The Genius That No One Talked About

Mitch JoelPosted by

Don’t die with your music still in you.

I don’t know who said that. If you Google it, maybe Wayne Dyer? (That doesn’t seem right). Still, it’s a sentiment that I do remember hearing time and time again. It’s the reason that I write/publish with the pace that I do. Life is short. These digital channels have removed the gatekeepers, so there’s no need to wait for an editor or a publisher if you have something to say. I write for you. I write for me. I don’t expect every piece to go viral. I don’t write for the search engines. Something strikes me… so I write about it. Writing words helps me to think through ideas. Writing words helps me to build a legacy of work. Sometimes it’s here – as an article… sometimes it an article for another publication… sometimes it turns into a podcast… sometimes it’s for a book. Right now there are words swirling around up here and in my mind, and this space is my receptacle of choice. I worry a little bit that the content may not be for a mass audience. I worry even more that I’ll keep these words bottled up inside. I don’t want to die with the music, words or thoughts inside of me. I’ll take the lumps, bumps and (often) being ignored, if it means that  the words flow more freely. It’s a daily process. I’m working on it.

Celebrating life. 

When we create content we are truly celebrating life. I was deeply reminded of this when Mark Hollis passed away recently. Honestly, I didn’t recognize the name, but many people that I respect in the music industry (and true music fans) took to social media to bemoan the fact that he had died. I knew Mark’s band, Talk Talk. They were fairly successful in the mid-eighties, and really epitomized the music of the day. I know (and can sing) their biggest hit, ‘It’s My Life,’ but I’d be lying if I said that I knew that this song was Talk Talk’s, and I’d be lying even more if I thought that they were nothing more than another one hit wonder from the eighties. It turns out that I was wrong. Dead wrong. Mark Hollis died and everyone is describing him as a musical genius. Here’s what Peter Gabriel said:

“Real originality is a rare commodity in music. Mark created very personal pictures with his music and magical voice, a wry, unique and soulful take on the world. He will be missed.”

A lot… but not enough.

The band released five studio albums, one live album and appeared on countless compilations. Hollis even released a highly-regarded self-titled solo album in 1998, and then promptly retired from music. That was twenty one years ago. The accolades and the appreciation is one thing, but it left me feeling like this beloved artist called it quits with a lot of ideas, creativity and art left to share. Twenty-plus years of nothing? Now… no chance of rekindling any of it. Yes, we need to celebrate his life and the work that he (and the band) left us with. No, it’s no cool that only in death do we acknowledge a body of work like this, and it’s even less fair that Mark may have never heard how beloved he was, or how missed he would be. Death is funny like that. It turns those that we often take for granted into legends. Death also makes those who have done something special and elevates it into the genius stratosphere. The band Talk Talk and the musician Mark Hollis are not names that many remember. They are not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. There are not tribute bands celebrating their music. Mark was a genius, but no one talked about him all that much while he was alive, and people hardly knew his band and their contribution to the history of music.

When you create… you risk.  

It makes me sad. It makes me sad that I didn’t dig deeper into the music of Talk Talk and Mark’s solo effort. It makes me mad that he’s gone. It makes me mad that he was silent for over two decades while he was still living. That makes me the saddest. His well was not dry. That’s not how creativity works. That’s not how great ideas transcend. That’s not how art works. Mark is gone, but the rest of us are here. Yes, we should all be sad that he’s no longer here, but we should be more aware of our own efforts. Don’t squander them. Don’t let them sit in a vault (whether that vault is between your ears or on a shelf somewhere). If you create, please share. Take the risk of putting it out there. Take the risk of getting past what you think the value might be, and let the marketplace decide. It’s scary. It’s not easy… but it’s what this world needs. Don’t let twenty years pass you by. Be sad that Mark is gone… be sadder that he didn’t release anything in the twenty-plus years before he passed.

Don’t be the genius no one talked about. Don’t die with your music still in you. It’s your life.