Thursday, October 13, 2016

There is no substitute

When I first began playing drums, there were two drummers that I modelled my style on: John Bonham and Keith Moon. Although, I preferred the style of John Bonham, the example of Keith Moon was more comfortable to follow because it was easy and took little effort for me to accidentally play cool stuff than to actually know what I was doing. I rethought this after my drum instructor once said to me, “Russell, there was only one Keith Moon,” and I thought about the technical superiority of Kenney Jones, Keith Moon’s replacement after he was dead.

While both John Bonham and Keith Moon had died at age 32 for reasons that were completely avoidable, Keith Moon’s death was preceded by something that was both profound and prophetic. In the song My Generation by The Who, there’s a line that goes: “I hope I die before I get old (Talkin' 'bout my generation).” By the time I began dedicating serious time to proper drumming technique, I saw an early interview where Keith Moon was asked if he truly hoped that. He answered in the affirmative. It seems he got his wish.

Although I think Simon Phillips is an absolutely amazing drummer and I thoroughly enjoyed his performance with The Who on their 25th-anniversary The Kids Are Alright reunion tour just before I started music school, I wish I saw Keith Moon behind the drums that evening.

I did get to see another musician who had a profound influence on me, Dave Brubeck. I would have liked to have seen Joe Morello playing drums in that last lineup of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, but it was inspiring to see this man in his 80s, quiet and a bit frail as he stood at the mic to talk, play the piano with as much passion and intensity as he did in the 1950s and 1960s. In contrast to the song titled My Generation, one of Dave Brubeck’s albums is titled Two Generations of Brubeck. When a person values his own life and the life of others, there is no shame in growing old or even in suffering.

This is the reason physician assisted suicide has become an option: many in this generation place all value on self and not on others. It is easy and takes little effort. If one generation cannot give an example of courage in the face of great suffering at the end of life, how will the next generation learn courage in the face of great suffering at any stage in life? But there is a more important question: why would a person think his or her life is not worth continuing, regardless of any emotional or physical pain?

Let’s make sure the kids are alright from conception until natural death.

(This is the only video I've ever made of me playing the drums. The influence of John Bonham should be obvious, but the influence of Keith Moon does come out, particularly in one spot where I haven't any clue of what I did with the cymbals.)

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