Wednesday, December 23, 2009
U2 Speaks on the Price of Originality
Starting into "U2: At the End of the World" by Bill Flannagan and I thought these thoughts of Bono's on their originality were worth repeating (something one cannot always say about Bono and his thoughts on every subject known to man). In this case, he actually knows what he is talking about. Oh, and by the way, in case you didn't know, Bono has, ummm, potty mouth and so I took the liberty of quoting him without spelling out the expletives...
"U2 are the world's worst wedding band... For instance, we were always jealous of the fact that we never knew anyone else's songs. That started a lot of B sides where we did cover versions and tried to get into the structure of songwriting vicariously and than apply it. This is a band that's one of the biggest acts in the world, and we know *#%&@@! in terms of what most musicians would consider to be important. 'Cause all of these bands, including this new crop, have all played in bar bands, they're all well versed in rock & roll structure -- which is also why they're all so well versed in rock & roll cliches."
Something about that statement grabs me in that it hints at the cost of originality. While there is nothing new or admirable about being original and unsuccessful, boring or pretentious, I admit that I am attracted to those who are original and, somehow, widely appreciated, successful and continuously innovative. Bono continues:
"Imitation and creation are opposites. The imitative spirit is very different from the creative spirit, which is not to say that we all don't beg, steal, and borrow from everybody, but if the synthesis of it all is not an original spirit, it's unimportant".
I think the last word, "unimportant", is the most powerful one in his entire statement. We live in an age that is overflowing with entertainment, political posturing, religious activity, economic ebb and flow and information overload. However, it strikes me that so much of this is "unimportant". So much will blow away in the wind. Including this post, but try to enjoy it anyway.
There's a price to originiality -- a risk that cannot be calculated in advance. One must synthesize, wade in, collaborate, offer up the result and hope that it stands the test. Today, I thank God for those who are willing to pay the price and share the results.