WISDOM: A PORTRAIT SERIES
D O N W A S
MUSICIAN, PRODUCER, + LABEL PRESIDENT
BLUE NOTE RECORDS
I. Last night I was watching a viral video that turned up on a news website. It was picked up by a surveillance camera and showed a man walking down a sidewalk next to a very tall building. Suddenly, a big plate glass window comes falling from the sky at breakneck speed, grazes the guy's shoulder, and shatters into a million pieces right next to him. What does he do? He gets right up, turns around 180 degrees and quickly walks back in the direction he came from. You can kind of read his mind: I know what to do. I'll go back to the place where glass wasn’t hurtling to the ground! He had the thought to return to a spot where windows had never previously fallen. But as far as preventing another pane of glass from subsequently landing on him, or a bus jumping the curb, or lightning striking him? Forget about it. Fact is, we don't know a whole lot, and maybe we're not meant to. Accepting the fact that we are not capable of possessing more than a tiny sliver of wisdom, and more to the point that we actually control very little in this lifetime may be a good piece of wisdom to hang onto.
II. Record producers should have an idea about what the song's about before they go into the studio. I produced a Bob Dylan record called "Born In Time.” When we cut it, I was thinking: 'Born in time? In time for what? In time to watch the Lakers game?' I was an idiot. It took me ten years to see it in a different light. I wrote him a note apologizing for being closed, and we had a long conversation the next day. It was quite personal, and I'll go to my grave without repeating it to anyone else, but I will say this: Bob never actually said that he wrote the song about being born into a world of time. That's just my interpretation. Bob, like other great writers I've had the privilege of working with, knows that one of the hallmarks of a great song is that they are poetic enough to allow each listener to project their own unique inner lives onto the framework. These writers have the wisdom to know that, if they revealed the specifics of what the poetry personally meant to them, it would ruin the experience for everyone else. It's a very generous act on the part of a songwriter to keep their intentions private and allow the listeners to claim the song for themselves.
III. Acceptance of the things we can't change is the biggest issue facing us. Selling tracks to consumers is no longer a viable business. It was great while it lasted, but those days are gone. We don't want to act like a bunch of blacksmiths sitting around in 1910, complaining about how automobiles are killing our business and holding conferences about how to sell more horseshoes! It might be wise to stop worrying so much about first week chart positions and market share, and focus on innovative new ways to monetize music for us and for the artists. It's our responsibility to make sure that artists continue to have the funding necessary to create new music. It's not hyperbolic to say that it's of great social importance: people need authentic new music to help make sense out of their lives. It's a privilege to be a part of such a noble process, and a great way to spend your life. Be grateful, stay positive and be creative. Let's figure this shit out.
IV. We need to talk more about you! I want to know more about you.
V. I am for free love and free lunch.