30 Hours & 15 Minutes: Life, Death & The Immortality of Great Art
Paul McCartney stands dumbfounded as a bouncer denies him entrance into Tyga’s GRAMMY afterparty. His name isn’t on the guest list, the sacred piece of paper that tells the gatekeeper who’s allowed to party in Rack City. He’s not alone, Beck and Taylor Hawkins from the Foo Fighters are with him, all their names are absent. The bouncer jokes that they need to make another hit, next year is their reply. The three quietly retreat back into the limousine, no big commotion is raised, but even the TMZ cameraman that witnessed the denial can’t believe what he just watched. If his camera wasn’t rolling, I wouldn’t believe it either.
I read the headline with disbelief, ready to label it a work of fiction, the kind of trolling you see on MediaTakeOut, but there was evidence. Watching McCartney’s rejection was like seeing a God regress to a mere mortal, stripped of his powers and ejected from heaven. This is a 21-time GRAMMY award winner, inducted twice into the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame, one of the last living members of a group that was more influential than Jesus. Artists have wet dreams about leaving a legacy like the one he has crafted in his 73 years of breathing, but none of his accolades mattered to that bouncer. All he knew was that Paul McCartney wasn’t on the list and wasn’t getting in.
Paul has been in this industry a long time, he has witnessed the changing of the guards, the evolution of eras, but in doing so he has outlived the height of his celebrity. The ages have been good to him, still famous, but his relevance in the mainstream has dwindled throughout the decades. There is now a generation of kids that weren’t raised on his music, possibly oblivious to who he is and what he has done. We are far removed from the ’60s and 70s and all the old rulers. We live in a time where it’s joked that Kanye West is going to make this Paul McCartney guy a big star.
A bouncer can tell a man who has 32 number-one songs to make “another hit.” Paul is a walking relic that’s a musical genius in some eyes and a wrinkled old man in others. Even great artists fade into the background when the world ceases to revolve around them. The gypsy that told Andre, “You’re only funky as your last cut” was right.
I think it was two or three years ago at A3C, I was standing at the backdoor of a venue trying to see Bun B perform. The venue was small, tiny, not where you house an underground king during a huge music festival. The line out in front resembled Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving. People were pouring into the street, it was a mess and getting worse by the minute. A friend leans over and asked, “Is that Talib Kweli?” I look over and there he was, inches away, I notice he wore a disgruntle frown. He knocked on the back door, a man came out and told him the venue was at capacity and he couldn’t get in. I was a bit shocked, Talib isn’t a superstar but his status as a veteran should be enough to gain him entrance into any hole in the wall during a hip-hop festival. This is one-half of Blackstar, a man respected far and wide in the culture. If he wasn’t getting in, I know my press badge had the value of a dirty diaper. After a few minutes, Big K.R.I.T walks up, speaks with Talib and then knocks on the door. Only a few words are exchanged with the doorman before he’s allowed in with his small entourage and Talib’s tiny group. I knew then, it’s what you’re doing and not what you’ve done that keeps the doors open.
When you get older you may lose an inch or two. Age related shrinking is a good way at looking at celebrities, the famous are like giants but once their spotlight begins to dim their heads are no longer in the clouds. It’s rather humbling, knowing that each and everyone of us is capable of being someone that the world may someday watch, but that same world will always eventually shift its attention. But the beauty of being an artist is that great art doesn’t expire. William Shakespeare died 400 years ago but the writing that he left the world is still being taught and studied, his plays have been performed more than any other playwright in history, he continues to be referenced and to influence popular culture. He is without equal. Immortalized due to creations that aren’t affected by time, leaving behind a body of work that doesn’t decay like a corpse or crumble like even stone monuments.
Steve Jobs will be in the history books for his contributions to computers and mobile phones, he revolutionized how we use these devices and has been a huge influence on this generation. He’s adored, celebrated, a name that’s known by all, but will he be remembered 400 years from now? Technology never stands still, it’s always advancing, always innovating, expiring whatever came before. There will come a day where the iPhone will be what payphones are today. Do we remember who invented the payphone? Not likely, the creation is obsolete and the creator is food for the worms. He is forgotten because there’s no timelessness in technology, just improvements and upgrades. The Macintosh computers that brought Apple and Jobs into the forefront are now artifacts, technological fossils that will be in museums as proof that they once existed. Steve changed the world in a medium that doesn’t stop thinking different, the constant progression doesn’t leave room for adoring what came before. It’s a curse that only art is able to avoid.
Kanye believes he will be the most influential person in the world for the next 1,000 years. It’s a prediction that only Kanye West would make. He’s already influential, he has touched an innumerable amount of people through his music. You can find his offsprings in and outside of music, the children of Kanye are everywhere. Without question there will never be another, but the day will come when he will shrink from our sights. Another artist will emerge and take his seat, he will be the giant for another generation of kids who weren’t alive to live through Kanye’s reign. What will keep Ye alive long after his final days is the fact he has given us albums that won’t be buried with him. We are all doomed, are fates are sealed, there is no avoiding the destined day where we will no longer be here. Art can be timeless, but the artists are still all living on borrowed time.
Fame can last longer than 15 minutes but it won’t go on forever. Paul McCartney didn’t look defeated when he walked away from Tyga’s party, he didn’t break out into a rant expressing a Wikipedia page worth of history because of a bruised ego. All that he accomplished in his lifetime didn’t mean much in that moment, he was just another old king in a new kingdom. He went to another party, likely hoping that the next bouncer is at least old enough to remember “Yesterday,” a song that is nearly three times older than Tyga’s girlfriend but will be here long after Kylie Jenner begins to wrinkle, long after Tyga falls into D-list obscurity. It will still be here and Sir Paul can spend the rest of his days knowing he will live on even after he reunites with John Lennon and George Harrison.
Tomorrow is only promised to the art that doesn’t live in today.
[By Yoh, aka Yohthello, aka @Yoh31.]
Originally published at DJBooth.net on February 22, 2016.