(Editor?s Note?Rumor has it that Cliff?s new book of poetry, this one dedicated to the music he loves, will be out and available on Tuesday. More information next week.)
Art always seemed more important to me than much of what others place value on. I?m not really sure why I?ve always felt that way, but I have. My family were common folk. My father didn?t finish high school until he was seventy-two years old, when he went to the local junior college and got his G.E.D. (Which he wore with pride).
Maybe this appreciation of art came from my grandmother on my mothers side, who was a painter with a studio and gallery in Medford Oregon.
I remember visiting their house on south stage road, up on a hill over looking the valley, and my grandmother would be sitting in front of a large floor to ceiling picture window facing an easel propping up a canvas that would be a half finished picture of lilies in a garden or of caribou on a wildflower covered mountainside, and she looked as serene as the land where she lived. The house resting above grape vines and black walnut trees. The green glass step stones winding through the garden. The stone built waterfall trickling down the hill. And she never really knew what to say to me, and I didn?t know what to say to her, but there was something magical in the way she held the brush and transformed the canvas and it stuck to me like paint on the tapestry of my soul.
Then there was my daddy?s side of the family. They had music pouring out of every pore on their bodies. Dad played the voilin, the piano, all the brass instruments, most of the woodwinds, the strings and the banjo. And man, could he sing! You could hear him two blocks away. A high tenor with power! Melt your heart. Make the hair on your arms stand straight up. When he sang gospel, you wanted to quit your sinning and give your heart to Jesus!
And my guess is that is where this appreciation comes from.
One of the greatest gifts I have ever been given is a painting of me by a wonderful woman named Ruth Truesdell. Some of you may have seen it. Mark Varner used it, for some time, as the header for my column in the breakdown. I cannot express what that means to me. I will only say that I like it so much that it is the cover of the new book I have coming out shortly.
There are photographs that affect me in a similar fashion. Somehow it?s like capturing the soul of someone and illuminating it in the light of that perfect moment, when you see someone as they really are, and what you see is good. And listening to a song. A song when the singer has lost awareness of his/her surroundings and has connected to the substance of the soul of man and the joy of God. When the head is back, and the heart is exposed, and the light shines on everyone.
And this is another reason that I love this music that we play, and why I want to play with every musician that I can. Because I have seen the essence of a great crowd of people. The truth behind the thin veneer. The soul of humanity. And what I see has enriched me in innumerable ways.
Lynne Cornish gave me a watercolor painting of a hedgehog. I probably like that picture more than anybody ever liked a hedgehog. In fact I probably like that picture more than any hedge hog has liked any other hedge hog. I?m assuming that?s the case. Though I?ve never really known a hedge hog.
But I know I like art. And I like Music. And I want to play it with you.
Hoping to be there in that magic moment when you open up and let the light shine. When you sing that song just the way you always felt it. When we share that joy!