Just Singing a Song Won’t Change the World (An Open Letter to Neil Young)

Dear Neil,

It’s been weighing heavily on my soul. I am a musician in my heart and in my blood, but I don’t make enough money to build new communities or rid the world of malaria and I’m too far off the radar to be asked to sing for America or sing to solve world hunger or even sing for the 99%. Furthermore, regardless of my intention as an artist to add value to people’s lives through music, and maybe even challenge them from time to time to awaken from the urgent complacency that seems to arise from being overworked (or underworked) underpaid, mis-employed, displaced, squeezed, de-valued, and otherwise under appreciated.

See, I believe we have work to do, and it must be done despite our condition. It seems like we used to have griots, teachers, troubadours, journey-men who used to remind us of this, keep us close to the source so we could ride out the storms with dignity, integrity, and sometimes, dare I say it, ingenuity? But in these times when all this sounds like too much to ask, the griots and the poets are hard to come by, and musicians are finding it harder and harder to keep a roof over head.

I’m one of those. I’m one who chooses art because it feels like a responsibility, but I desperately want to do it in a responsible way.

For example, I believe the power of music is best experienced in a room where the music is happening, where the people-ness of it all connects the dots between the ether, the real, and the ethereal. The extra-sensory information, the vibrating intercourse, the quantum coherence of it all seems to take place most directly in the context of a shared experience of live music. And yet, how do I get from city to city without destroying the environment and exhausting natural resources? Especially with an incredibly limited budget?

Moreover, I live in the great city of New Orleans where most venues for burgeoning bands are struggling to get by themselves and have chosen to compensate the musicians only by offering a small percentage of bar sales on any given night. That means my value to my “client” (the venue) and the financial viability of my endeavor ends up directly related to how much alcohol the audience is able to imbibe while my band busy trying to heal the hole inside of them that took them to the bar in the first place.  It just doesn’t seem to add up.

Obviously I don’t know you Neil, but I’m sharing this because you seem to me to be so true. Your music, your heart, your person-ness feeds me in ways true things do.  So please Neil, be my Rilke. Isn’t the first principle of healing “do no harm?” Tell me, what’s a girl to do?

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  1. Sofia Echegaray - October 17, 2013 at 12:38 am Reply

    Submit this to the Huffington Post.

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