As matter, we all conform to the same basic rule: we spend our time acquiring and relinquishing space. Since it is impossible for matter (i.e. the same chair, the same baseball, the same dog, the same human being) to exist in two places at once, that’s pretty much how we all roll. We are conformists, therefore, to that degree. Unless you’re anti-matter, in which case your bullshit is as good as mine. So why does some music make me happy and make me want to dance while other music makes me want to vomit bile? I think the reason is that conformity in music is bad. I know that music is the background score in the lives of most people. It is the fad of the moment as one grows and matures. Tastes change as one ages and experiences life. But there are those of us who are in it for keeps. We are the artists, musicians, actors, etc. We are the ones who study and suffer and strive to find that original voice that lies dormant within us all. We are the non-conformists. There are those groundbreakers – Michael Jackson, Nina Simone, John Coltrane, B.B. King, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Fela Kuti and hundreds, maybe thousands more, who will remain original, creative dynamos. These are the voices that are pure, unfettered by nonsense, unresponsive to the soulless shit heads that populate the entertainment industry. There are those who are in it for the fame and glory and money. I suppose there is nothing wrong with that. As far as I am concerned, however, these are the conformists, the unoriginal voices who clutter the cosmos. Sometimes even the most sincere and soulful voices get hung up with demons, non-conformists are vulnerable. The history books are full of them. They paid the ultimate price for their non-conformity: death. However, I believe that this existence is far more complex than life and death. The purest voices cannot be hushed, even by death. Mozart is as alive today as he was in 1790. Van Gogh, Charlie Parker, Robert Johnson, Ari Up, Caruso, Memphis Minnie, Bob Marley and so many more will continue to bless this world for as long as there is a world. My dear friend and musical mentor, the late, great Tommy McCook of The Skatalites, once said to me, “Never bring the wrath to the music.” To me, that means to keep it real. Don’t gunk up the works with petty bullshit. Funk up the works with the big beat. Hit the note for the sake of the note, not for the sake of a suit and not for the sake of your ego. Hit the note because the note must be hit, because the note is a part of you, yet with a life of its own. The note itself is a non-conformist. But you know you don’t have to be an artist to be a non-conformist. Be kind, be thoughtful, be considerate, be thankful, be loving and your voice will echo throughout the heavens.
Joe Ferry, 23 July 2011. Shohola PA.