Friday, January 20, 2012
Great Souls Creating Their Own Proximity: Etta James & Johnny Otis. America's Great Black Musical Triumph. A Poem by Pessoa.
A great soul creates its own proximity. I don't need to have seen or touched Etta James or Johnny Otis to have been touched by them and in some way seen, my raging heart witnessed and deafened, especially by Etta. My life was as, hey, more, enriched by their presence on the planet as by any number of people I've shook hands with, taken classes with, received paychecks from.
As you know they were astonishing soul musicians. Neither had to make the choice to be other than messengers, though for Johnny Otis, a Greek American, there was a transition and it was a bit more conscious than Etta's. She was black. He wasn't, but Johnny Otis understood himself to be a musician in the tradition and community of America's great black musical triumph. He decided to move in that community very early in his career. Otis was a different kind of beautiful.
Miss James was all kinds of beautiful.
So to honor them I wanted to post a poem about joy and about humility, the true victory. The True Victory. Which is, at least as of 6:30 p.m., 1/20, to have lived and understood the meaning of all this, which is to say the humiliations and sufferings, the rapture of being alive. I don't presume to say they did or didn't understanding what I naively refer to as "the meaning." Like I do?
I bow to them.
Courtesy of Fernando Pessoa:
If only I were the dust on the road
And the feet of the poor were tromping on me...
If only I were the flowing rivers
And there were washerwomen on my bank...
If only I were the poplars next to the river
And only had the sky above me and the water below me...
If only I were a miller’s donkey
And he beat me and valued me...
Better those than someone going through life
Looking back and feeling sorry about it...
Pessoa, 1914 (Portugal), from http://alberto-caeiro.blogspot.com/