And now for something completely different…

Remember when larger-than-life, oh-holy-cow pop stars had talent?

Enter the “Commandant of Flamboyancy” himself.  Check out those hands.  Sure, it belongs to an era when we had much less multi-tasking and MUCH longer attention spans… but this dude can PLAY.

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9 Comments

  1. blackpine

     /  February 19, 2008

    No. No I don’t. Neither do you.

    I have always grown up with a celebrity set that was mediocre excepting one great flaw. So if they were middling studio musicians without any trace of soul, they were technically brilliant. If they were petulant and unable to so much as read music, they were passionate. If they were crappy musicians, soulless, but using drugs, they were stormy. If the were all three, they were a genius. And the defining concerts of the decade were intense because the guitarist fell in love with one chord for eight measures while making his O face. Celebrities suck.

    Reply
  2. Heh. Blackpine’s had his riboflavin this morning… 🙂

    Reply
  3. Alex

     /  February 19, 2008

    Sure it ain’t bile?
    Sorry friend – but I thought I could be grumpy bastard at times and then you up and surprise me. I kid though. You have a point. Talent, art, and genius are all matters of opinion to who you ask. Being a celebrity in a way can cheapen the whole thing. For example, I still think Jimi Hendrix was one of the greatest musicians of all time – but the man was a druggie. So was the skill him, or the drugs? I’ve come to accept Johnny Cash as a great musician both in style and songwriting and I think he’s all around great – but others may not be so impressed.

    Reply
  4. blackpine

     /  February 19, 2008

    Hendrix didn’t get big time famous until after he died. He was still pretty damned good, but he wasn’t recognized. He wasn’t a celebrity. He was a musician. We’ve had some amazing musicians. But we’ve had a passel of truly awful celebrities.

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  5. blackpine

     /  February 19, 2008

    Actually, I need to add one more thing. Genius is not as subjective as you might think. Taste is, but genius, I think, is innately recognizable. We don’t listen to Liberace, but we watch the guy play, and we’re impressed. If we watched other musicians from any other set, we might not like their music, but we would go “Oooooh! Shiny!” at their skill. The proper usage would be to say that “S/he has a genius for X.” Fighting, playing, working, anything with skill involved, roperly observed can get marks for talent and genius even if you don’t like it. We haven’t had anyone that has triggered my “He’d a GENIUS!” button.

    Reply
  6. Alex

     /  February 20, 2008

    Well then I guess you have a very high bar for “genius”, which makes your argument a bit circular. You state that we can be impressed and state “so and so is a genius for X” even if we don’t particularly like the talent observed, but then you say we haven’t had anyone that triggered your “genius” definition. So, it is subjective and a matter of opinion.
    I understood the gist of what you’re saying though. And yes, almost all celebrities are not necessarily geniuses – they’re good at giving something people to say “ooh shiny” over, and they are in the modern age the product of advertisers and media. The Beatles may have been the last set of genuine musical celebrities but I could argue against my statement if I think about the media connections early on.

    Reply
  7. blackpine

     /  February 21, 2008

    High bar for genius? Guilty. That is what the high bar is for. There is a rubric for genius that most people will recognize, but it would deal with result and form. There are certain particulars that would be subjective, such as the folks who think that rock isn’t real music and therefore The Wall is pointless. Or classical music is boring and Mozart isn’t considered. I say that in those cases, it is not the work that’s at fault but the person: they have myopia in terms of merit.

    In clarification, I meant to say that no celebrity from my lifetime has really triggered my “genius” button. I like the Beatles well enough, but I’m not a huge fan. On the other hand, when studied objectively, their music was appealing, artistic, original and basically changed rock music. The proper usage being here, “They had a genius for music.”

    Reply
  8. Alex

     /  February 21, 2008

    So then – is there anyone (alive or dead) in your lifetime who isn’t a celebrity that you think is a genius? Or at least so skilled at one thing that you’re in marvel/awe of it? For that example, how did you hear about it?

    My reason for asking is that if someone isn’t “elevated” to celebrity status by traditional media channels, will most of us ever even hear of that person’s great abilities? I can think of authors whose skills in writing I’m quite impressed with – but again this is because someone in that form of media made that critical decision to let them be seen and read by the rest of us. Therefore we may only see what a select group of others “picks” for the rest of us to observe and say “Oh wow, this person is good” or “WTF? This is talent?” In effect – the critics may serve as gatekeepers for what gets marked as genius and what gets marked as “this will sell stuff for awhile – get it out there for everyone to marvel at briefly.”

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  9. blackpine

     /  February 21, 2008

    Yo Yo Ma. Yitzhak Perlman. Dempsey. Tesla. Von Misses. Popper. Guderien. Beria. J. Edgar Hoover. There are a bunch you’ll know about that I won’t, in that you’re in chemistry. Buckminster Fuller, maybe? Don’t wait for the media to celebrate. The media produces celebrities, but it is a seperate word from genius. The media is a judging panel of people without expertise. Look for the impact. Look for peers. Look for imitation after the model they create. Look for the originality. Look for any of it, look for all of it.

    In the time Liberace was playing, there was a greater link between skill and celebration in the media. People wanted to see something objectively excellent with a little flair. Liberace was really freaking good, but he was, for his day, considered frivolous. He said I’ll see your frivolous and raise you an eccentric. But he was considered a second tier talent. Now compare him to Elton John.

    Tell you what, watch the delicate control and discipline, and listen to the soul here.

    Compare with this.

    Elton is a helluva better showman, but Pollini has a genius for piano. Now hat you like is hat you like. If Chopin by Pollinni isn’t your thing, then okay, but you have to give the man his due. He IS a genius.

    I guess what I’m saying is that genius isn’t always what you want to hear. And you should never really let another person decide who your geniuses are. But they should be able to respectably defend their talents in a field that requires skill, and then describe why their skill is genius. Genius is always defensible. But I grew up in the disco times, and then slipped into punk and hair bands, and then grunge. There was almost no direct connection between “famous celebrity” and “talanted individual.” If I wanted to listen to/see talent, I had to ignore pop culture.

    Here’s one reason why celebrity sucks. Think about the R&D work that you did for Dupont, where they were using your talent to suppress new ideas. They wanted to get the return on their investment in a product before a bigger better product came along. Same with film and music. Companies buy up contracts and then let performers and films lay fallow or kit bash them to promote their advertising investment in an actor. They want to see the return on their money. So they reduce the number of entrants, and the dearth of variety leads to a reduction of true talent. The critics are just advertisers with another name.

    Reply

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