Rodriguez Diaries

These are not the "Rodriguez Diaries" signifying the actual diaries of the recently resurrected and acclaimed singer Sixto Rodriguez. Rather the notion comes from my own motion in words, that began with my fascination with, and admiration of, the man, as well of an appreciation of his music.

When diaries are considered worthy of being published, it is at least in part because during the course of a particular diary, something happens. And even though the context here is vastly different in both intention and format, something has indeed happened along my way.

So it was that last night at the Rodriguez concert in Broomfield, Colo., that I had what felt like a crucial awakening. And as with many awakenings the afterthought comes to call: "So what took me so long?" This one wasn't, as in my prior piece, about his being and not being Jesus or Buddha, but rather it was about the words of his songs, some of them in particular.

The words of some of his songs, such as "Only Good for Conversation" are evocative, sensual, gritty, filled with the lower rungs of human entrapment and loss. But then there are the words that, even though I've heard them before, they seemed so politically spot on right this second, that I felt a jolt. Could these be words of 40 years ago, or even more?

Let's take for instance, "This Is Not a Song It's an Outburst: Or the Establishment Blues." Try on some of these lyrics, out of order for the moment:

  • The mayor hides the crime ratecouncil woman hesitates
  • Public gets irate but forget the vote date Garbage ain't collected, women ain't protected
  • Politicians using, people they're abusing
  • The mafia's getting bigger, like pollution in the river
  • Gun sales are soaring, housewives find life boring.
  • The pope digs population, freedom from taxation.
  • Adultery plays the kitchen, bigot cops non-fiction
  • The little man gets shafted, sons and monies drafted
  • Living by a time piece, new war in the Far East
  • Can you pass the Rorschach test?

When I take in the words, among other things I realize that some but not all of the words, speak of truth of the poorer parts of our nation. Then comes the other awareness that had been with me for awhile, that was especially vivid when I heard many people expressing amazement that Rodriguez didn't have success in America back in the day. Why, I've said (and certainly thought), he was too gritty. He wasn't a Bob Dylan made gritty on purpose. He (Rodriguez) was singing from what he knew and lived: He wasn't visiting the lower edges of life, rather they were his address. And so, was America then or is America now ready for the messages which, if we listen to with heart and mind, even more than worship and adrenalin, can hurt us and make us care?

I am not sure. I do know that sometimes we rely on our outliers such as Michael Moore whom we depend on to be a voice speaking out against pollution of all kinds, while we become more and more remote. But this part of my "Rodriguez" diary of sorts isn't meant to be a rant. The more and more I focus on our being stuck in polarity and distraction, the more I find we are overwhelmed by confusion and emotional congestion. And the closer I'm willing to travel to these parts, the more I find the parts inside of me that need some work, before or while I can help anyone else.

After all I was one of the people who came to Broomfield in part for that moment when this human phenomenon was introduced to the audience as the found wonder, something really that actually and ultimately minimizes his contribution and value, in the long and short run. At the same time, the infatuation felt real, only that maybe it was for me and something for the rest of us that can move beyond itself before it freezes in place.

So it seemed as of last night, that my own infatuation was going through shifts so that I was no longer, for the time being, looking for a prophet whom I could admire or almost worship. I felt better about the pilgrimages: to the film, to Town Hall in New York, and to Broomfield. At least I was moving, something inside me was moving. And something that became especially poignant as I looked over the crowd of thousands and thousands of people being part of the applause, was my reflection: Was this concert one of our ways of exercising a kind of protest by proxy, which dies at the end of the concert? Or could the words continue to live inside of us, and move within and outside as well?

Is our job, when we go to a concert like that, to take in some of the messages and ponder them, perhaps actually stress about them? Is in fact one of the arenas we need help with, and need to collaborate about, precisely how to stress creatively about resolving things about which we are so divided. What really divides, distracts and lulls us to sleep?

Life isn't only a happiness or tranquility fest, one where emotional regulation means calming and nothing more. It also means the amping up of motivation when there are obstacles to be faced, challenges to be met. One way, in terms of my so called "Rodriguez Diaries," of getting into deeper awareness, may have also included the going back more than once.

Maybe I can even stop now, stay home or inside a bit, and think further about the issues he has raised for me, while I continue to be grateful for his presence in the world.

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