Dr. M and I recently spent a night out attending a concert performed by Rosanne Cash, Johnny Cash’s daughter, backed by her husband, guitarist John Leventhal. The high point of the evening was the fish dinner we had earlier in the evening. It was really delicious.
The concert was okay. Why, I wondered, on the drive home, wasn’t it better?
Such is the traditional “thought exercise” we engage in - rehashing the proceedings.. In both directions. Sometimes it's "Why was that wonderful?"
I have seen Jerry Seinfeld in concert. And he was likable, funny, and professionally skillful. But he did not knock my socks off.
By contrast, I saw Richard Pryor, and the explosive laughter he elicited came from more primal reservoir of my humanity. I was – not literally because that would be gross and also uncomfortable but almost – peeing in my pants.
Conclusion: Someone is good. Somebody else is better.
Of course, all reactions are ultimately subjective. I can readily accept that an audience member who saw both Seinfeld and Pryor may have found Seinfeld to be the superior comedian. That’s their opinion, and they are entitled to it without rebuke. Except this one.
Let’s pretend I know something. It’s easy. I do it all the time.
First, I am not at all saying that neither Jerry Seinfeld nor Rosanne Cash – whose show we enjoyed but were not raving about – are without talent. Both are prodigiously talented. But as I heard a smart friend of my once quote a smart associate of his:
“Never forget there is a continuum underlying every dichotomy.”
As every gunfighter who is truly honest with himself is aware…
You may be fast, but there is always somebody out there who’s faster.
This immutable truism is no way whatsoever a “deal breaker”. Being good but not great is hardly a terminal condition… unless you’re a gunfighter and then it is. But other than that, you’ve got nothing to worry about.
(Unless you’re obsessed with being the best, in which case, the woman I live with will give you her card.) (She’s a psychologist, for those who have better things to do than to remember who I am married to.)
There’s a continuum for everything (the Latin plural for continuum being continua. No charge – thank you for coming.) And sooner or later, we all discover where we belong.
This brings up another issue, which I shall perhaps address at a later date. That issue involves the troubling question an interested show biz aspirant might wonder about:
“Have I got what it takes?”
To answer that question involves evaluations on various continua. Not just the “talent” continuum that seems the most important, but arguably isn’t. There is also “Determination” continuum. “Patience”. “Resiliency”. And – generally viewed retrospectively – “Luck.”
To name just four continua, the rest of which I shall hold in reserve, in case I, in fact, end up writing a post on the matter, so you won’t say, ‘You did this already.”
Okay, back to the concert.
Rosanne Cash versus Bobbie Gentry. (On whose summer replacement series, The Bobbie Gentry Show, I was a “regular” for four weeks. *
* May not be available on YouTube. But if it is, I’d rather not know how to find it.)
The reason the comparison of the two singer-songwriters comes to mind is that, during her concert, Rosanne Cash digressed from the repertoire of songs she wrote and recorded to sing “Ode To Billie Joe”, written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry. (You see how it all ties together?)
Rosanne Cash performing that Bobbie Gentry classic reminded me, owing to my acute sensitivity in this regard…
That Bobbie Gentry is better.
As a singer and as a songwriter.
Does that make Rosanne Cash dog meat? Or course not. Roseanne Cash was solid. It’s just that Bobbie Gentry slots closer to the “good end” of the continuum. (That being the “country-western” continuum on which Bobbie Gentry trails Patsy Cline.)
I should also report that it wasn’t just me responding in that manner. You could feel it in the audience – there was appreciation, but no “bring down the house.” Even husband Leventhal, during the performance, observed,
“You people are really polite.”
I am not sure if that was a compliment or a complaint.
Rosanne Cash is a good singer, an intelligent songwriter, and a likable performer. But there’s an intensity missing.
I’m not sure Bobbie Gentry appears professionally anymore. But I do know this.
When you’re listening to the radio, and after the recognizable intro, you hear…
“It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusky, delta day-a-a-ay…”
You prick up your ears, and you listen.