“Take no prisoners!” That’s what legendary singer Billy Paul used to tell his band right before going on stage.
I’ve been a performer all my life, singer, poet, comedian, lecturer, maniacal street celebrity. (HIDEOUS DETAILS AVAILABLE HERE).
For much of what I laughingly refer to as “my career” I regarded assassins as the apex of professionalism – heartless and methodical, all business, all technique.
Over the years my attitude about performance has transformed, closely tracking my recovery.
At first I thought of “the act” as a mask I clung onto with white knuckles, until one could not tell where it ended and my face began.
As I became more comfortable and facile in front of a crowd, moving with glib, even condescending confidence, I polished the mask until it shone so brightly even the people sitting in the very last row needed sunglasses.
Then something happened, I grew more confident still and suddenly craft and “art” became less fascinating.
I must credit a few very special people for carrying me across the river; by watching these world class artists perform I discovered that craft is only a tool.
Real art, I came to understand, lies in opening up your true self and sharing what you have, whatever it is that makes you special, whatever it is that’s unavailable anywhere else.
Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, Keith Jarrett, Sarah Vaughan, Sun Ra, and Jimi Hendrix.
When these people left the stage they didn’t take anything with them, they gave it all. All of them shared one essential quality; fearless generosity.
Craft is just something you internalize until you can forget it altogether and be yourself – cool, relaxed, smile on your face – bathing in the spotlight’s unforgiving chill.