I don’t know how I missed this.
Thankfully, in a meeting today, our management team brought this wonder to our collective attention. The video was presented in the context of team-building- and a discussion of the employment of varied talents, brought together to create something almost beyond belief in its greatness.
It’s still blowing my mind.
Not just the undeniable beauty of the music that these sessions produced (you know I love great music) but because it is indicative of the overarching culture that drives my place of work. And because it completely corresponds with the direction in which my brain has been running this week.
Bringing together disparate elements with individual strengths to create an incredible whole. Yeah. I like that. A lot.
I also like the song a lot. Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile (and Aoife O’Donovan on Here and Heaven) came together in 2011 and demonstrated that things like background and genre need mean nothing when there is a common goal. That Bluegrass and Classical music speak to the same atavistic drives and desires and propensity for greatness and cooperation that we have as humans.
The two genres might generally appeal to different sorts of people, from different places and different circumstances, but the artists demonstrated that when the elements are brought together, the superficiality of some types of context can vanish in the face of the purity of what is produced.
As you might be aware, I’ve been saying that very thing about our stories and songs for quite some time hereabouts (have a run through the archives if you need a refresher).
A goat rodeo is a chaotic situation in which many things must all go right for it to all come together. It is often used to describe corporate or bureaucratic circumstances, but, in this case, it refers to the perfect storm of challenges that is required to combine the elements of the styles of music.
(N.B. It’s also, apparently, a real thing. A rodeo. But with goats. Go figure.)
The term is often used negatively to describe an unmanageable event or circumstance. The artists who participated in The Goat Rodeo Sessions have turned that definition on its head. They prove that order– constructed through the work of many- can be used to overcome chaos- another specific point I’ve chatted about recently.
There’s a whole lot of chaos out there. I can hardly bear to watch the news some days. I could easily list off some of the more distressing manifestations of the chaos that is making headlines around the world today. It would be a long list.
I’ve written posts about that sort of thing before. Not being one to bury my head in the sand and deny the crazy, it’s hard to move past the day-to-day realities that demonstrate the desire- on the part of too many people- to act in ways that reflect the lowest common denominator amongst us human-type-beings. Horrors and injustice and just plain bad behaviour clog the news feeds and contribute to the general malaise that seems unwilling to let loose its grip.
Exposure to direct evidence of the contrary- the highest heights of cooperation and collaboration- mitigates the pessimism.
Not long ago I threatened to talk about these guys.
I have to admit that I was more than a little awestruck waaaaaay back in the day when the Wilburys showed up. Sure, there had been other examples of super-groups- it was the post-BandAid era, after all- but that particular combination of singer-songwriting majesty just blew me away.
Bob Dylan. Roy Orbison. Jeff Lynne. George Harrison. Tom Petty.
Handle With Care, while about the trials and tribulations of fame, spoke to the Wilbury ideal. These five guys. All HUGE musical presences with the exposure and the accolades rightly afforded by their decades of dedication to their craft. You’d have to wonder- with some justification- how the egos all managed to fit in the same building, let alone studio.
But. The project stemmed out of George’s desire to do an album with his ‘mates’. Just him and some pals writing some tunes and contributing their own, inimitable, voices to some songs for the pure joy of doing so.
To add to the fun, they created pseudonyms and personae around the conceit of the Wilbury family- traveling musicians who were half-brothers stemming from a single, fictional, father. Along with the fun, the stories, the harmonies and sense of togetherness, as the great songsters they are/were, they provided little bits of advice that remain timeless.
‘I’ve been uptight and made a mess
But I’ll clean it up myself, I guess’
Personal accountability- a pillar of individual success, but also one that contributes to the smooth functioning of groups and development of the product needing to be delivered. It comes up as a theme in this one, too:
‘You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring (End of the Line)
Waiting for someone to tell you everything (End of the Line)
Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring (End of the Line)’
After Roy Orbison died of a heart attack, the Wilburys kept on Traveling. The rocking chair- empty save for his guitar- and the brief close-up on the framed photo still speak to me about the importance of remembrance and recognition of lives touched while illustrating that the road doesn’t end when we lose the people we love.
I still get choked up when I watch that video.
As the years moved ever onward, we also lost George (admission here- he will always be my fave from the Fab 4).
‘I don’t see nothing new but I feel a lot of change
And I get the strangest feeling, as I’m
Heading for the light’
The joy of this song- finding a path after a time in darkness- is so very George. Yet, the addition of Jeff’s distinctive harmonies and the combined guitars make it a Wilburys song. Truly- bits and pieces of the best of some of the best of a generation of musical presences- what is more positive and concerted than that?
A concert is ‘a public performance of music’, but it also represents ‘agreement in design or plan’ and ‘union formed by mutual communication of opinion and views’.
Despite the individual and collective merits of each of their songs, as we head into the first long weekend of the summer (come on blue skies and rising temperatures!), this is the one that will be heading the playlist on the Shuffle Daemon.
In that short piece of goodness (mainly authored by Tom), each Wilbury is identifiable as an individual- but the concert of it all makes it one of my favourites of their joint composition.
(I really do like Jeff’s bit best, though)
‘Still the sun went down your way
Down from the blue into the gray
Where I stood I saw you walk away
You danced away’
I’ll be dancing my way into the weekend. Spending it with friends and family and acknowledging that for all our individual strengths, we remain best together.
We can all be honourary Wilburys. Let the concert begin.