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Music and the Creative Spirit

Bruce Hornsby: Halcyon Days

By Published: February 23, 2009
BH: To me, he was a walking encyclopedia of folk music and that really influenced his song writing a great deal along with his playing. He turned me on to so much that I wasn't aware of. So he is a perfect example of a guy who drew from that deep well of folk music, of American traditional playing. And he was so bright and so smart. He wasn't a lyric writer but he had a great mind. The great lyricist was Robert Hunter, a brilliant guy. Garcia and Hunter were two of the greatest songwriters ever and have not been given the credit due. But I also don't see how that's going to happen because rock criticism has them etched in stone and it's hard to go back and re-visit and reconsider. It doesn't happen much but it absolutely should in this case.

LP: Do you miss playing with those guys?

BH: I miss Garcia, definitely. I miss Garcia a lot. The post Garcia years had some great moments but there were some moments that I thought were not so creative and I just don't miss doing that now. It didn't feel that creative to me in a way that I would be interested in. I loved the members and their music but I felt that I had done it and wanted to move on to a new place.

LP: In a previous interview that I had with Christian McBride
Christian McBride
Christian McBride
, he mentioned that he was criticized for playing with you because of your music relationship with the Grateful Dead. However, he had nothing but very positive things to say about your musical approach.

BH: Once again, many people live in their own little cloistered world and are usually only part of this one bag. They are usually not familiar with very much music outside of that and not broad in their knowledge and interest. Consequently, they are judging most everything from a very un-informed position.

LP: And their music usually reflects this...

BH: Yes, that's possibly right.

LP: I read an interview that you did with Relix Magazine while Garcia was still alive. It was sort of a wakeup call to a friend.

BH: Garcia's problem over the last few years of his life was drugs of course. He was not all there physically or mentally and so it was a very difficult time. And that was one of the reasons that I stopped playing with them because I felt there were too many times that he wasn't really there. It was a drag for me but I'm sure it was a drag for everybody else too. I did it because I loved the music and loved the guys and I still do. I loved the time that I spent with them and I wouldn't trade my time with them for anything in the world but there are other things that I want to do now. And the fans will always come out but it's more a stroll down memory lane scenario now. At one time the creativity was amazing and unprecedented and was really deep on lots of levels. I have such deep admiration for what they created.

LP: Does music have the power and harmony to be the language of peace between all people and societies so all can live in peaceful coexistence?

BH: Well certainly the capability is there because it's the old cliche, it's the universal language but I think there is definitely some truth to that cliche in the sense that it breaks down all language barriers. A groove can reach someone who lives in Lebanon, as well as someone in Angola, in Thailand or Des Moines, Iowa. So that is a very common love that people have, a common way to be moved. I think it is a tool that could be used to break barriers and bring people together. How exactly, who knows. But it would be nice to get Ahmadinejad and Bush together with some music and find some common ground. They could hang out and listen to some James Brown. That might make the talks be more productive. (laughs)

LP: One could only hope.

BH: The world would certainly be intrigued by that happening.

(Both laugh)

LP: Is it possible that because of all the strife going on in the world today that people might find a new appreciation for things that have more depth and creative value?

BH: I would love to be optimistic about it but all signs point to the opposite. I hate to be such a naysayer and would like to give you a flowery piece... but I must say, I'm just not feeling it.

LP: It's interesting; some of those that are the most pessimistic are the ones that believe it is worth trying to make things better for others.

BH: It has never stopped me but I have always been a sort of proselytizer, forcing relatively challenging music on adult contemporary listening housewives and not getting much positive feedback from it. But I'm undaunted... and will continue to do this.

"The Way It Is"

Bruce Hornsby

Standing in line marking time—

Waiting for the welfare dime

'Cause they can't buy a job

The man in the silk suit hurries by

As he catches the poor old ladies' eyes

Just for fun he says "Get a job"

That's just the way it is

Some things will never change

That's just the way it is

But don't you believe them

They say hey little boy you can't go

Where the others go

'Cause you don't look like they do

Said hey old man how can you stand

To think that way

Did you really think about it

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