Issue #24 / February 2019
In your response to an audience question in Brisbane, I am bothered that you dismissed the idea of leaving a legacy – that it didn’t matter what you left behind. I’d like to challenge you on this. A body of artistic work, that has also had an enormous personal impact on the lives of many people – given meaning, comfort, joy and hope, and shaped their world views – is a legacy to be acknowledged and respected. Could you expand on your thoughts of your legacy?
ANGELINA, BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA
I very much take your point – my answer was dismissive and unhelpful. As you point out, it undermined the relationship with my work that other people may have. I’m sorry about that. I very much appreciate you writing in and pushing back against my statement.
What I should have said is that I am still actively engaged in the business of songwriting and doing everything in my power to stay afloat. This is not as easy as it may appear and involves a certain amount of self-deception. Part of that process is to occasionally affect a dismissive attitude toward my earlier songs, as if my best work is still ahead of me. How could I continue to write if I believed otherwise? Here, most probably, truth collides with necessity. We look to what ought to be rather than what is. The newly formed song needs all the support it can get to front up to the impossible weight of the hundreds of songs I have already written. Indeed, how can the new idea ever hope to compete with the deep attachment that people seem to have with those past and treasured songs?
I am dancing on water lilies when I write and one’s heritage can have a terrifying tonnage. I must remain one step ahead of the songs, optimistically hopping from lily pad to lily pad, and doing my best to ignore the great dark wave of work that is building up behind me. How many artists have we seen stop and turn around to look, only to literally drown in a pool of their own legacy.
I am sure a time will come, Angelina – perhaps in the not too distant future – when I can sit back like some loony old patriarch and cast a weepy eye over my legacy, as they wheel me on stage to receive my ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’, but not this year, please, I beg you, not this year.
With Love, Nick