February 4, 2005: Am I Blue?
February 4, 2005
I just returned from Jamaica, where I played at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues festival. It was an extraordinary experience, for a lot of reasons. My family had a house in Jamaica for over thirty years. My dad bought the Cinnamon Hill Great House outside Montego Bay when I was in my teens, and I spent many happy days there. In fact, I dearly loved Cinnamon Hill—almost as much as Dad and June, who spent more and more time there as they grew older.
I had not been back to Jamaica since they died, so I was anxious about the feelings I was sure would come up when I went down there for the festival. I went up to Cinnamon Hill and made my farewells, as we are selling the house, and I don’t expect to stay there ever again. It seems when you lose a parent, you embark on a long series of losses of things and feelings that are attached to them: houses, belongings, traditions, habits, plans. The older I get, the more I see how life is about loss, and that it’s possible, as Wordsworth said, that our sorrows carve out a place for our joy, but it’s also just as likely that loss just leaves a very large space at the center of your life that stays empty indefinitely. I don’t know yet. Maybe not enough time has passed, or maybe I’m just not smart enough or old enough to know what to expect.
In any case, I played the festival, and the stage was set up in a little valley just below Cinnamon Hill, so that from the stage I could see the lights on the back terrace of the house. Why they were on, I don’t know; perhaps the guards had put them on for security reasons. But it was as if Dad and June were sitting up on the hill, listening to my set, as they did during the festival in years past with other artists. It was a sweet moment.
Now, I’m home, and preparing to go back in the studio to complete ‘Black Cadillac’, which should be out by September. I don’t know what to tell you about it, other than I think the songs are good—some of them are even important, or at least they seem so. They are truthful, some of them are even factual. They are sad and angry and defiant and redemptive. All the things I have felt of late.
I am thinking a lot about what Dylan said, about some things having to be overlooked. I am finding the answer to that in unexpected places. I wouldn’t have predicted that what I want to overlook at the moment is my own sense of honor, or goodness. Or responsibility. That what I want to give attention to is the defiance, the volcanic feeling, and keeping my own counsel. What I want to overlook is the need of others to define me by my father. What I want to pay attention to is the sharp edges, the spontaneity, the resistance to narrow definitions, and my own careful observations of my own specific Truth.
It’s all still under revision, all in formation.
I turn fifty this year.
There are a lot of habits, ways of thinking, and even people I don’t want to take with me into the next decade.
I have a few months to make my decisions.
And then the record comes out. And it will reflect some of those changes, I can promise.
Still blue, in more ways than one.
< l a s t | n e x t >