Life and the people who live it –that’s any and all of us– consists of ups and downs. I first started to grasp this through reading books by authors like Maeve Binchy, Rosamunde Pilcher, and others whose novels I adored. Any time I read the stories, I never wanted them to end. I was curious about the characters they’d created, finding myself thinking about them long after the last page was devoured. In truth, I wanted their lives to keep going, to be revisited some time later for another glimpse of what had been happening since ‘the end’. And I vowed to, someday, write such a story and invent a village of my own.
In addition to being a reader, when I was a teenager in the 80’s, music was an enormous part of my life. Without the funds to buy records, the library wasn’t just a source for books anymore; it became a deep, exciting well of LPs to be explored. Possibly as a result of my discovering Heavy Metal, my dad bought himself a new stereo, handing the old one down to me. And in a true show of self-preservation, he even threw in a brand new set of headphones. With a sound system of my own, I was unstoppable. From Black Sabbath, to Deep Purple, to Iron Maiden, I loved it all. I couldn’t get enough of it. But never did I wonder just where this music had come from. Or indeed, if music originated anywhere but in the mind of the artist.
Then, the epiphany! Just after high-school graduation, Dutch band Golden Earring came to my hometown for a small music festival. When the opening band Dirty Fingers struck the first note of Hootchie Cootchie Man (that delicious song by Muddy Waters), my life changed forever. With my back to the stage I experienced a ‘holy shit, what is that!’ moment that branded itself into my soul. The harmonica player, whom I chased down like Alice skipping down the rabbit hole, revealed what the music was called. The Blues!
I devoured what I could of the music, even lived in Memphis, Tennessee for ten years. I met BB King, Chris Layton, the Mighty Flyers, KWS; Buddy Guy picked me out of a crowd to play for; and prompted by friends, Kim Wilson played Hootchie Cootchie Man on the harmonica just for me. There are other such moments. There were many. I was privileged.
The more I learned, the more I understood the importance of the Blues in the fabric of humanity, and grasped more than ever that this wonderful music is the root that sprouted from the soil of the cotton fields, and the pain of slavery, and that nurtured by a need of talented musicians to express themselves it became an ever-spreading tree whose branches bear the fruit of jazz, folk, country, rock ‘n’ roll, new wave, heavy metal … in other words, most of the stuff we adore and crank up the radio for every day. For that reason, in my opinion, it is our collective responsibility to honor the history of the Blues.
Not being a musician, and still grasping the desire to write that story about small village life, I thought long and hard about how I could make my own small contribution for the music that has become a true passion, and decided to combine the two in an ode to the country that gave us the top music of all time as a direct result of the Blues: the United Kingdom.
Because with bands like Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Queen, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Iron Maiden, Genesis, the Moody Blues, Cream; with musicians like Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart and Tom Jones, Peter Gabriel, Jeff Beck, Joss Stone, … the list is endless … the biggest branch of the Blues tree may have sprouted in the US, but it sure as heck popped its head out on British soil, the perfect setting for a story about small village life!
The novel to honor the Blues and its progenies has been flowing from my heart and fingers like honey from a beehive. I called it Rhythms and Blues–life’s ups and downs after all–and Volume 1 is available. I’m proud of it, of what it means, and the inspiration for it. But I write this post with a heavy heart. Just a week later, the United Kingdom as it was when it produced the greats of a musical dynasty, teeters dangerously on the edge of a final collapse.
In one day 17,410,742 voters and those that will follow in the undoubtedly ensuing referendums for the country to split apart, sent my novel straight into the realms of historical fiction!
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