Life Changing Artists

To continue with yesterday’s post and with what Eric Alagan and billgncs were saying about life changers,

I’d like to expand the subject and talk just a bit about artists who moved me, who steered me in a different direction, or, more properly, who shone a light that touched something divine. That’s what an artist does according to Joseph Campbell. The artist in all ages and times reveals the divine to us.

There are certain artists who left an impression. I feel glad that I encountered them, glad for what they revealed to me. For I feel they gave me not only a great deal of pleasure, but a taste of something special besides. Maybe it was the absinthe.


images-4 images-1  Here’s a list: The writers. Tolstoy, Dostoevsky. When I first read Tolstoy I was enchanted by the quality and depth of his thought and insight. I  was so stuck by his brilliance as a writer, and then there was the reality of his characters. With Tolstoy you feel that you know Lev or Prince Andrei personally. Dostoevsky was also powerful, but in a different way. When I read Crime and Punishment as a young man it shook me up; it had me depressed and confused for months. It was only later, when I had read more and seen more. that I could appreciate Dostoevsky more fully. There’s something majestic about Dostoevsky. Homer and the Illiad knocked me for a loop. Isaac Bashevis Singer has been a light for me. Camus too. When I think of some of their stories it’s as though I had been in Poland or in Algieria too. Henry Miller was a great influence on me too. Miller was a fireworks show. Miller talks often of the books he read. I began writing my own novel inspired by Miller.

The musicians: Ellington, the Beatles. What we are talking about is the sharing ofimages-3 joy. Of beauty. Ellington, for instance, was keenly aware of the beauty of music. And keenly aware of his own beauty as a conduit for such wonder.

images-6The Marx Brothers, who had no awareness of their beauty, but who just kept on going spinning laughter and good cheer. Chaplin, who touches something deep inside, who lifted my spirit high, as he did for millions.

OK. I’ll stop right here. Well, all right, I’ll mention Ray Davies, Sonny Terry, Doc Watson and Eubie Blake. images-5

The point is (and to summarize): “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing”. Whaa?

25 thoughts on “Life Changing Artists

  1. Agree with “Life Changing Artists” that you’ve written about! From the top of my head, I would list: John Coltrane, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Van Gogh, Faith Ringgold, Romare Bearden, Harper Lee, Countee Cullen, Toni Morrison, Alvin Ailey Dance Co., …it’s early in the morning…drinking my coffee, so that’s it for now…there are so many more! Thanks! Also, thanks for visiting my site! ok…wait…Joan Baez, Judy Collins, The Weavers, Holly Near, Blues Project, Paul Butterfield…

  2. Are we twins, dear Bumba? The post resonates my own liking and also the people I would have chosen as ‘life changing artists’ ! *smiles*.
    Totally relished this post, needless to say !
    Love & blessings.

    1. Love and blessings to you. I’m happy too to meet a kindred soul. I write these things in hope that they will resonate, so it’s wonderful when they do strike a chord. Most people consider Stephen King as one of the greats. I saw your “likes and am on board with all the Anglo ones that I know too.

    1. Joseph Campbell is quite clear on that point. He maintains that from the times of the earliest cave paintings the role of the artist has always been to reveal the divine. He points to the “aha” experience when viewing or experiencing a fine piece of art. This criterion can filter out a lot of pop art and contemporary art that celebrates the mundane.

        1. That’s a real nice tape. Have you heard Doc and Earl with Randy Scruggs and some other people too on a CD 2005 or so? It’s called the Three Pickers. It’s quite nice too. I could watch and listen to those guys forever.

  3. Palestrina, Bach, Shostakovitch, Son House, Jarrett, Ministry, Paul Klee… they have certainly left a very strong impression, but there are so many others, would be a very long list!

    1. Yes, it was silly of me to even start. But when we talk of life changers I think it’s true that artists have had a great influence on us. Thanks for visiting and commenting as always, Marina. I’ll have to look up some of your guys.

  4. Ditto Victor Hugo. Although I read Les Miserables only a couple of years ago, it was tremendously impressive. The story stays with me. Those guys are in a separate class.

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