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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2007/06/22
by Mike Gruenberg

It Was 50 Years Ago Today…

In My Life
It was fifty years ago this July that two very young men met and later formed the most prolific song writing team in the history of recorded music. Their influence on us all through the songs they wrote together have become the cornerstone of virtually every successful rock band and every rock band wannabe band since the early 60s. John Lennon met Paul McCartney that day in July in England and the rest, as has been said so often was and is history. Ten years after that first momentous meeting, Sgt. Pepper was released to instant critical acclaim. That album pushed Brian Wilson, the California Beach Boy to compose Pet Sounds. Similarly, Pete Townshend then wrote Tommy which began the ball rolling that resulted in great bands, incredible music and a golden age of rock music which has yet to be duplicated.
Creativity in the performing arts is the basis by which we judge our music, our literature and our movies. Was the song melodic? Was there a story to tell? And if so, did that story hold our attention? Much the same can be said of how we judge the movies we see. My criteria for both music and cinema revolve around the same elements such as story line, musicianship or acting ability and most of all, creativity. Lennon and McCartney, no matter your musical taste were creative guys. Martin Scorsese, one of the great directors of this era must be thought of as a creative individual given the unique body of work he has presented to the public. In business, a successful company is one that consistently adapts itself to changing market conditions. Any company that is doing business today in exactly the same manner it did six months ago is courting assured disaster. Business, cinema and in sum the performing arts need to constantly evaluate themselves by being creative and innovative if they are to survive in this ever-changing global society.
As I passed by a local movie theater today, I was struck by the total lack of creativity in the movie selections churned out by Hollywood. The offerings were Shrek 3, Pirates 3 and Spider Man 3. Clearly, the moguls who run the studios have abandoned any thought of creativity as these offerings represent the strategy of simply going back to the same formula over again thus producing the same old fare. It occurred to me that with this kind of thinking, that the next Rocky movie, might be titled Rocky 12 The Last Bout. In this imagined flick, we would find our hero living uncomfortably in an assisted living facility. In order to maintain his last semblance of dignity as he gums his food, Rocky becomes more upset each day under the weight of countless dietary restrictions mandated by the dietician. He finally feels compelled to defend his honor and free himself of all dietary rules by challenging the dietician to a pillow fight. If he wins, he will have the right to drink vitamin enriched water at his three required meals. His fellow residents cheer him on to victory although it is a costly one since the strain of the excitement claims the lives of two men and the life of a woman, who despite severe cataracts has fallen in love with our hero only to pass on when the first feather flies out of the pillow case,. The victory is truly bittersweet for Rocky as we wonder if there is enough left for yet another installment in this never ending series.

Not only will we see Shrek, Spidey and Captain Jack each for a third time, but we can expect that this summer, Bruce Willis to reprise his Die Hard exploits with yet another painful ride for the fourth time. Matt Damon will be Bourne again for the third time. George Clooney and his pals will now pass to Oceans 13 the third installment of their series which was taken from the original Oceans 11which starred Frank Sinatra and his pals so many years ago. Lets not forget Harry Potter and the gang who are back again, as well. Unfortunately, the real chronological age of Harry, the actor who is getting a bit older than Harry the character in the movie will cause the producers to find a younger replacement for him when the sequel to the current movie of that drawn out series is later released. And just when you thought you had seen enough of the Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker Rush Hour escapades, another one of those movies will hit the screens in August with probably the same plot, dialogue and foolishness that we seemingly did not get enough of the first two times. Bad enough that Hollywood keeps going back to the well repeatedly for decent movies, but when they reprise poor movies then you really have to wonder what happened to creativity on the silver screen.
In the entertainment business, imagination translates into creativity and of course, risk. Bob Dylan began as a folk singing troubadour. He took a risk, endured an enormous amount of criticism from his fans when he went electric and yet, here he is so many years later still going strong with new and innovative music. Its no accident that he won Album of the Year last year. Dylan seems to constantly push himself to present new and different ways of appealing to his audience.
Many years ago, a cynical person once remarked, The only good thing about popular music is that it doesnt stay popular very long. While I was offended when I first heard that statement, in retrospect it represents for me the very essence of creative thinking. If an artist constantly produces the same music, the public will eventually grow tired of that artists music and look for newer sounds. How often can you keep buying the same sounding stuff from the same artist? The successful musicians are not resting on their laurels and are the ones who experiment, take risks and try new avenues to stretch their musical talents. For me, Mark Knopfler is a perfect example of this concept. His original group, Dire Straits was a successful band in the 80s. Since then, he has released solo albums; written movie scores and most recently teamed up with Emmylou Harris for country sounding duets. You may not like all his music, but the guy certainly tries new ways to get your attention.
By the way, in the Top 10 movie rankings as of June 19, 2007, Oceans 13 ranked at #2, Pirates is ranked # 4 Shrek the Third is #6 and Spider-Man 3 is #10. While that may sound like my thesis of creative thinking equaling success is incorrect, all four of the listed movies dropped considerably from their previous weeks rankings and earnings proving that you cant fool all the people all the time.
Happy 64th birthday, Paul McCartney. Listened to your new album while I drank my Starbucks latte. Both the latte and the album were pretty good.

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