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Donovan Philips Leitch—a true artist to the core.
For musicians, it may very well prove impossible to watch an award show without imagining how you would comport yourself if you were on the receiving or presenting end of an award. If I don’t count rewarding myself with a beer after I’ve mowed the lawn or merely survived another day all the way to 5 p.m., I haven’t received a legitimate award since Cub Scouts—probably because I haven’t done anything award-worthy since I whittled that awesome pinewood derby car. Having now established that I don’t frequent the podium, I am the armchair quarterback quick to point out the failings of those under pressure.
This week I watched the HBO airing of the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction, which featured a mix of rockers young and old. By “young,” I don’t mean young. None of these guys attended high school during this century. The older and younger acts made for an interesting contrast.
Many of the guys in their 40s did not look much better than the guys in their 60s. Ron Wood looks like, well, Ron Wood—kind of an ageless, prototypical British rocker. The Chili Peppers don’t seem to change a lot—still rocking the shirtless thing without need for embarrassment. The Bill Haley and the Comets guys appeared ancient, but they weren’t exactly young looking when “Rock Around the Clock” was a fresh hit single.
Taste in clothing ranged from fabulous to douche-baggy to perhaps homeless with an equal number of offenders and impressers in all age brackets. One geriatric rocker wore a none-too-clean white sweat suit. A few guys wore what was probably wardrobe left over from their 1988 video debut. Those wearing a good suit will never look back in horror.
The biggest difference between the two groups remained how inarticulate the younger acts seemed compared to the older ones. Donovan—a true artist to the core—composed a poem that summarized his entire career, while expressing his gratitude to friends and fans. Now compare Donovan’s speech to any ’80s act in the show and you can actually hear the decline of Western Civilization.
Induction into a hall of fame suggests that the inductee is nearing his final act. For many musicians, this will be the video clip the media will play on a loop the day following their deaths. Does anyone want to be remembered as the glassy-eyed, slack-jawed person wearing ill-fitting, tragically unhip clothing while hoarsely mumbling profane nonsense?
Dearest Premier Guitar reader, please consider these few simple acceptance speech suggestions before you receive your justly deserved trophy:
1. Let’s watch our language, shall we? I’m a longtime cusser, the son of a world-class, ex-Marine, Segovia of profanities. Foul language does not offend me, but poor writing or public speaking does. Most of these younger acts could not convey the simplest thought without punctuating their incomplete sentences with ample profanity. Obscenity, like anything, loses all its punch when overused. It’s the verbal equivalent of multiple exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Put in musical terms, it’s like that annoying wanker at a jam who keeps using the same damn riff five or six times in a four-measure phrase. Before receiving an award, go ahead and learn a few adjectives and adverbs to help you express yourself.
With the exception of the eloquent Duff of Guns N’ Roses, most of the ’80s acts sounded like an uncensored Beavis and Butthead. Come on, man—this award was no surprise. Plan ahead a little, think of something to say. If you can’t, hire someone to write a speech for you and practice it in front of your mother or a demure old aunt.
2. Be specific in your acknowledgments. Older acts understand giving credit where credit is due. Specific and gracious, they sounded like this: “Our deepest gratitude to our dear friend and colleague, Nathan Westin Howell III. Your genius and dogged determination served as our muse during this inspired, beautiful time.”
Younger acts at the induction tended to thank people without actually recognizing them, clumping everyone who helped into a semi-anonymous list of first names: “Yo, I wanna thank Jason, Dave, Tim, the other Dave, and little Mike.” There’s got to be a hundred posers by these names telling anybody listening that they are “the Dave” that made the Beastie Boys or GN’R happen. Meanwhile, the real Dave is thinking: “Gee, I gave them the title for their biggest hit and lent them $2,000 (which they never paid back) to cut their first demo. I pitched this demo to RCA and got them their deal, spent a year in a Mexican prison after taking the rap for their bag of cocaine the cops found as we left Juárez, and this is the thanks I get?”
3. Be sincere. As the old showbiz maxim goes: The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
With a little planning, you can make your legacy something all will proudly watch. Or you can show up drunk and just dive right into that cringe-inspiring, train-wreck tirade. Hey, it’s only rock ’n’ roll.
John Bohlinger is a Nashville multi-instrumentalist best know for his work in television, having lead the band for all six season of NBC's hit program Nashville Star, the 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 CMT Music Awards, as well as many specials for GAC, PBS, CMT, USA and HDTV.
John's music compositions and playing can be heard in several major label albums, motion pictures, over one hundred television spots and Muzak... (yes, Muzak does play some cool stuff.) Visit him at youtube.com/user/johnbohlinger or facebook.com/johnbohlinger.