Show Yourself (Whomever That Might Be)
Happy New Year, everyone!
What is it about the turning of a calendar page that makes everything suddenly seem so fresh and clean? Our journey through time doesn't care a feather or a fig if it's this year or that year. The most important plum line isn't measured by ticked boxes on a page any more than our day to day lives are indelibly carved with the timestamps of seconds, minutes and hours. Throw away the world's clocks and calendars; we'll still go on.
But, still, it's how we measure the movement of living, through watches and clever wall-hangings, ubiquitous smart phones and sun dials (there are even sun dial watches, which are extraordinarily clever, but useless if you don't know how to locate North.) And, by that measure, we can accumulate an archive of our time here on the planet, compare it to the timelines of others that we hope to emulate, and see how our progress is coming along. So, yeah. I see the satisfaction in kicking off January with a whoop and a holler that says, "slate's clean, bitches!"
Except for the hair and the wrinkles. They don't really care much for timepieces and social organizers. I just looked up one day and thought, "geez, where did all this gray come from?" It started off like a cluster just to one side of my widow's peak and I felt a bit like a supervillain or maybe Alexandra from "Josie and the Pussycats In Outer Space." As the past few years have passed through here, it's beginning to spread more, which has caused an interesting slow fade effect on my dreads, which are still a youngish brown on the ends. Eventually, I imagine sporting silvery locks like Billy Ocean, which is an awesome look. Sometimes I wonder about that whole "image" thing as an artist. So many musicians dye their hair to appear younger, but it always looks strange to me. Mick Jagger's face looks positively paleolithic, but he's got the hair of a twenty-year old. I dunno. Doesn't seem to be my path. Grecian Formula was considered a few times here and there, but a) that's an ongoing expense I can live without and b) what am I trying to hide? There are no pretenses here about appealing to a youthful audience because if the kids don't think that older artists can make great art, then I'm not going to alter my appearance in order to trick them into thinking I'm younger. In certain musical circles, gray hair is a sign of some cred. You've been around long enough to live a little and put that into your music. That's what snow on the mountain says.
Nothing against anyone who dyes their hair, it's just not for me. The process of understanding who the hell I am is ongoing. When the reflection in the mirror looks back at me, I want to soak it in and marry the picture with the grokking going on inside. It's been a long journey though, brothers and sisters, and I believe that 2015 is going to be a huge year in many ways, none the least of which will be some kind of huge milestone in becoming.
I've identified as a black person for most of my life. The Futch side of the family, my dad's side, are definitely black folks. Or so I thought. It wasn't until after my grandfather, boxing trainer Eddie Futch, passed away in 2001 that his widow, Eva, asked me "did you know that you have indian blood?" By that point, I had suspected, but wasn't certain. Seeing pictures of my Great-Grandfather, Valley Futch, got me to thinking. Something about the cleft chin and the bone structure said something else was going on there. I've found ties to the Seminoles but am still collecting data. On the Graves side of the family, my mother's side, all bets are off. I don't know how to contact any of them and have never been able to find out why they were all so fair-skinned. This blending resulted in me being fairly light-skinned and that was kind of a problem growing up in California.
Why? Because some black kids called me "oreo" (black on the outside, white on the inside, which doesn't make sense if I was light on the outside) and some white kids called me "nigger" and I didn't feel like I belonged to either group. I spent most of my childhood and teen years floating from one geeky club to another because, culturally, I couldn't identify with anyone. If it wasn't for art, who knows what I might've clung to?
Somewhere, at some point, my focus shifted from trying to find myself genetically to trying to figure it all out spiritually and that's when things began to make more sense. I wasn't raised in the church, I was too busy raising hell. Youth Group in high school became one of the clubs (along with Creative Writing, Drama and Band) that I belonged to. It anchored some very important elements of my spiritual life and it was a joining of my choosing.
But I've always been a "Zelig." That wacky Woody Allen character who takes on the personalities and, sometimes, the dress of those around him. I think all of us went through that phase. Desiring to wear the trendy clothes or going through phases of dressing like the music that we were into. Hell, in high school, I switched modes violently, from slashed heavy metal jeans and wrist studs to cowboy boots and hats. And, oh yes, the trenchcoats with the British mod band buttons all over them. Forever looking to identify. Somewhere at some point, that all began to change, thankfully.
Now, it's 2015 and I'm more sure of who I am than ever before, but still trying to figure it all out. I still don't identify with any one culture and my spirituality is rooted in a very personal, non-denominational place within my being. I am a microcosm of all that I observe and ingest. I am a being of particular intent. Unfinished, raw, still wiping the snot out of my eyes at 48 but not stressing about it like back in high school. In 1986 I wrote a song called "Who Am I Really?" and I'm still asking that same question almost 30 years later.
When I became a full-time musician back in 2007, that's when the discovery kicked into high gear and, through the music, evolved into a better understanding of self. I've lost much of the fear of revelation that I once had and that has allowed me to reveal much more in terms of emotional backstory and connection through my work. Without emotion, music is just math that sounds nice. The more I reveal, the better the resonance seems to be.
So, to hell with dyeing my hair, dressing like I shop at Hot Topic and writing songs tailor-made for radio. There's a freedom in just being yourself, showing yourself and loving yourself. Without disguises, there are no questions - only observations. No lines to memorize and no strategies to theorize. Let it all hang out and leave others to come up with the summaries. I used to say that I was an "enigma wrapped in see-through plastic" but my drama teacher told me that I was full of shit. Maybe she was right back then.
Nowadays, I don't follow convention, I follow my heart and so far it's working. This year, I've decided to go even further and just go off like a dirty bomb, flinging music, images, words, ideas and angles in every which direction. Like praying and spraying, like a lawn sprinkler connected to a fire hose, I am become a fountain.
Join me and show yourself. Because when the rubber meets the road, who wants to run the risk of forgetting your lines?