on the loss of Prince and Bowie, “The Before Breakfast Blues”

owen gent

I’m writing a song about the time I waste in line at the coffee shop. I’m calling it The Before Breakfast Blues. It’s a standard blues shuffle, but instead of covering the usual topics of wine and women, this one laments the type of folk who stand in line with me for fifteen minutes, only to realize at their chosen moment that they’ve no idea what they want.

       The guy in front of me is talking, too loudly for the morning. He’s an older guy, some kind of professor. Tweed jacket, patches on the elbows. For his sake, I’m hoping the woman standing next to him is a student, not a lover.

        “Not a Prince,” he says to the girl next to him. “The Prince. The Artist Formerly Known As. He died last night, at Paisley Park. I give it a week before he’s on the cover of Rolling Stone. A cover that used to mean something.”

       What a year, I’m thinking. First Bowie, now Prince? Talk about losing some characters, man. Sure places an impetus on seeing McCartney while he’s still kicking.  

       “The worst thing about losing Bowie was that it didn’t feel like losing one guy – it felt like losing twenty. We lost Ziggy Stardust Bowie and Diamond Dogs Bowie and Scary Monsters Bowie.”

       And I’m thinking that’s some fairly astute commentary for a man with his arm around the midsection of a woman a third his age. He’s right, you know? We didn’t just lose Bowie or Prince, we lost dozens of different iterations of those men, and they were both so skilled at the art of metamorphosis that each new character they espoused was a testament to man’s ability to constantly evolve, to strive towards something different than what came before, even if people really liked what came before, because sometimes trying something new is more important than sticking with what you know people dig. That’s what I call courage, my friend. Changing despite assurances of success.

      So now I’m thinking about guys like Prince, guys like Bowie, and about how they might the epicentre, the genesis if you will, of this phenomena that I’ve been noticing: used to be, everyone wanted to be a somebody. Now, it isn’t enough to be a somebody: everybody wants to be everybody. People don’t want to be rock stars or actors or authors, they want to be rock stars who act in movies and who just saw their memoir hit the New York Times Bestseller list. But what these new kids on the block miss, the thing that they lack that Bowie and Prince had in spades, is candour. Honesty. Truth. I’m talking about soul. Bowie and Prince, these guys changed based on what came from within, not from pressures placed on them from the public. Great souls aren’t found in folk who acquiesce to the desires of trends and fads, they’re found in people who work towards reconciling the myriad of characters inside them, and using that process to sow a little truth along the way. That’s what doing it with soul looks like.

these words by Josh Elyea were inspired by the colour of Owen Gent

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Word and Colour

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