Capping off a week in which I was obsessed with thinking about, talking about and listening to music, I finished the work week (almost – still have Friday to get through) watching the film Les choristes. A perfect finale.
I thought about and discussed genius songwriters this week – focusing in mostly on the late, great Townes van Zandt and to a lesser degree, Robyn Hitchcock (whose duet of van Zandt’s well-known “Poncho and Lefty” with Grant-Lee Phillips I stumbled upon the previous week).
I met someone who has placed van Zandt (rightly) on a songwriting pedestal. A songwriter’s songwriter. The striking thing, for me, though, was in exploring how each of us – and by extension, how anyone – discovers music. Discoverability is a lot easier these days – easy to spread and share. Not quite so much in the “old days”. This led me to thinking about the web music weaves – the intricate web, unique to each of us – making up the soundtrack of our lives. The web also has a kind of reach – one piece of music or musician leads us to their influences or contemporaries. It was in this way that I discovered Townes van Zandt myself back in 1990.
I had fallen under the dreamy spell of the Cowboy Junkies’ album The Trinity Sessions and, being too young, could not attend their first show in Seattle. When they came back in early June 1990 (hear me let out a sigh here – I am 26 years removed from this – “who knows where the time goes?”), I begged my parents let me attend (luckily they did). The Junkies were touring with Townes van Zandt – my first introduction to him. Since then I’ve devoured his discography, and have seen its presence proliferate in film and TV soundtracks ever since.
The woven web was taking on new parts – the initial discovery of the Cowboy Junkies had first led me to the Velvet Underground (as the Junkies gained their biggest ‘fame’ from their remake of “Sweet Jane”). I had known of Lou Reed earlier, but mostly only having heard “Walk on the Wild Side” a few times and seen him a few times on a brief and more mainstream path in the 80s. And from the Junkies, things moved on to Townes.
Thinking about all of this, I reflected, and wrote to an acquaintance that “one of the most beautiful things about music is its ability to not just endure and bring people together or even its transformative power but its “introductory” powers. That is, you hear something that means something to you… but it does not stop there”. In fact, it never stops. The web continues to multiply.