Is it better to burn out, retire or fade away? 

When I saw Glen Campbell’s Goodbye Tour was coming to the area, I knew that was an interview I wanted to do. Seeing his name on the Bergen PAC calendar, my mind flashed back to the 70s.

Glen Campbell plays his final shows

I was sitting in the backseat of my parents’ gold station wagon. The interior was tweed and I could see it through the eyes of toddler me. I was buckled into the backseat singing Campbell’s hit “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

I sang that song everywhere I went. I sang it in the tub, using my can of Crazy Foam soap as a microphone. I sang it in my room, playing with Legos. Of course, my little boy brain got the words wrong… Was it something about getting a cold from kissing people “I don’t even know?”

But still,I loved that song! It was the start of my love affair with music. So I thought it would be good to check in with Campbell — and my last chance — this being his final tour due to Alzheimer’s.

I watch with baited breath as my favorite singers age. Did they age gracefully? Can they carry off their earlier hits? Are people still interested in their art? Are they touring just for the money, or are they still moved by the music?

To this day I can recall the swelling bass notes that filled Giants Stadium, building anticipa- tion before the world’s most famous bass player, Paul McCartney, took the stage. It was 1989 and the first time he toured in 13 years.

I watched Bo Diddley just as closely. He was already an old manbythetimeIgottoseehim in Chicago. This was the man responsible for “the Bo Diddley beat.” Every band after him has tried its hand at the propulsive rhythm that bears his name. Here he was getting his due.

In much the same fashion that I rooted for Diddley in the twilight of his career I rooted for newbie band David Wax Museum at a local library. The library was a small venue, but I pictured them packing larger places.

I thought of how the band’s lead singer had what it takes to draw people in as he ducked behind some bookshelves to await his encore.

Campbell’s musical arrangements and flamboyant country suit showed that his heart belonged to another time. His eye wasn’t on the future anymore. It makes me nervous when an artist is out of touch.

His banter didn’t help.

“He does that on purpose,” he said pointing to his son’s pointy, asymmetrical haircut.

But this was his Goodbye Tour. Hasn’t he earned the right to drop out of the rat race? And yet he didn’t come across as someone who was quitting. With songs like “Wichita Lineman” and “Southern Nights” under his belt, he was leaving the game victorious.

Fashion and spotty memory be damned. He cackled curmudgeony comments without reserve. He had no interest in ephemera. He said his piece and now he was just waiting for Father Time to decree him a legend.

That was what he conveyed on stage. He still owned the room when he played guitar and his signature songs got people on their feet. In moments like these he showed the youngins on stage a trick or two.

I could rest easy.

Why do I take all of this so seriously? Songs are real and recreatable miracles in my book and they have a magical effect on their creators, an effect that allows them to be young at heart even when reality starts breaking down.

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About genemyers

Gene Myers is a New Jersey poet, music journalist and columnist who learned to walk twice. His weekly column is called The Joy of Life. He was awarded first place in Arts and Entertainment Writing by The New Jersey Press Association.
This entry was posted in music, The Joy of Life and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Is it better to burn out, retire or fade away? 

  1. snowbirdpress says:

    Let’s look at each of these: Burn out is when you are doing something you don’t particularly like but still try to keep doing it even as it’s eating you alive. Retire is when you’ve come to the end of what you can do with any particular thing, and you gracefully move to an area where you can be more productive given those restraints. Fade away is when you can still find that fire within your soul and can still enjoy the experience …where it is still nurturing to the very end of your stength. I guess I’ve be victim of all three at times…got to know them all pretty well. 🙂

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