Monday, March 9, 2009
On Buddy and Bakshi
What kind of career would you have if you only had 2 & 1/2 years to make your mark? That's exactly how much time Buddy Holly had from the moment his single "That'll Be The Day" rocketed to number one on the charts. While at SVA, I had the opportunity to take a contemporary music class taught by the Rolling Stone music critic Billy Altman. It helped me meet one of the elective requirements for my Bachelor's degree. One day Altman played us music from a double disc set that turned out to be the Buddy Holly Collection. The next class I came up to him and said, "Your last class cost me 30 bucks." He shot me a puzzled look before I explained that I had no choice but to buy the Buddy Holly Collection on the way home.
As far as I see it, there are two tragedies to the Buddy Holly story: his sudden death and the fact that it has come to define him. Another way to look at his legacy is to examine what he accomplished in so short a time. Nobody has a crystal ball to reveal their fate but, Holly certainly didn't waste the time he was given on this Earth. The body of work he left behind is astonishing in its quality, originality, and durability. How often can we say the same about singer/songwriters that have the gift of decades of time in which to develop their talents? Holly is one of my creative heros as well as a reminder to make every day count, both in life, and in career.
On that note, I seque to a great anecdote told by Ralph Bakshi, as interviewed by Don Duga at SVA in 1998. To a standing room only audience of students and industry professionals, Bakshi shared a story I will never forget. He had recently visited an old High School friend who had long given up on a career in the arts. Bakshi complimented a wonderful painting hanging on his friend's wall, a painting that his friend had created decades ago.
Bakshi said to his friend, "That's a great painting. Did you ever think about making another one?" After this, Bakshi explained to us that its a LONG life and that we should make each day and each year count. Unlike the case of his friend's painting, if we are serious about our art, we should never be finished. Our dreams need not remain hung on the wall and under glass.
Its now ten years later and Bakshi is still not done creating. He paints on a regular basis and rumor has it that he still has animated projects in the works. His long-life legacy was recently celebrated in a terrific coffee-table style book, Unfiltered: The Complete Ralph Baskhi by Jon M. Gibson and Chris McDonnell.
My teacher, Billy Altman, finished off his lesson on Buddy Holly by playing a song called "Learning the Game" from Holly's "apartment tapes." For those not in the know, these were the home recordings found in the singer's Greenwich Village apartment after his untimely death. A short while later, I was able to track down my own bootleg of these recordings, but it was not until a month or so ago that they were officially released as part of two new retrospective sets: Buddy Holly Memorial Collection and Buddy Holly: Down The Line- Rarities.
Its nice to see two of my creative heros recognized with these special career-spanning tributes! I can't think of a better way to re-examine these unique talents. Now, if only someone will erect a statue of John Ritter next to the Lincoln Memorial... I'd be all set.