The Scott Shaw Blog

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Talent in the Context of History

You know how every now and then you’re driving along and a set of really good songs comes on the radio. That happened to me this AM. First was Ed Sheeran, Bad Habits, then Harry Styles, Golden, then Machine Gun Kelly, My Ex’s Best Friend, and finally, Jonas Brothers and Marshmallow, Leave Before You Love Me. It got me to thinking about the new season of American Horror Story, “Double Feature.” What’s going on is that it revolves around this black pill that if people with talent take it they get super successful and if you just think you have talent and take it you loose all your hair and turn into this blood sucking vampire-style creatures. My lady jokes with me and tells me if I took it I would go bald and suck blood. Maybe she’s right… Happy

But fame, fortune, and success is this illusive master. Like I have long said, some of the best guitar players I have known never became successful. …And, I knew and was friends with some of the most well-known players, particularly of the 1980s. Just like in acting and filmmaking, it always seems to be more defined by luck than talent.

I was in Venice over the weekend and there is this one guy, (an old-guy), who sings pop songs on the boardwalk. A few months ago, when the homeless problem on the boardwalk had gotten totally out of control, before the sheriffs stepped in, there was this news footage of one of the homeless men just beating the crap out of that old guy. Now, I’m not saying what this guy sings is necessarily bad, (to each their own), but I can imagine if someone had to listen to it on and on and on—like if someone had their tent set up right by where he sings, it may get a bit nerve-racking. My lady made the comment as we walked past the singing minstrel, he would totally turn into a vampire if he took the pill.

For some reason, all this set me thinking back in time—at least back in time for me. …You know, how one thought leads you to the next and the next and the next. I thought of this one guy that I had not thought of in years. He had this magnificent voice. It was pure opera. I met him through the Sufi Order and whenever we would sing or chant his voice just rose above all of the rest. Pure talent!

Now, this all goes to and can only be defined by the context of history. Back then, for those of us who walked the spiritual path, (and a lot of others), we all, (both men and women), let our hair grow, we didn’t shave; all attempting to live a more natural/purer lifestyle. The guy, probably a decade or so older than, (I was only sixteen or maybe seventeen), had one of those grand beards and he just fit the part of what you would imagine of that era in time with long hair and a long beard.

There was this girl that came around what were then titled, the Sufi Dances. Beautiful young jewish girl dressed as the era and the lifestyle dictated in long skirts, Birkenstocks, and the like. I had eyes for her and so did my friend. She was a couple of years old than I and she gave into the advances of that guy. I understood… He was totally in love with her.

His voice got him noticed by the Sufi Choir, which was group of Sufis located on the East Coast that sang, recorded, and did performances based upon a modern interpretation of the spiritual tradition of Sufism. Though formed in San Francisco in 1969 under the tillage of Murshid Sam, they were by this point situated on the East Coast. Thus, he had to leave L.A. if he wanted to follow his dream. He invited the girl to go along but she refused. He left broken hearted.

Now, I could go into the story (stories) of how the girl then shifted her attentions to me. But, that has never been who I am. I hold friendships dear to my heart and I don’t step over the line. But, that’s a whole other issue. Eventually, the girl moved away from the order. As for the guy, the Sufi Choir disbanded a few years later—the times they were a-changing…

This brings me to the point—the entire question of true talent and what does it actually mean? The example was that guy; incredible singer. He sang but his songs were forgotten. The Sufi Choir disbanded. Plus, he lost the girl he loved based on his pursue of his talent. Just like all the great guitar players I have known who played their music to no one else’s ears but their own. Was their talent any the less? But, what did it equal if no one else heard it?

So, what is talent? Is it only defined by someone who becomes successful based upon what they do? Or, is it something much deeper than all of that?

We all love to hear the music we love to hear. That great song comes on the radio and we turn it up. Somehow, someway the music of those people who are played on the radio got to embrace their talent, for however long their fame is appreciated. But, is that the only definition of talent? Fame? I don’t know, maybe it is. You have to answer that for yourself.

As for me, I have known so many people that I have considered truly talented but most never rose to the public eye. On the other side of the isle, I have witnessed a lot of others who did become truly famous but it was/is hard to define their talent. Again, what does this tell us? What does this leave us with? I don’t know? If there was such a pill, as described on America Horror Story, Double Feature, would you take it? Would you be willing to take that test as to whether or not you have, “True Talent?”

Me, a commercial came on the radio, so instead of waiting to see what would come up next, I clicked over to my phone and called up the band, Khruangbin via on demand. …Thought I’d listen to a band I consider very talented that are a bit more esoteric.

Talent it is a complicated question…