Saturday, January 16, 2010

After While Crocodile

As most of you probably know by now, the great songwriter Bobby Charles passed away Thursday night. It's so difficult to walk the line between true respect for the man's work and maudlin, sycophantic, hype. That's one reason I didn't do a post on this right away. The other reason is because I didn't want it to be true. Just didn't want him to be gone. He was one of my big heroes, somebody I looked up to as a shining example of what someone from right here where I live could accomplish. Indeed, he exceeded all my dreams. Wrote national hit songs; counted Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, The Band among his friends and fans, Fats Domino and Dr. John too. Are you kidding me?

Look what passes for great around here now. At a time when you can't swing a dead cat without hitting another fiddle or accordion virtuoso, I'm wondering where the next Bobby Charles is going to come from. The type of artist that makes you feel more human, more part of the human experience, through his music. Anybody can learn to play an instrument. Get on Youtube, learn some scales...that's easy. But soulfulness can't be taught. The courage it takes to lay your soul bare for all to see doesn't come easily, or without a price. Bobby Charles didn't even play an instrument, and yet he sold more records and made more of a cultural impact worldwide than anyone around here can ever hope for. Go tell that to the corporate shills at Guitar Center and watch them blanch. And, because he had the class not to endlessly self-promote (something that was disdained just a few years ago, and now is essentially required of artists) he is relatively unknown. The man let his work speak for itself. Imagine that.

I was fortunate to meet him once. Dickie Landry (another under-appreciated talent from here) introduced me to him. It was a pretty awkward exchange. I told him how big a fan I was, and that our band was covering a few of his songs. He shook my hand and thanked me. Neither one of us made eye contact. It was weird, but it meant the world to me. Still does.

There are several nice articles written about Bobby Charles' passing. Keith Spera wrote this one for the Times Picayune. Most of the same info ran here in the New York Times as well. Larry Benicewice has this great biography here.

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