Nelson George: City Kid "Voices Inside My Head" (excerpt)
By Nelson | march 15, 2009 | Post a comment
City Kid: A Writer's Memoir of Ghetto Life and Post-Soul Success
VOICES INSIDE MY HEAD
Baker made her New York concert debut at Avery Fisher Hall on the heels
of Rapture, I was in the fourth row. That night she certainly fulfilled
my need for the transcendental. Many in the crowd must have shared my
eagerness to hear her, because Baker was rewarded with standing
ovations after her third song, seventh song, and tenth song. Somewhere
buried in my archives are my notes on that show. I don’t remember what
songs inspired that response, but I do know I’ve never attended a show
for what was in essence, a debuting singer where the audience was so
passionately in love. On that particular night Baker and the audience
were in absolute sync. It was on that night two decades ago that I
decided that, if I ever got married (something still in doubt all these
years later), Baker (or a recording of her) signing “Angel” or “Sweet
Love” would be played as my bride and I walked down the aisle.
remember thinking as I left Avery Fisher Hall that it was nights like
this that made all the bad gigs, uninspired professionalism, and
formulaic performances I endured worth it. It was why I waded through
the piles of vinyl that surrounded my desk at Billboard. I was always
looking for that music and performer who, however briefly, touched the
divine and shared that feeling with me. During my prime years as a
music critic there were others who did it for me (Tracy Chapman,
Babyface, Bruce Springsteen, Luther Vandross, Fela, Aretha, Paul Simon,
John Coltrane, and Miles), but something about Anita Baker made me feel
it so profoundly.
Looking back to my late twenties, I think now
that I was seeking something in art that was lacking in my life. While
I gloried in these transporting musical moments, I couldn’t connect
emotionally with people in a n equally satisfying way. I was in love at
least twice during these years, and had strong romantic connections to
a series of amazing girlfriends. But I never married, and rarely
totally committed. I can chalk some of that up to just being a horny
young man. I think that’s understandable.
However, I know there
was more to it. This feeling I’d had when I was a teenager, of being
outside of my own emotions, and of being dispassionate about my life,
affected my love affairs. I could feel a cold, distant part of myself
take over. That part of me could find fault with my love for any woman.
It wasn’t that I attacked them, but I criticized myself out of the
relationship. I wasn’t listening enough. I wasn’t sympathetic enough. I
was too busy. I was married to my writing.
Whatever I said to
them (and told myself), it was just a justification for not truly
committing. It felt like something inside was blocking me, and I cried
about this inability quite a bit during this period. I’d play Otis
Redding and John Coltrane alone in my high-ceilinged living room,
drowning in my melancholy for several spins of the record, and then I’d
vow to do better and be more open the next time. It was sad and funny
that I could be so damn emotional about a record but not the women who
City Kid: A Writer's Memoir of Ghetto Life and Post-Soul Success will be available April 2nd, 2009.
Stay tuned for more info on Nelson George's upcoming City Kid appearances:
April 2nd, 2009 – Vertigo Books (College Park, MD - http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=55644155078&ref= / http://www.vertigo-books.com/)
April 6th, 2009 – Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe (Harlem)
April 7th, 2009 – Barnes & Noble (Brooklyn Heights)
April 15th, 2009 – Marcus Books (Oakland, CA)
April 16th, 2009 – Book Soup (West Hollywood, CA)
April 17th, 2009 – Eso Won Books & The Root Down (LA, CA)
May 13th, 2009 - Brooklyn Historical Society
note: for instore appearances most stores require books be purchased onsite.
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2 comments for 'Nelson George: City Kid "Voices Inside My Head" (excerpt)'
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