This is one for you SRV fans. The guys and gals that own every album, and who know more about his life than most people know about yours. Almost two years ago I posted my first video of my Blues Junior Amp. I played through a couple parts of songs, and threw it up on YouTube. Seemed to get a pretty good response and there were a fair amount of comments regarding my playing, not just the amp’s great tone.
One day last year, a comment appeared that simply read: “WEAK! NO SOUL!”. The commenter was a guitar player who I’ll leave unnamed, but I will mention that he ran a SRV tribute act. And he was a pretty good player at that.
This 10 letter piece of ignorance made me think very hard about how to respond. I didn’t happen to agree with his evaluation of my playing, but that’s not what bothered me the most. No, there was something just….wrong with this comment, coming from this particular person.
I finally knew what I had such a hard time reconciling. How could anyone who claims to be paying tribute to SRV through his music, act like such a complete moron towards someone else he doesn’t even know? It really irritated me the more I thought about it, and over the past year, I’ve thought about that paradox many times.
If you soak up Stevie’s music, but ignore his character, you’re missing the point.
I’ve said it before, but in for the sake of disclosure, I’ll say it again. I never knew SRV. Never met him, his band, never saw him play live, and certainly don’t have any deep knowledge about his personal life. But here’s what I do know. After nearly dying from a life of excess, Stevie stood on stage and told some variant of this message over and over again.
“Ya know, right now the most important thing in my life is to make sure you understand that, first of all I thank god I’m alive today,and I mean that. You see, I spent too many years of my life thinking that the big party was the whole thing. It took me quiet a while to find out that the real deal is to be able to be enough of a person on your own to know when somebody loves you and cares about you. You see, we are here, as far as I can tell, to help each other; our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our enemies. That is to help each other and not hurt each other. And sometimes to help them we have got to help ourself. So that we will know that they are around in the first place. Are you listening to me? Thank you. I’m glad to hear that. - ref
“as far as I can tell, to help each other; our brothers, our sisters, our friends, our enemies.”
Think about that. In Stevie’s own words, we’re here to help each other, our brothers, our sisters, our friends, and our enemies. This is not simply Stevie the guitar player talking, this is Stevie, the man. The man who came back from the pits of addiction, and had the courage to share this very, not-rock-and-roll message.
If I can be so bold as to speculate about what Stevie meant, I’d say that Stevie figured out that going through life, looking out only for yourself, is a great way to die while you’re still alive.
There are a lot of players who try to imitate Stevie’s style. Not everyone wears the hat, the signature clothing, or all that…. but some people do. While I’m personally not into the dressing up aspect of it, I understand why people do it.
But if I can make one humble suggestion. If you’re going to call yourself a dedicated SRV fan, than act like it. Treat people kindly, take his words to heart. The words he nearly died to be able to share. Don’t treat people like trash, don’t treat life like a competition, and for the love of his music, don’t simply borrow the music and ignore the character.
I’m not suggesting that everyone has to model their life on Stevie’s life if they want to call themselves a fan. You have the freedom to live however you want. But in my honest opinion, you’ve significantly wasted your life if all you learn is his music, and ignore the wisdom he shared before he passed.