It’s no secret that in my younger days, I wanted to be a rock star. It was simple, really. I would compose cutting-edge but timeless music, with relevant but flippant lyrics, creative but mindless dance grooves, and inventive but totally catchy hooks. And rock and roll babes would flock to me, asking for my autograph, tugging at my leather pants, undressing me with their eyes, but loving me for my mind.
Actually, I was never that naive. But I was close.
You see, the greatest part of my naivete was not that I thought it was easy, nor that I thought I was good enough. It was that I didn’t realize how vain and fruitless the quest for fame is.
This striving toward celebrity is embedded in many of us artists, isn’t it? When we are brutally honest with ourselves—and some of us may not have the emotional quotient to understand ourselves with that degree of authenticity—we find that our drive can come from unhealthy places. The pride which bubbles beneath the surface of our public image; the inflated self-image that we are cooler, more talented, more deserving than we really are. Or the poor self-image that drives us to posture and pretend, forever comparing ourselves with others and coming up short; the insecurities that drive us to succeed so that we might break the chains of our self-perceptions. Then there is the unstated and untrue belief that fame will somehow bring us happiness and love and acceptance. Ultimately, the things that drive us to want celebrity may often be found in a complex web of lies such as these.
I’ve met young people who have completely devoted their adult lives to the pursuit of that elusive record contract. And I ask them, Why are you an artist? If you never got a contract, would you still be an artist? Would you still sing or play or write songs? And I always hope the answer is “yes,” because I know that the lifestyle associated with touring and being on contract is a difficult one. It is easy to forget why you are doing it to begin with. And it is harder if you never even know.
Now success is not a bad thing. And striving toward a goal, or toward excellence, or toward success aren’t bad things either. But the striving toward celebrity—which is something I now know I was motivated by in unhealthy and hidden ways—is quite another thing altogether.
“All is vanity and striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 1:14 NASB
In my younger days, one of the people I respected and emulated was Tim Heintz. Tim is a composer/arranger, producer, keyboardist, and recording artist—and does all of these things amazingly well. He’s toured extensively with Chaka Khan, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs, and John Tesh, to name a few. When I knew him, he was a successful working LA musician, beginning to make his mark on the emerging smooth jazz genre. I met him through his older brother, Stan, who was a Pat Metheny-esque guitarist I played with in a fusion band called Freefall in the early 1980s.
Recently I reconnected with him on Facebook. And I had to laugh when he posted this hilarious video of a commercial recording session for Fruit of the Loom underwear. Go ahead. Click on it now. I’ll wait.
I love this video, because it points out a variety of things to me. One, it really displays the power of good music to move the human soul…even when we’re talking about underwear! Two, the video reminds me that success and accomplishment in music don’t necessarily mean a life of paparazzi glamour and celebrity. And finally, the video reminds me that it’s important as artists to take our craft and our faith seriously, while not taking ourselves too seriously.
After all, God doesn’t care what you wear down there. But He does care about who we are, and who we are becoming.