Wednesday, May 30, 2012

This Doctor will always be in

Thirty years ago this October, a blind man opened my eyes.

Before I saw Doc Watson play at McGlohon Theatre, I had never been to a concert of traditional music. A friend of mine nagged me into going -- this was the homegrown music of my newly adopted state! -- and I acquiesced with low hopes.

He seemed old to me, old and wrinkled. (I realize now he was just about the age I am today.) He seldom spoke: maybe just "Here's a song I think you'll know" or "I heard this growing up." And without seeming to put out any effort, he filled the room with joy and sorrow.

I learned three things that night. First, music has no boundaries. He played songs academicians would classify as blues, gospel, folk and country, and they all blended into one seamless flow of Americana. Definitions became irrelevant.

Second, though his sometimes quavery baritone reached for notes, he had a beautiful voice. The honesty of his singing made it so.

Third, any kind of music can speak to a listener with a little patience and open ears. Baroque music may be more difficult to grasp on a first go-round than bluegrass, but even Bach yields simple pleasures on first listening.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with Doc's CD from the Newport Folk Festivals of 1963 and '64. "Froggy Went A-Courtin'," and I have to hear how that turns out.


Anonymous said...

Nice tribute Lawrence.

Back in the 60s, when I was a kid growing up in Boone, it was not unusual to see Doc in the Dixie Music Shop, playing for tips or just for the heck of it.

Bob Dylan described his guitar playing to be "like running water..." That's about right.

A National Treasure.

Anonymous said...

Good read!

Anonymous said...

Excellent. Watson was the essense of purity. Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Doc Watson never missed visualizing a thing. The real blind are those who think they can see.

Try to teach these other clowns how its done. Good one in the New York Times too.

JoAnn Grose said...

Good lead. Good read.