‘Think where man’s glory most begins and ends and say my glory was my friends’ (WB Yeats)
‘The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.’ (Bob Marley)
Some of us spend our whole lives trying to figure out just exactly who we are.
For some creative artists that pursuit can be both furious and fruitful – consider the late much lamented David Bowie.
But there is a high cost in psychic and emotional wear and tear in living such lives.
Better to my mind to find out who you are early and then just be.
Easier, of course, said than lived.
So, I find that when I encounter that rare person who is entirely comfortable in their own skin and content to be nothing other than themselves I am both surprised and enormously impressed.
And, my ultimate example of such a person would be Roebuck ‘Pop’ Staples; singer, songwriter, guitarist extraordinaire and Patriarch of the greatest Gospel group of the modern era, The Staple Singers.
I first saw him some time in the mid 1980s at one of my favourite music venues/watering holes of those times ‘The Borderline’ a small basement club in Charing Cross Road London.
Somehow, that night, Pop through his prophetic guitar, beguiling voice and grace filled songs turned a ramshackle crew of booze hounds and music aficionados into a joyful clapping on the off beat congregation.
The inner lit warmth of Pop’s faith and the transparent sincerity of his belief in the fellowship of mankind made for a transformative experience.
I had expected to be affected by his history and his talent.
I had not expected to be so moved by his person.
Actually to feel I was a better person simply by having been in the same room as him.
With Pop there’s no tortured theology, no secret knowledge for the elect alone.
Instead there’s faith, fellowship, fraternity and guitar playing throbbing with power and portent.
What more can I say?
Well, just that if you’re looking for some resolutions for 2017 (and every year thereafter) you might listen closely to the lyric above.
And if you want some watchwords as the year progresses you won’t do better than to remember and embody some more wise words Pop lived out every day of his life:
Reach out touch a hand – make a friend if you can.
In these troubled times that will certainly do for me