Friday, February 11, 2011

Stop Me Before I Kill Again!

Take no prisoners! - That’s what legendary singer Billy Paul used to tell his band right before going on stage.

I’ve been a performer all my life, singer, poet, comedian, lecturer, maniacal street celebrity. (HIDEOUS DETAILS AVAILABLE HERE). For much of what I laughingly refer to as "my career" I regarded assassins as the apex of professionalism – heartless, all business, all skill.

Over the years my attitude about performance has transformed, closely tracking my recovery. At first I thought of “the act” as a mask I clung onto with white knuckles, until one could not tell where it ended and my face began. As I became more comfortable and facile in front of a crowd, moving with glib, even condescending confidence, I polished the mask until it shone so brightly even the people sitting in the very last row needed sunglasses. But then something happened, I grew more confident still and suddenly craft and “art” became less fascinating.

I must credit certain performers for carrying me across the river; by watching these world class artists perform I came to understand that craft is only a tool, the real art is in opening up your true self and sharing what you have, whatever it is that makes you special, whatever it is that’s unavailable anywhere else.

Lily Tomlin, Richard Pryor, Keith Jarrett, Sarah Vaughan, Sun Ra, and Jimi Hendrix. When these people left the stage they didn’t take anything with them, they gave it all. They all shared one quality; fearless generosity.

Craft is just something you internalize until you can forget it altogether and be yourself – cool, relaxed, smile on your face – bathing in the spotlight’s unforgiving chill.

One For The Money

One for the money
Two for the
Show me the money
Three to get
Is the microphone on?

Do it like you’ve never
Done it before
Exactly how you did it
All the other times

Act like yourself
Draw no attention
Only the job is important

Check the equipment
One last time
Profile, attitude, smile
There isn’t any margin for error
There isn’t any second chance
There cannot be any hesitation
Strike dispassionately

With hideous precision
An assassin punches in
He won’t take any prisoners
The terms of his agreement are
Clean up
Get out of town

Alistair McHarg


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  1. A: c.f. message sent elsewhere concerning this lyric... PBH

  2. PBH - All my poems are up for grabs - feel free to review for possible utility.