The Imitation Game

Sufjan Stevens Tangled Up in BlueTANGLED UP IN BLUE

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

– Charles Caleb Colton

Say what you will about Mr. Colton’s oft-used quote, but he was definitely on to something.

When Bob Dylan was starting out on the Greenwich Village coffee house circuit in the early 60’s, some critics dismissed him as a pale imitation of Woody Guthrie. As Woody was one of his heroes, I’m sure he wasn’t too bothered.

I wasn’t around for those remarks but I clearly remember ones hurled at Quentin Tarantino’s in the early 90’s – “Martin Scorsese clone”, etc.reservoir dogs

Anyone who’s heard Dylan’s pre-electric music or watched an early Tarantino film recognizes some truth in these observations.

They also recognize that both Dylan and Tarantino went on to craft their own distinct styles while building on the work of their heros.

After all, isn’t imitation a form of flattery?

Yes. And more.

I see it as a natural step to finding one’s own voice.

I’d argue that Dylan borrowed from the great Guthrie on his way to becoming even greater (I’ll let the cinephiles out there debate QT vs. Marty).

To become great in any field, i.e. an original thinker with ideas that make a real impact, you too will have to copy what you…[to continue reading, see The Path to Peak Performance]

MY TOP 3 ALBUMS OF 2015

Imitation and/or homage very much alive in the new music I heard last year, here are the 3 standouts:

1. Matthew E. White – Fresh Blood

You know how I feel about the big white Yeti from Virginia (if not, see “White Is the New Black”).

2. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear

To sample the work of the Padre, check out these dance moves pre-Honeybear:

3. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Although I’ve casually followed this eccentric Brooklynite for a good 10 years, nothing prepared me for this.

sufjan-stevens-playing-guitar

Returning to ‘Greatness via Imitation’, Sufjan Stevens finds his own voice while somehow channeling the spirits of Jeff Buckley and Elliot Smith on his 7th studio album.

Inspired by the death of his schizophrenic mother, Carrie is both eerie and ethereal. His sparse guitar picking is pure Smith (no stranger to sadness) while his nuanced voice evokes Buckley at his most vulnerable and intimate.

Inspired by the death of his schizophrenic mother, ‘Carrie’ is both eerie and ethereal. His sparse guitar picking is pure Smith (no stranger to sadness) while his nuanced voice evokes Buckley at his most vulnerable and intimate.

If you’re a fan of either of these 20th century originals, give this a listen:

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these 21st century anti-rock stars. And what was the best thing you heard last year?