“It Never Hurts to Smile” by Mike Rosen

“Beat Me, Daddy, Eight to the Bar!”

Friedrich Nietzsche once noted, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” I couldn’t agree more. I love how music can soothe our souls or even bring us up when we’re down, make us relax, make us dance, help us meditate, and I especially like that it constantly plays in my head (it really does). There’s no type of music I abhor outright, but there are some forms I only enjoy in limited doses. Of course, just as with many (if not most) of you, there are a few I relish.

Recently, an old friend referred to herself as a “Beatles geek, and proud of it!” Good for her, but it made me wonder exactly what characteristics make one a geek, nerd, aficionado, devoted fan—pick your preferred appellation. Fortunately, in its enormous depository of totally useless information, the World Wide Web has provided me with answers. I will now provide you with just a few.

How do you know you’re a classical music devotee?

1. You perform air conducting without knowing you’re even doing it.

2. A bad hair day doesn’t bother you because you think it makes you look like Beethoven.

3. Speaking of whom: You can accept publicly the valuable contribution of Walter Murphy’s disco “A Fifth of Beethoven” because it reached young people, while simultaneously screaming inside your head.

4. Depending upon the instrument you’ve convinced them to learn, you continually compare your children to Mozart, Yo-Yo Ma, or Jascha Heifetz.

5. The only tolerable—in fact, acceptable–corruption of the classics is anything by Victor Borge.

How about the popular music of today? You know you’re a huge fan if:

1. You’ve been following that band since before they were famous.

2. It’s impossible to pick a favorite album by any given band/singer because they’re all great except for the final cut on that fourth album. What were they thinking?

3. You have multiple speakers in each room connected to a central system.

4. $10.99 for a pound of Angus porterhouse steak gives you pause, but $2,799.95 for the Bose Lifestyle 535 Series II home entertainment package is a bargain.

Opera buffs might be identified by these characteristics:

1. Singing in the shower takes on a dimension all its own and scares the children.

2. Your cats are all named after tragic opera heroines and heroes.

3. You can name the best opera house in at least six countries.

4. The only problem you see with Wagner’s Ring Cycle is that it’s too short.

Essentially, to be a fan of any particular genre all one needs is to enjoy the music. But what about the musicians and singers? Do they need anything beyond talent, training, practice, and experience to perform their preferred genre well? What I found online pretty much narrowed down to an appreciation and knowledge of, and respect for, the music itself.

Except for one particular genre: the Blues. According to my sources, there are some very fundamental rules in order to be a true Blues composer/performer/fan. What I found was a fairly lengthy list, so I have shortened and edited it somewhat (in the interest of keeping this column to fewer than ten thousand words); the list below is important and will help you understand the Blues. One note however, the rest of this column should be read—out loud or in your head—in a slow, deep, raspy voice. Trust me on this.

1. A good Blues song begins with: “Woke up this morning …”

2. “I got a good woman” is a bad way to begin the Blues, unless you stick something nasty in the next line such as, “I got a good woman, with the meanest face in town.”

3. The Blues is simple. After you get the first line right, repeat it. Then find something that rhymes–sort of: “Got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Yes, I got a good woman with the meanest face in town. Got teeth like Margaret Thatcher and she weighs five hundred pounds.”

4. The Blues is not about choice. If you’re stuck in a ditch, you’re stuck in a ditch, and there ain’t no way out.

5. Blues cars: Chevys, Fords, Cadillacs and broken-down trucks—the older any of them are, the better. The Blues doesn’t travel in Volvos, BMWs, or Sport Utility Vehicles. In fact, most Blues transportation is a Greyhound bus or a southbound train (never northbound). Forget about jet aircraft and state-sponsored motor pools. And even if you have four passengers, you can’t use the high-occupancy lane on the highway—ever. Walkin’ plays a major part in the Blues lifestyle. So does fixin’ to die.

6. Teenagers can’t sing the Blues, adults sing the Blues. In Blues, “adulthood” means being old enough to get the electric chair if you shot a man in Memphis.

7. Blues can take place in New York City but not in Hawaii. Hard times in Minneapolis or Seattle is probably just clinical depression. Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis, and Nawlins are still the best places to have the Blues. You cannot have the Blues in any place where it doesn’t rain, especially at night.

8. A man with male pattern baldness ain’t the Blues. A woman with male pattern baldness is. Breaking your leg because you were skiing is not the Blues. Breaking your leg because an alligator was chomping on it is.

9. It is impossible to have the Blues in an office or a shopping mall. The lighting is wrong. Go outside and sit by the dumpster—the lighting won’t matter.

10. The good places for the Blues include (a) highway, (b) jailhouse, (c) empty bed, (d) bottom of an empty whiskey glass.

11. Bad places for the Blues: (a) Nordstrom’s, (b) gallery openings, (c) Ivy League institutions, (d) golf courses, (e) wine tastings.

12. No one will believe it’s the Blues if you wear a suit, unless you happen to be an old person, and you slept in it.

13. Do you have the right to sing the Blues?

Yes, if: (a) you’re older than dirt, (b) you’re blind, (c) you shot a man in Memphis, (d) you can’t be satisfied.

No, if: (a) you have all your teeth, (b) you once were blind but now can see, (c) the man in Memphis lived, (d) you have a 401K or trust fund

14. If you ask for water and your darlin’ gives you gasoline, it’s the Blues. Other acceptable Blues beverages are: (a) cheap wine, (b) whiskey or bourbon, (c) muddy water, (d) black coffee

The following are NOT Blues beverages: (a) Evian, (b) Chardonnay, (c) Snapple, (d) Slim Fast

15. If death occurs in a cheap motel or a shotgun shack, it’s a Blues death. Stabbed in the back by a jealous lover is another Blues way to die. So are the electric chair and dying lonely on a broken-down cot in a rooming house. You can’t have a Blues death if you die during a tennis match or while getting liposuction.

16. Some Blues names for women: (a) Sadie, (b) Big Mama, (c) Bessie, (d) Fat River Dumpling, (e) Skinny Lip Lucille

17. Persons with names like Michelle, Amber, Jennifer, Debbie, and Heather can’t sing the Blues no matter how many men they shot in Memphis.

18. Some Blues names for men: (a) Joe, (b) Willie, (c) Little Willie, (d) Big Willie, (e) Skinny Willie, (f) Old Willie

19. Blues Name Starter Kit: (a) name of physical infirmity (Blind, Cripple, Lame, etc.) (b) first name (see above) plus name of fruit (Lemon, Lime, Peach, etc.) (c) last name of President (Jefferson, Johnson, Fillmore, etc.) For example: Blind Lemon Bessie Jefferson, Pegleg Lime Little Willie Johnson, or Cripple Peach Sadie Fillmore, etc.

There are exceptions to (c) that can never be Blues names. Examples include: Ingrown Toenail Persimmon Joe Reagan, Abscess Tooth Mango Sadie Grant, and OCD Prune Skinny Willie Trump.

20. I don’t care how tragic your life is: if you own a computer, you cannot sing the blues, period. Sorry.

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