We Owe Them
I began my journey as a songwriter and performer in the early nineties. At the time I was inspired by the music of Keith Green. His enthusiastic piano style was probably in part influenced by Elton John's; it's certainly been compared to it. In the early nineties Elton was riding high in the charts with Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me: the live at Wembley, duet with George Michael, version. As the decade headed to it's close he'd score the UK's all time biggest-selling single with the Diana tribute version of Candle In The Wind. Despite this he didn't register on my musical radar.
I owe it to two movies that I discovered the wonders of Elton's early work. Almost Famous introduced me to Tiny Dancer and Elizabethtown to My Father's Gun. The latter movie's Free Bird scene is my favourite cinematic rock-out moment. Obviously, I owe Cameron Crowe! Type 'Elton John' into my iTunes and the search returns 142 songs. This represents most of his early seventies output and almost everything from the late nineties onward. The latest addition is this week's release The Union, a collaboration with Leon Russell.
I have to confess before reading about this album I'd never heard of Russell. Several reviews and interviews later it's clear that Elton would not be musician we know him as without the influence of Russell. Listen to the album and it's hard to tell who's playing what. All I know is I'd be happy to play any of it. But beyond wanting to recommend it to all lovers of real music, The Union got me thinking. The picture of the star known for his excesses providing a platform for a now largely unknown inspiration is a powerful one.
Let me move from piano to guitar to explain. I only began exploring what Oasis have to offer since leaving the UK, and since breaking up they have nothing more to give but arguably the best back-catalogue in Brit Pop. They kicked off the new millennium releasing Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants. They'd never made any secret of their Beatles obsession but this was as blatant a confession as you could hope for. It's a universal truth: others have gone before. We owe them. I've still yet to make a connection with The Beatles although I can see myself downloading some early Leon Russell. Even that's not the end of the line. Someone paved the way for him too.
Last week we had the privilege of meeting people without whom we could not be where we are doing what we're doing. We are in Jajce to start a new youth work project for Novi Most International. There is something pioneering about that. However, it doesn't come out of nowhere. We owe connections and the context to others who have gone before. We've met a few of them, there are more we've heard stories of, probably some we'll never know about. We may never fully understand how all the strands of the story fit together. That doesn't matter. Our job now is to play our part and to always remember we are not the only ones playing.