreamt of, attained. One of his lines that never fail to move me - “Anything I tell you is an alibi for something else. Then let's be quiet together.” Sums up a life. Could be his, yours, or mine.


Prince – now what would you say of this hydra headed talent machine? When he said famously at a music night – ‘Like books and black lives, albums still matter.’ Didn’t he sum up the world in that one sentence. The essential depravity of all things celebrated. Of ambition. Of showbiz. Of the big beautiful lovely people.


Writing skills + musical skills + a philosophy borne out of race + the need for privacy + extreme hard work -  This made him the standalone genius icon that he was. Prolific like a Mozart. Here he is on a all star lineup, bringing in his guitar playing skills on ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. Well the proof of the artiste is in the playing. Be your own judge.

David Bowie has been more than just a musical powerhouse. Songwriter, singer, actor, fashion icon, painter, art collector. Such a wide reach and appreciation of other sensibilities. And also the practice. ‘Am I sitting in a tin can, Far above the world, Planet Earth is blue, And there's nothing I can do’ – lines from Space Oddity. Written in the character of an astronaut, during the magical year of 1969, and launched a few days before the Apollo 11 American Space Mission. This song also had deep political undertones. The wounds in those days would be open, grisly, unfettered. It would come out in exacting and acute pieces of magic. Songwriters weren’t making politically or artistically safe lives for themselves. They were all warriors. They knew they could die by the sword.


The real context to his – ‘Oh, we can be heroes, just for one day, will forever remain a mystery to me. The prophetic life after death song – Lazarus, could have been a movie a David Lynch would have been proud to make a after Blue Velvet. Such a poetic and cinematic rendition and visualizing. The horn section coming through the song sounds like the devil wanting to have a picnic at the gates of heaven. Listen, be afraid.

George Michael, born to Greek parents, in London. Grew up British. Defined pop. Made it a language of ultimate seduction. Challenged traditional church values, ideas and norms of gay acceptance. Extremely private. Fought against a lot of traditionalist values. Very conflicted life.


If for nothing, Father Figure was a rebellion against all norms of religion, spirituality and moral code. Subtly mixing British pop with Motown influences, he formed his own distinctive anti establishment sound. What would the music be without this conflict. This fight for equal rights.


What the hell is a song for, if it isn’t asking a question?


Music was war to them – not a Sunday family picnic that now it has mostly become.


We were lucky to see them at work. To be breathing the same rarefied air.


Guitar songs and harmonies – didn’t Glenn Frey exemplify it all? Where did we all learn to sing like that? Eagles has been a musical backbone for us, as much as The Beatles. As a musician, probably the quietest. As a band influence – probably the biggest. They defined the band.


This write up can’t do justice to all the departed. I have touched just a few.


Coming to my favorite madman of them all – partly because I grew up loving hard rock, heavy metal and that whole sound. Bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Guns N’ Roses, Ozzy, Judas Priest – all look up to that one man who did it all – Lemmy Kilmister. MOTORHEAD! Led the life he sang about. Did it all. When I was growing up, frankly I didn’t favor Motorhead much. It sounded the same. But working through the nuances of music production, songwriting and celebrating music  - has made me realize how completely mad and wild he was. And he brought it all to his song. To his life. If I were to hazard an opinion, he was the essential truth of RockNRoll. He had us when he said


You know I'm born to lose, and gambling's for fools, But that's the way I like it baby, I don't wanna live forever#AceOfSpades


And that’s what it is. Live for today. Why worry about tomorrow when an idiot could knock you down in a car, or shoot you with a gun. Drank a bottle of Jack Daniels everyday for the better of his rocking years. Food and Beverage Magazine have officially declared the official mix of  - ‘2 ounces of Jack, 10 ounces of Coke, shaken with ice and strained into a whiskey glass, recommended a twist of lemon peel as a garnish’ – as THE LEMMY. Now that is something.


Cliched as it sounds, what the f... is your music doing if it isn’t raising hell?! This song remains the forever anthem for me, and you will know why.


Most of the artistes mentioned above didn’t have blessings or good fortune to start with. But they fought hard, against the grain. Against everything. Gave it all. Went mad. But that’s music. You don’t embrace the blessings at all. But you learn to EMBRACE THE CURSE. And it’s upto your magic to turn the curse around into a blessing.


Enough writing. I will go and get a Lemmy.

Adios. Have a great year end. PUMP UP THE SPEAKERS. LET THE MUSIC EXPLODE. We live once.


About Joi Barua:
Joi Barua is a composer, singer and songwriter. He sings in Assamese, Hindi and English. Apart from his band, Joi, Barua also sings and composes for Hindi films.
Joi believes that music is the key to all things good and that is what he constantly strives to do – to make people feel good through his music. He believes  that artists need to take a step further and talk about art and share their experiences with the world.

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