Tag Archive | "B.B. King"


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Why is one of the first words we learn to say after “Mama” and “Dada.”   The very essence of the word is the core of the human existence.  As flawed human beings, we seek reasons for the flaws as well as everything else that colors our world, both personal and in the greater scheme of things.  Why? is the question we utter so often while trying to make sense of an often incomprehensible world.

When we were growing up, how often did we pester our parents or other adults with seemingly endless questions ranging from “Why is the sky blue?” to “Why did Grandpa go to heaven?”.  Even after we received the answers — or the best that the adults could conjure up — we still uttered, “But why?“  I am sure that some of you remember when your parents decided it was time to have the “birds and the bees” talk with you. “Why did they insist upon using examples from the animal kingdom,” you may ask?  They did so to waylay the worst of their embarrassment, engendered by your countless, “Why?“s.  That’s why!

Chances are, by the time your parents got up the gumption to have this little tete a tete with you, you already had a good idea of … no pun intended … the lay of the land.  But still, you needed validation from your parents, who, by the way, would be more apt to put up with your ceaseless queries of “Why?” than your friends and classmates whispering half-truths in the schoolyard.

The tendency to question has carried through to our so-called adult lives.  It had to.  As a species, we have been hot-wired to probe, analyze, and find solutions to everyday and larger problems.  Had we not questioned things, we would never have tamed fire, created language, sailed the seven seas, walked on the moon, broken the genetic code, and oh yes, waged war upon each other from the time of the caveman until the present day.  To question is to broaden our horizons; not to question is to remain stagnant and ignorant.  And sometimes, when we question, we get answers, yet still we remain in the dark.

Case in point: the price of gasoline.  Why do people in certain South American nations pay 10 cents per gallon while we, here in New Jersey (land of the refineries!) pay $2.55, currently, and more?  The pundits in DC will spout answers about “supply and demand” and it all seems to make sense, but then again, it doesn’t.  Why did the cutthroats in high finance and the insurance industry get mega billion dollar bail outs but the common taxpayer only get the shaft?  “To stimulate the economy!” cried DC.  Well, that seems to make sense, but if you cut the consumer off at the knees to help the robber barons, it doesn’t.  You see my point, don’t  you?

Down through the ages, many artists and songwriters have tried to find clarity and logic to many unanswered questions, most of them involving love in one form or another.  Love of country, love of God, love of a good woman or a good man.  The love of another person is the biggest “Why?” of all.  Why spend all that time, money, angst, and more upon a person who may or may not return our love?  Maybe, in the long run, love, and by association, the continuance of our strange society, is the ultimate reason we keep asking “Why?

In contemporary music alone, the word “Why?” surfaces often:

  • Why Oh Why by Celine Dion
  • Why Baby Why by George Jones
  • Tell Me Why by Wynonna Judd
  • Why Worry by Art Garfunkel
  • I Wonder Why by B.B. King
  • Tell Me Why by the Beach Boys
  • I Don’t Know Why by Aerosmith …

 and the ultimate question love, as covered in song by Diana Ross:  Why Do Fools Fall in Love?

On our life’s journeys, we seek the answers to the vagaries of love and so very many other things for which the answers always seem to elude us.  I think that the lyrics to this song by Billie Holiday say a lot about our questions:

Why was I born?

Why am I livin’?

What do I get?

What am I givin’?

Why do I want for things

I dare not hope for?

What can I hope for?

I wish I knew.

Why do I try

To draw you near me?

Why do I cry?

You never hear me.

I’m a poor fool,

But what can I do.

Oh baby …

Why was I born

To love you?


We continue to question and continue not to like so many of the answers that we receive.  Perhaps that’s why we are still asking, “Why?

Why do we create unemployment, fear, financial misery, battlefields, and war within our own four walls?  Why do we hurt those we love best?  Why are there famine and drought, earthquakes and hurricanes, erupting volcanoes and erupting psyches going postal?   Why does the sun still bother to rise every day?  Why does spring inevitably follow winter?  Why do we cling so very tenaciously to life when it seems easier to do the opposite? 

Maybe, when we quit this earth and come face to face with our Maker, we’ll have all of the answers.  Maybe not.  I’m not sure that even God knows why we do the things that we do to each other; after all, He’s given us free reign under the auspices of free will.  So, I guess we’ll just continue to ask the ages-old question of “Why? 


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Had Juliet been a painter, a sculptor, or a musician, she may have cried not for Romeo from her moonlight perch but rather, “Muses, Muses, wherefore art thou, Muses?”  Such laments often rip from the souls of those of us dually cursed and blessed to have been born with genuine artistic streaks.


For purposes of this article, I need to clarify the term artist, which has been perverted by the money-grubbers, number crunchers, and attention seekers.   By artist, I do not mean those who churn out formula like so many cookies on an assembly line for the express purpose of fattening their bank accounts and those of their record labels or production companies.  By artist, I mean those of us who might otherwise inhabit rubber rooms if we were not able to express ourselves daily through creative outlets.  By artist, I mean people like Michelangelo, who dissected cadavers in the dead of night to understand how the human body was designed, so as to truly glorify it in works such The David.   I mean people like Bruce Springsteen, who pitched his breakout album Born to Run in the trash after more than a year’s work because he wasn’t pleased with it.  People like Meryl Streep who are equally comfortable — and compelling — portraying an uber fashionista in The Devil Wears Prada and a drab, austere nun in Doubt.


Let’s return now to Juliet on the balcony.  Just as Shakespeare’s heroine cried out for the lover she feared she’d lost, artistic souls are terrified when their creative juices refuse to flow.  In those dark hours, we feel abandoned, lost at sea with no lighthouse on the horizon.  Needing to find the parties responsible for our stopped-up juices, we blame the Muses, those sisters of ancient Greek mythology thought to inspire literature, music, and other art forms.


How interesting that we lay the blame at the Muses’ feet, for as U2’s lead singer and songsmith, Bono, wrote:


Every artist is a cannibal,

Every poet is a thief.

All kill their inspiration,

Then sing about their grief.


What Bono meant is that much art springs from within, from our own life experiences.  As B. B. King advised, “You can’t play the blues unless you’ve lived the blues.”  We create the things that we know, things that evoke profound feelings within us.  If we fall in love, suffer betrayal at the hands of lover, friend, or government, or survive intact after some cataclysmic event, we pen a song, a poem, a play about it; we paint it, we sculpt it, we dance it.  In expressing our deepest feelings and most personal experiences, our art becomes universal, echoing the sentiments of others on their own life journeys.


What, then, about budding artists, those who may have a very shallow well of experience upon which to draw?  Is it possible to manufacture experience?  It is, if one’s creativity is so strong it will not be denied or subverted into a non-creative channel.  Such is the case of Harlan Ellison, an award-winning author who once established a legal precedent by suing a foreign television company for the use of a title synonymous with of one of his short stories.  Crafting what he deems alternative fiction, Ellison is a prolific author of books, novellas, essays, and screenplays, including scripts for The Outer Limits and the original Star Trek series.  In order to gain some life experience and gather material for his first book and subsequent memoirs, Ellison went undercover in a New York street gang.  It was a life-altering experience in which he often did “the right things for the wrong reasons and the wrong things for the right reasons.”


Manufactured or au naturale, every true artist bleeds for his or her craft.  Every one of us nurtures our art like a child in the womb.  And when we unveil it to the world, we hold our breath like a parent watching a kid set off for the first time without his training wheels.  We pray fervently that it will not fall flat on its face.  We hope that because our art contains so much of ourselves, that those who view it, read it, or hear it will understand that what we have revealed are pieces of our souls.  And that is the difference between media whores and artists.

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