Expressing the Inexpressible Through Music

The day Sean Penn forms a band, the moment he slings a guitar strap over his shoulder and confuses fame with talent, and I will concede upfront his skill as an actor — so great is his range that he plays a convincing real-life, part-time journalist for The Nation and Rolling Stone, “interviewing,” respectively, Cuban and Venezuelan dictators and Mexican drug lords — but when he believes he is a genuine musician, when he thinks his role as a fictional jazz guitarist from Woody Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown is, instead, documentary footage of his adoration of Django Reinhardt — when that event happens, which would be like my father never breaking character as the executive of a fictive film studio from Allen’s Hollywood Ending, please encourage Penn — beg him to recreate the final scene of his movie — by smashing his guitar against a tree.

Smash it to smithereens.

Then, take the scraps of mahogany, maple, poplar, walnut and spruce, as well as the tungsten and teak, and exorcise this evil debris — condemn it with the ritualistic prayers and Latin commands — necessary to expel Satan from the earth.

I exaggerate only slightly.

And no, I do not dislike or hate Penn.

He is an incredible actor.

But music is a career, a calling that requires every ounce of blood, toil, tears and sweat.

It cuts the flesh, and bruises hands and fingers, and rips the physical chords — the guitar strings and sinews of the artist’s neck — by humbling you with pain and humiliating you with heartache.

I know of what I write.

So, with due apologies to every actor with a tee shirt from the Hard Rock Cafe and a Fender Stratocaster®, music is more than a weekend hobby — with a complimentary cheeseburger and fries.

Music is the food of love, which enlivens man’s appetite and furthers the energy of life.

It is not a microwaveable meal of sugar and monosodium glutamate.

It is a feast to prepare.

It is a delicacy every singer-songwriter should savor.