One of the arguments I enjoyed using in Debate was “Causality”. It is something that is often muddy – did this particular thing CAUSE this other thing. We see it all the time now in our reporting, and often is something that is simply correlated. A famous one is the Number of People who Drown in Swimming Pools and the Number of films Nicholas Cage stars in – have the same shaped graph. You could imply that one caused the other, but I doubt that would stick. But do you believe that Happiness causes renewal, or vice versa, or are they even causal?
We are only into 1972 with Van’s music – 14 important songs. It is always difficult to select the “best” of an artist, ones that I think tell the best parts of their story but also highlight something about leading and people worth sharing. And I am sure that each time, there are many of you that are not Happy with the selections “…. you didn’t play…. “, something I would hear after each sock hop in High School. Music often has a very specific meaning that renews them and they want to share with others.
Today’s selection was easy because it had the word “Heaven” in the title, and thus would slide right into our standard renew slot. It also had the natural bouncy upbeat rhythm that I wanted to associate with renewal. But the back story simply confirmed my initial selection. It was born in Mill Valley in the studio of Lee Michaels (who you may know from “Do you know what I mean”). Van was on guitar, with Doug Messenger who by now had recorded a couple of albums on the west coast with Van. The song had 3 sections, but no real structure.
They brought into the studio with the rest of the band, and ran through that hodge-podge once, and then pressed “record”. Doug’s words tell you what happened- “”At the end [we] all stood in silence: had [we] got it in one go? Van called for another take, but stopped a few bars in because he felt it wasn’t working. ‘I think we’ve got it.” First take, done, Happy. And, they picked it to open the album with, usually a sign of one fo the strongest songs.
I picked on critics earlier – here is what Erik Hage describes “Jackie Wilson Said” as “about elation” and believes “the music inspires in the listener a sense of freewheeling abandonment and joy.” Hage compared it to the pop R&B that Morrison “can summon at will” such as the songs “Domino” and “Wild Night” and went on to write that, “Somehow he is able to congeal the feeling of listening to one’s favorite music and/or looking at a loved one’s smile into song, and it just may be the most immediate and euphoric recording in his entire catalogue—it inspires a rush of emotion.”
What caused that take to happen? I am sure that many people will have thought about it, and suspect that many people tried to go up to Lee’s studio, and then into that studio, with those microphones, and those amplifiers, and of course the guitars. And, even Van knew it was done – it could not be improved, and was what they had been striving for. Van freely admits he had always channeled Jackie’s singing style, and here was the most overt attempt, and had by that point a setting that could provide exactly what he needed – they knew each other and Van well enough to simply relax into what was happening and do their part.
I have found it hard to accept that there is one thing you can do that does in fact produce Happiness – and that is… less. It can be simply correlated, but I believe that it is actually the way we are built and designed. As my wife likes to remind me often, “Even God took a day off”. Paying attention to what renews you and ensuring that you make that time yours on your own calendar – that has a causal relationship with Happiness for most people I work with. And for me – ensuring I am renewed and at my best is important for them also… and for my own Happiness.
And another thing I close every week, aligning with a source of Happiness that renews me. It is not fishing, or hiking, or other activities – those are great, and correlated for sure, and they help. But the one thing that is causal is turning back to how we are designed. As the world is being permeated with fear and anger, there is one studio you can come into every week. The instruments are right, the microphones are set, all we need is you. One take… and the nice thing is all those other takes, with issues, errors, let downs… just like the tapes. Erased. Try it. Smile – come in and be renewed, and… Happy. But don’t take my word for it… In one perfect Take – Jackie Wilson Said – I’m in Heaven When You Smile.