Been: Gone Too Long
My life has been shaped almost exclusively by physical culture and by music. Often these two paths intersect, but rarely do they weave together. Physical culture and music are both deeply rooted in passion. I will suggest that people who might have an interest in both, often choose one over the other since passion can rarely be divided. Although I love music very much, when I felt I had to choose between the vintage Gretsch drum kit in my childhood basement, and the weight-set on the other side of the room, the weight-set won and my passion had an outlet that has served me far better than those drums would have.
Still, I greatly admire music and musicians; songwriters in particular. In an inverse way, music has influenced my perspective on physical culture more than physical culture itself has. Back in the 1970s and 80s while many of my bodybuilding friends were influenced by other bodybuilders, my workout life was more influenced by song lyrics, intensity in music, as well as the writers, pickers, drummers, and bass players who brought those songs to life. Earlier this week we lost one – a bass player that is. Michael Been of the band, The Call died of a heart-attack while mixing and engineering the sound for a concert of his son’s band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
Though The Call is known more as an 80’s keyboard kind of band, Michael Been’s lyrics were as important to me as oxygen and water, and when I needed them most. Been’s songs were an undiscovered gold mine of hope for me. Been managed to write the Golden Rule into almost every song, yet they were seamlessly non-preachy. His lyrics have both reflected, and influenced my life in ways which have often seemed divine to me – literally.
During the years after my divorce, I would of often find myself sitting by the ocean’s edge and reading the printed lyrics of Been’s songs as I listened to them simultaneously on my MP3 player. It was a church with plenty of hope and no expectations. I was repeatedly astonished at how much richness lay beneath the surface of what appeared to be simple pop songs. I often wondered if he was writing to me, about me, to god, about god, and how he could have known both god and I so well.
In my post-divorce years Been’s lyrics taught me mindfulness above all else; a much needed lesson for me at that time. The Call was never classified as Christian band. This was good since I was never classified as a Christian listener. Still, when one seeks to extract wisdom from lyrics, there are obvious themes relating to the good side of the Christian faith – the side that suggests that though we may often feel all is lost, there is hope if we are simply good to people.
Been was 60 years old when he died.
There are many things which sadden me about Been’s death. One is that I have found no report of his death from any major news source. A sad reminder that a man who had so much to offer the world, was largely unknown by it. Unfortunately The Call’s best work is not available on iTunes, and only scarcely available on youtube in the form of some choppy videos with bad sound.
If you don’t know The Call, I suggest buying the CDs Red Moon, Let The Day Begin, Modern Romans, and Been’s solo album, On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakthrough. Through his body of work one can’t help but appreciate the evolution of this man’s heart and soul through the decades.
If I could work in Santa Clause time this evening I would crawl down every chimney in America with a copy of Red Moon, that the nation might be a better place for all the wisdom in its content. This time two years ago it was David Foster Wallace. This week it was Michael Been. The two most influential persons in my adult life are now gone. Mark Cohen, you are number three; please take care of yourself. Be well. rc