His songs are all completely different.
“But yet, they’re me,” Don McLean said. Everybody knows his lyrics, ‘Bye, bye Miss American Pie’. It’s about the day the music died. And it will be sung and talked about for the next 100 years.
Don has a really beautiful sense of nostalgia… and the meaning we can derive from it to learn about our our present circumstances.
“Have you ever felt that way about yourself?” I asked. “That you transformed nostalgia? And used it to create music and arts?”
He said, “no.
He said, “I don’t really know what I’m doing. I try to sing about an idea that hasn’t been sung about before. Secondly, I try to make a song that’s unique that I’ve never heard before. The melody is different. The lyric style is different and all of that surrounds the different idea, the different notion or complicated notion or a very simple notion.”
I felt nostalgic just listening to him. Don’s been a musician for 50+ years. Which means he didn’t have tech to help him blow up (like we do now).
50 years ago, 40 years ago, 30 years ago, there was no Youtube with hundreds of videos teaching you how to play the guitar or any other skill.
So how did he get so good at such a young age?
“You had to study very carefully,” he said. (He was telling me about the banjo.) “You never saw it played. You’d listen over and over. And you’d try to figure it out. You’d spend a couple of years doing it wrong.”
“So why didn’t you quit?” I asked.
I ask this a lot. Because we’ve been trained to believe that “quitting is for losers.” That’s a myth.
Being an artist was Don’s only obsession. “It was simple for me,” he said, “because I knew there was only one thing I wanted to know how to do. And I kept working on that.”
That’s something we’ve lost in our technology filled world.
“If you have it all at your fingertips with all this technology that’s available the concentration isn’t employed,” he said. “Concentration is the most important thing. And I don’t think people can concentrate too well with all the distractions.”
“So how do we cancel out the noise? How do we build that concentration?”
His answer surprised me. Because I wanted the shortcut…
“You can’t cancel the noise out,” Don said. “You have to learn to concentrate with the world as it is. You can’t change the world. You have to find a way to focus your mind and your energies on concepts that interest you.”
Today everything moves so fast. And it’s tough to get a handle on it all.
I think it just comes down to to one thing. This is what I use to spark my own individual direction each day.
And I’ll tell you what it is in just a minute. First, I want to tell you how Don reminded me of this. He said, “If you want to write songs and you want to be a musician go way back and start listening to wonderful music by wonderful artists that you need to discover. Put the good stuff in your head and the good stuff will come out.”
Inspiration is everywhere. It has the ability to transform me from tired to energized, down to excited, stuck to creative.
It takes digging. And it takes freedom to find inspiration. But it’s also free…
I like to think this podcast helps with that. I like to think it’s part of your trip to feeling inspired.
Links and Resources
- “Visual Miscellaneum: The Bestselling Classic, Revised and Updated: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia” by David McCandless
- “Knowledge Is Beautiful: Impossible Ideas, Invisible Patterns, Hidden Connections–Visualized” David McCandless
- Visit David’s website – informationisbeautiful.net
- Watch David’s TED Talk – The Beauty of Data Visualization – which now has over 2.5 million views
- These are a few of David’s infographics we talk about in the podcast (most have been updated)
- One of the first infographics from 1869 by Charles Minard depicting Napoleon’s March in Russia in 1812
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