By Fred Pruitt
(revised from 2002)
My wife is a musician, what they call these days a “singer/songwriter.” She’s wonderful. She is enjoying a rising success here in Louisville after years of plugging away at it. The reason is that when she performs her heart comes through and touches everyone who is listening, whether she is doing a rowdy rock ‘n roll tune or something gentle and sweet. For years everybody has said the same thing.
Last night she had a job with her band, late night, often the case for this craft. She’s been under the weather, and had already had one job this week, with one more to go. It’s exhausting. Especially if you have a day-job, too. She feels the effects. I know this, but nobody else there does.
And the show is stunning! They’re on from 10 PM – 2 AM, with one break, and the time flies. The band cooks, Janis radiates. Everybody in the audience that I talk to tell me how much they enjoy her, her stage presence, her songs, her spirit. They could not have complimented her more.
This morning I said something to her about how wonderful she had been last night. It was not meant just as a general husband-wife support statement — I really meant it. She shines when she plays, and you know she is doing exactly what it is she was put on earth to do. But then she told me how self-conscious she feels so much of the time when she plays, how critical of herself. And the way she overcomes it when she performs is by simply going into the songs. She puts all her earnestness into the songs as a way to escape the self-consciousness and self-criticism. That’s as far as she goes in telling it, because then she’s just singing the songs. She has no thought for their effect past her singing. But the result for those listening is the magic of an earnest heart through music telling familiar tales that penetrate other eager hearts. Faces beam.
“There you go,” I said, “death producing life.” The Cross.
I saw it as crystal clear as could be. I saw the whole picture of what was going on in an instant. Only I know the tension involved in that music coming forth. Only I know the stress, the worry, the dread, the pure hard work, the background of everyday life, that is behind every shining moment on stage. I’m the on-scene observer. And more than that, I also am caught up in all of the reality of every worry, every dread, the hard pulling-on-you-from-every-direction stress that she experiences, since we are one. But as if in a vision, in a moment I saw all that whirling dervish swallowed up in her “escape” into letting the Song take her over. Thank God for the whirling dervish. What forceful-passionate-gentle-strong-loving Life comes forth.