Saturday, September 12, 2009

Simon Cowell is so wrong

I don't watch American Idol. It's not my cup of tea. My taste in music includes virtually every genre of music that has existed. Gregorian chants, classic rock, pop, new wave, improvisational, jazz, fusion, fifties rockabilly, old and new blues, country and western, big band, classical, symphonic, marching and even jaunts into Saharan blues are all included in my record collection. But for whatever reason, I have more respect for musicians who make their own music, rather than those who simply sing along to the great music written by others.

I don't chastise the American Idol wannabes for their manner of making music. As long as you're making music, everybody wins. But it's just not my thing.

Neither is the abrasive Simon Cowell. Yes, I know, he's laughing all the way to the bank regardless of public opinion about him.

But when Simon makes an assinine statement about how he would've signed the Beatles except for Ringo, well, to drummers like me, those are fighting words. According to the Huff Post, which I occasionally read, Cowell was discussing how he didn't much care for Ringo Starr:

LOS ANGELES — The Beatles once got in trouble over a flip comment about Jesus. Now Simon Cowell has ruffled feathers with a quip about the Beatles.
Cowell says that he really was joking when he claimed the legendary group wouldn't have made the cut on "American Idol" or "Britain's Got Talent."
After drawing fire for the remark, the producer and TV talent-show judge said Friday he's repeatedly referred to the Beatles as the group he wished he could have signed.
Cowell was on CBS' "The Early Show" Wednesday when he was asked how the Beatles would have done as contestants. He replied that he would have taken the group – minus drummer Ringo Starr.

Ringo Starr, a/k/a Richard Starkey, took a lot of hits in the early days for not being a Buddy Rich type of drummer. Of course, Ringo is probably directly responsible for MORE people becoming drummers than any other individual alive or dead. Certainly, he made Ludwig drums a lot of money over the years, and personally I've always thought he was a drummer's drummer.

If you've ever seen any of Ringo's tours the past few decades, where his band is composed of big stars from various famous bands of the past, you know that Ringo is a drumming and musical force to be reckoned with. In fact, as I recall, it was Ringo's solo works that gave him more success than the other Beatles in the immediate years following the breakup of the Beatles.

One needs only to watch the dvd of The Concert for Bangladesh with Ringo singing (and drumming) his then hit "It don't come easy" to feel and know what Ringo was capable of. Of course, soon after Ringo's successful top 40 run, the solo efforts of the other Beatles equaled or exceeded his solo successes. Wings. All Things Must Pass. Lennon's great albums.

After the Beatles broke up, music took all kinds of turns. Lots of rock got very complicated and the musicianship and technical nature of the music changed. After years of highly complicated drumming that accompanied acts who thrived on technical prowess, music again turned back toward the simple.

Debates have raged for years about who the best rock drummers have been in the last 50 or so years. It seems Ringo always comes out on top. His simple beats played to the songs, and were often more memorable for the spaces he left in the music than for any blazing technical prowess. Ringo has "soul" and in hindsight, it is apparent that the Beatles decision to add him to the band is one of the factors that made them The Beatles.

Ask any of the stars of drumming past and present about Ringo, and nearly to a man and woman they'll tell you that they learned how to drum by listening to and playing along with Beatles records. I know I did. Those same drummers will tell you that after they had decades of experience playing "complicated" music, they learned that less is more and that what is so amazing about Ringo is that he figured that out in the early part of his career, instead of decades later as they did.

Ringo, you rock. You've always rocked.

Simon, you would do well to learn by analogy from Ringo's life. Less is more.

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