I was watching TV in the gym while riding a bike and VH1 came on with show about Adam Lambert. Adam was talking about all the changes in his life and how, at one point, he really decided that he wanted to be a rock star. Then he said something that I found fascinating. He said, “I know one doesn’t just become a rock star because they want to—I would really have to prepare for it.”
The thing that struck me was that “Rock Star” was a vocation to him (and it may be to others) in and of itself. Most of the artists I’ve worked with over the years BECAME stars by honing their stage craft over many dates played out, and by striving for perfection in their songs, and learning how to make records.
It should be pointed out here that “rock stars” as we now know them, really didn’t exist until the 60’s. Elvis was a “star” in the 50’s and 60’s, but not a “rock” star. Most artists of the day that came from the counter culture just wanted to play their music and get good at it. That’s not to say that some weren’t looking for celebrity, but the notion of a “rock star” as a vocation wasn’t thought about like that.
Eric Clapton wanted to be a guitar virtuoso—that’s what he set his goal to be. The Rolling Stones wanted to play rhythm and blues and rock, just like Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry did. Those were their benchmarks. But the accent was on playing and then learning how to entertain an audience.
I read recently where Glen Hansard of Swell Season, spoke about the art of becoming popular as “the law of attraction rather than promotion.”
I believe that true artists like Eric Clapton, The Stones, The Beatles, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and later, bands like Alice In Chains, Nirvana, Green Day, etc.,etc. all ATTRACTED us, with their songs and their persona, as opposed to billboards, magazines, and general media telling us we should pay attention to them. Actually, had that happened back in the day, we would have had the opposite reaction, felt co-opted, and would have probably run for the woods. In fact, I remember Bob Dylan telling me specifically, that he did not like to “promote himself,” in any traditional manner. He felt it looked forced and he didn’t need to do that. He felt if people liked his music they would come to him—and they did.
I have no axe to grind with Adam Lambert, as he is an obviously talented singer and performer, but I do have an issue with people trying to become rock stars by some book learned method. Are we saying, if we have a good song (even if we don’t write it ourselves), dress up and wear the correct makeup, and have some stage moves, that we can become a bonafide rock star?
I think not. I think that was Warrant and Winger and a few others. They don’t last, they can’t—there’s not enough there, there.
A rock star is not something you train to become. You hone your rock craft, pay attention to writing something worthwhile that hopefully will connect with many other hearts. Then people become attracted to you. You “become” a star of rock as continually more and more people “discover” you–because they feel a true connection.
Keep rockin’ kids!