Art Endures

I was in 6th grade at William Sydney Mount Elementary School in Stony Brook, N.Y. when Elton John released the album “Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy.”

I loved Elton and The Beatles, but by 1975 The Beatles had been broken up 5 years and Elton was at the height of his creative powers and still releasing new music. I “missed” The Beatles by being too young to appreciate them when they were active, but Elton…well Elton was cranking out the hits just about the time I was getting heavily into music.

By sixth grade, I was already a failed musician after three years of playing a horrible clarinet in the Setauket School band. Once again, we had moved and I was the new kid in school anxious to make friends and establish my credentials as one of the cool kids in class—or more realistically at least not one of the nerds.

So I brought my Captain Fantastic album to a school party but as soon as I got on the bus, I began to worry about whether my prized possession would make it back home intact. Could I smuggle it in past the bullies on the bus and would it survive the elementary school issued turntable with the needle that hadn’t been changed since A Hard Day’s Night was released in 1964?

Of course, when you’re a sixth grader trying to make an impression on three or four girls in your class, these little details go unnoticed until you are faced with them.

Suffice it to say, Captain Fantastic survived the short bus ride and made it safely into my desk which had a top that lifted up to provide storage.

As for the party, the Captain made it through intact. I explained to the 11 year-old DJ that albums had to be handled by the edges to avoid smudges and the needle had to be placed gently on the opening track which was “Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy.”

My sensitive mission was a hit and I left the holiday party with the phone number of one of the girls in my class. Now, she wasn’t any of the three girls I liked, but it didn’t matter. Elton delivered.

I got the album home and I still have it, much to the chagrin of my significant other who wonders why I can’t part with my vinyl even though I haven’t played a record in years.

Predictably, the relationship that came out of the sixth grade holiday party ended well before Valentine’s Day. But my relationship with Elton John and a generation of 60s, 70s and 80s rock stars endures to this day.

We saw Elton recently on his “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” tour which ran through South Florida with a nearly three hour concert that featured a whole lot of hits and a slew of memories. To Elton’s credit, he could have played another three hours and not performed all of the songs that his fans love. Also to his credit, he still has the chops—as a piano player, singer and performer. He was accompanied by two of his original band mates, drummer Nigel Olsson and guitarist Davey Johnstone who still rock. It was a night to cherish. And we will.

I’m enjoying a rash of farewell concerts by the greats of my youth all of whom are making South Florida stops on their way to retirement. We saw Paul Simon, The Eagles (with Glenn Frey) and in a few weeks we will see Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman of The Byrds (who are not retiring). The Rolling Stones are kicking off a tour in Miami in April, we just saw David Byrne of The Talking Heads and travelled to Broadway to see Bruce Springsteen who better not ever retire.

Even for those who haven’t announced a farewell tour, you get the sense that it could be the last time. After all, as The Stones once sang “time waits for no one.”
Indeed, it doesn’t.

Going to these shows is a mix of joy, melancholy, memories and hope. It’s truly exciting to see the greats up close. Every generation says its music is the best ever, but in our case it truly is. (wink).

Sure it’s a little bit sad to see your hero’s age and step aside, especially when they still exhibit so much skill and talent. You want to tell the universe to give these folks a pass and keep them around because they are so amazing. But the memories are powerful and everlasting—like the music that was produced.

The songs—oh the songs—they brought us hope, they made us dance, they made us smile, they moved us and continue to do so.

There’s not many things that your 11 year old self would agree with your 54 year old self on—except maybe baseball and rock and roll. That’s the power of art.

It lasts. I think forever.




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