Story A Day for May, Day 21

newsclip

News Clippings

Kate found some old clippings tucked into the envelop that held T.K.’s last letter. She breathed in the addictive aroma of old ink and carefully unfolded the brittle newsprint.

Last Concert for The Kidd

Trey Kidd drops surprise announcement at Bumbershoot Festival

By Corbin Bass, special to the Seattle Weekly
Wednesday, September 8, 1982

At last week’s Bumbershoot, Trey Kidd announced this was his last performance–at least as a solo act.

“Hey, maybe my kids will perform,” he said, referring to his plans to become a junior high music teacher, “but this is my last scheduled gig.”

Kidd came on the scene 10 years ago, and many had him pegged as the next Arlo Guthrie.

When asked why he was giving it all up at a time when his career was picking up, he said, “That’s why, man. I can quit now.”

He went on to explain that, as a low-level celebrity, he didn’t yet have a staff who’d be out of work if he stopped performing and recording, or existing contracts he’d have to break.

“I can quit now, and nobody suffers,” Kidd told this reporter. “But I’ve been approached by big labels. If I were to sign, next thing you know, all sorts of people’s incomes would be dependent on me showing up. I’m not sure I want that kind of responsibility.”

At a time when most aspiring singers wouldn’t dream of trading guitar picks for sticks of chalk, Kidd’s decision has fans and critics wondering.

“I’m bummed, man,” said Denny Savoy, a follower since the release of Kidd’s first album, Wild Child, in 1972. “We’ve been with him from the beginning, following him to festivals, concerts, coffee shops. It’s a bummer. Just when he was starting to get famous, too.”

Music critic Sally Sanchez says this type of response, while uncommon, isn’t unheard of. “It’s the eighties,” Sanchez explained. “Musicians who started out in the early 70s are finding that the music scene has changed. Rather than mellow times with marijuana and wine, we’re getting hard edges with cocaine and tequila. The sound is changing, too. Not everyone can make that transition.”

But Kidd says changing times and shifting tastes have nothing to do with it. “There are enough people still singing my style of music. If I wanted to stay, there’s a niche, and I’ve had plenty of offers. But think of this as the opposite of selling-out. I had a good run. Now I’m returning to my true dream: teaching.”

Usually, it’s the teacher-turned-singer, like Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, also known as Sting, who gets the media attention. But Kidd’s decision is causing quite a stir.

“I’m really not doing this to make news,” he told reporters at a press conference on the last day of Bumbershoot. “I didn’t want to just disappear. I wanted a chance to say goodbye to fans. But if I could just slide out, avoid any attention, I’d do that. This isn’t meant to be an entertainment event.”

Over veggie burgers and sweet potato fries at 14 Carrot on Eastlake, he and I had a chance to talk a little deeper about his background in music, his surprising history as an academic, and the source of his inspiration, an unlikely mentor for a rising young folksinger.

Part two coming in the next issue of Seattle Weekly, available on newsstands and street corners Wednesday, September 15.

The Philosopher’s Song

Trey Kidd reveals his true love for philosophy and “the joy of thinking”

By Corbin Bass, special to the Seattle Weekly
Wednesday, September 15, 1982

–Continued from last week–

We all know Trey Kidd as a “thinking man’s singer”–at least those of us who are old-time fans know him that way.

Listen carefully to any of his lyrics and you can’t miss the literary references and the delicate twists of logic:

The solution of the problem
of life
is seen in the vanishing
of this problem–

Whereof one cannot speak,
thereof one
must be silent.

These final lines of “Finger/Moon,” one of the more intricate songs on Kidd’s cult-like first album are lifted directly from Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, an obscure treatise that takes seven propositions, each composed of multiple supporting points, to reach a conclusion worthy of Yogi Berra.

I asked Kidd about his fascination with philosophy when we met for lunch not long after his announcement that he was leaving his career as a folksinger.

“What’s so beautiful about these lines,” he said, “are their utter absurdity! It’s like this story I heard about Paramahansa Yogananda, who, when at a very young age, was made the head of this important group of scholars and politicians made, as his very first decree, the ruling, ‘This club is now disbanded!'”

While Kidd dissolved in laughter, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with his own abandonment of his musical career just as he was reaching fame after ten long years of labor.

“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” he said, suddenly becoming sober. “But I suppose there might be something to it. Fame is a lot emptier than one might think. It was never what drew me in.”

I asked him what did draw him in.

“I had this idea that there was a ‘path with heart,'” he said, “and that you found that path by doing what you were good at. I love philosophy, but I’m terrible at logical thinking. I get caught up in the metaphor and can’t get past it. And that makes me a good songwriter. Someone I admired told me, ‘Look to your talents. They’ll never lead you astray,’ and so that’s why I never pursued a doctorate in philosophy and started writing more songs, instead.”

It’s not unusual to find a folksinger with a college degree–in fact, in my experience, it’s the norm, rather than the exception. But one who has a master’s and who harbored the dream of earning a Ph.D. is much less common.

I asked him why he wasn’t heading back to school as a student. What made him want to be a teacher, instead?

“There’s really only one person I’d want to study with, if I were to pursue a doctorate,” he said, “and that person stopped teaching several years ago.”

Kidd said that he’d been nurturing this second dream of becoming a music teacher for a few years. Finally, the timing was right. The principal of Summit School, an alternative K-8 school in North Seattle, approached him when he heard that he was interested in teaching.

“It’s a perfect opportunity,” Kidd said. “The music program is just getting started. These are kids who, for one reason or another, find themselves in this school with a different approach. It seems like a good fit for me. And finally, I’ll get to do something authentic–something that feels true.”

Mighty idealistic words from a man who’s making a left turn off the road to fame. But then, I always did suspect that a dreamer lurked behind Trey Kidd’s posing as the nihilistic lover of the absurd.


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Prompt for May 21: “Write A Story As A News Report,” from StoryADay.org.
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Story A Day for May, Day 20

letters

Saved Letters

Kate finished the editing the last batch of poems and went looking for more. There, in the back of the closet, sat a promising trunk. It held more spiral notepads, crammed with poetry, and a shoebox. In the shoebox, she found letters.

All the notes and cards she’d sent her grandfather were there. She quickly thumbed through the trails of her travel and career. The rest seemed to be from his students, including several from Celeste, requesting recommendations, expressing thanks.

And then there were these three, also from a student, but of a more personal nature.

San Francisco, June 1972

Solomon–

You said to let you know how I was getting on. I’m getting on all right.

I know you feel it was the right decision–choosing music and over academic life. But I’m not so sure. I was a good scholar–you said so yourself. I hoped to find a way to do both, you know?

But I guess I should look at the signs–I got a recording contract, so that’s a positive, right?

The album should be coming out in the fall. We’re about done recording, and soon, we’re heading into post-production.

I’ve been singing at festivals and coffee shops, getting my face out there.

But I feel like there’s this other me that never left the university, that stayed on to get my Ph.D. I miss those afternoons in your office, listening to you dissect the forces behind this screwed up system, and I feel like I’ve sold out, somehow, becoming part of it.

Do you really think–still–that art can make a difference?

–TK

London, 1975

Dear Solomon–

It’s been a while. Been busy.

I heard you got named professor emeritus. Congratulations. Guess that means you’re not teaching anymore? Or maybe just a class or two? Hope the lighter load agrees with you. More time for writing, yeah?

Things are cruising along. Guess you know, if you’ve had a chance to follow the scene. I try to keep a low profile, but it’s hard–runs counter to what the publicity agents want!

Thanks for your letter. I’m glad to know you liked the first album. Did you hear the others? I think they’re better–except for the one before this. It’s embarrassing–too pop for my tastes.

Next album will be acoustic. I want people to be able to hear the lyrics, you know?

I still think a lot about the things we talked about. There’s this one afternoon I keep remembering. We’d finished our Plato seminar, and a bunch of us tagged along with you to your office, like we always did. Remember that feeling? Ideas were bursting! We were like, running, to keep up with you–and we couldn’t talk fast enough or listen hard enough, and class was over, but we weren’t.

God, I miss that.

Performing’s a rush, when it’s not a drag. But the only thing that comes close to that is composing.

Anyway. That afternoon–I keep trying to capture it in this song I’m writing. But I don’t know how to get the voices, the sunlight, the shining eyes, your wild laugh, and then those silences when we were all thinking, at once, at the same time, and our separate thoughts combine into one structure, unspoken.

How do I capture that in a song?

I know. You would say, “Start with the poem first.”

And you could do it.

I keep remembering.

–TK

Seattle, 1979

Solomon,

Yes, I agree. To get one person to feel, for a moment, that shared experience of consciousness lighting up, within and without: that is enough.

You did that for me.

Thank you for saying that my last album did that for you.

I’m not sure how many more albums I have in me. I want do something else for a while. Teach, maybe.

I still think back on that other me that could have been, and sometimes, when I close my eyes, I see that bespectacled me, satchel on the back, stack of books in the arms, head bent with thought. Overhead, the squirrels chatter through their acrobats on the oak limbs, and beyond the green leaves, the sky–blue, blue, blue.

I think there’s a song there–Other Me

It’s this multitudinous feeling–life, and life, and all of possibility, and everything simultaneous.

You’re right: I am more poet than scholar, like you, my dear mentor.

Hope all is well with you and yours.

In that other life, the one that might have been, can you see me, stepping out of the library, looking across the courtyard, towards you?

–TK


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Prompt for May 20: “Write A Story In The Form Of A Series of Letters,” from StoryADay.org.
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