Sometimes I think of the Internet as a gigantic beast with a Sauron eye and a kraken mouth. Every minute of every day, it’s scanning the globe for new content to stuff in its maw. The content churns in its broiling belly as words, images, sounds are digested and assimilated. Then it’s pooped out, never to be seen or heard from or read again.
It’s when I’m in this frame of mind, I wonder: is it worthwhile to add to that churn? By writing and posting a song with a video every day, as I have since January 2009, I sometimes feel as if my tunes are just grist for the beast’s appetite; another piece of content digested and released into the void.
Should I be more selective about what I release into that wild?
When I make something that comes from my heart — even if it’s silly, topical, or off the cuff — there’s always a chance that it helps make a great connection that I could never imagine. I never know when those links will happen, but they have and I know they will continue.
No matter how I feel about a song on a particular day, someone will like it. There is someone, somewhere out in the vast reaches of cyberspace that will get something from it. Even when I’ve written a song that I’m sure is horrible, I hear from someone whose day it’s brightened.
I have an established audience now, but this was true even when I first began, and I could count on the fingers of one or both hands who would see my work. And over seven years of posting work my songs, it happens like clockwork, again and again. This is the true nature of the Internet.
David Lee Beebe, Jr., first commented on a song of mine, so far as I can tell, on January 11, 2012: Song A Day #1106.
The song is a parody of the Magnetic Fields tune “Andrew In Drag.” In the original song, Stephin Merritt sings about how the only woman he’s ever been attracted to is a guy named Andrew, in drag. My parody was that the only man I’d ever want to have sex with is Stephin Merritt (one of my all time favorite songwriters).
Now, that’s love. Great song. I hope you meet him one day, too, Mr. Mann.
And with that, David commented on my Song A Day project just about every day. Whatever the song’s topic or scope, he’d have something to say. His comments were so thoughtful and kind, always pointing out some aspect of the song that moved him or made him think. Sometimes, they were flirty, which I thought was cute. And he had the endearing habit of calling me “Mr. Mann.”
As time went on, I got to know him a little better through his comments and the occasional personal message. I learned that he had polycystic kidney disease, and that his mom had had it too, but she had gotten a transplant. I learned that he was homebound, but had loved traveling when he was younger. He yearned to travel again.
At some point, as he was preparing for a series of surgeries that was leading towards a kidney transplant, he requested a song:
I was thinking about a hopeful ditty about a guy on a journey, who all along the way has a happy, cheerful genie (you) who visits him daily via a special avenue/device (YouTube) to cheer him along his way with tales and tunes of any and all sorts, which the adventurer finds very spirit-lifting, and encouraging.
I wrote him this song.
Data, from Star Trek: The Next Generation, said this about friendship:
As [you] experience certain sensory input patterns, [your] mental pathways become accustomed to them. The inputs eventually are anticipated and even missed when absent.
I anticipated and looked forward to David Lee Beebe, Jr.’s comments. When they stopped, there was something missing; I felt a hole in my heart. Eventually, I received news from a friend of his that his health was seriously declining. And then came the news that he had passed away.
I wrote him another song.
After writing and posting that song, I found out that Beeblmeyer (as he was known around the internet) had forged many friendships that existed solely in cyberspace. He was a well-known commenter on the site Joe.My.God, and when Joe posted about his death, there was an absolute outpouring of grief. Most of these people had never met David in person either, but they all considered him a friend and an inspiration.
David Lee Beebe, Jr., let me know in so many ways that his life was richer because of my music, and I’m so grateful to him. My life is richer for having known him. I strive to be like Mr. Beebe: to be kind, forging relationships online, and sharing myself with abandon.
It’s the reason I post my song every day. It’s the reason I keep going.
Jonathan Mann puts songs in unexpected places.
This story was produced by The Magazine, an electronic periodical for curious people. We commission original reported articles and essays, and run five in each issue every two weeks. Our regular subscription rate is $1.99 per month for two issues or $19.99 per year for 26, and subscriptions include free access to 150 past articles — our full archive. You can get a free, seven-day trial via our iOS app or our Web site to try us out.
The Magazine editor Glenn Fleishman interviewed Jonathan for the podcast The New Disruptors about his song-a-day habit and his creative process.