The Song That Almost Died
We have a model that talent will somehow come out and be recognized. That, in some inscrutable way, the best will triumph.
Maybe. Maybe not.
I was in Nashville in August for a meeting of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 and a most xenial event it was. I was at a table with Greg and Susan Jones who were delightful conversationalists. Greg is the new President of Belmont University and he courteously let us use an exquisite theater for our meeting.
Greg is passionate about music and is building up Belmont to be a leader in music education with innovative programs in many disciplines including song writing. He is also a gifted raconteur and I will share one of the stories he told that has a valuable lesson.
Gordon Kennedy with a couple of others wrote a song that he really liked, and he took it to Doug Howard, the president of the label he worked for. Let’s call it SONG. Doug played the song for everyone but could not get anyone interested. Even his own company’s creative team passed on it.
Finally, it was offered to Wynonna Judd but she got pregnant and the song languished. Her team decided that it was not good material for a single, so it came out in an album and no one noticed it.
Music industry veteran Kathy Nelson, who had had a hand in Wynonna’s album and really liked SONG, was hired as music supervisor of the John Travolta film “Phenomenon”. She liked SONG and its lyrics and was able to get SINGER to voice it as background for the film.
SONG became an international hit. Wikipedia reports “The title was a global Top 40 phenomenon, reaching the single sales charts in more than twenty countries and staying in the charts for two years in a row, from 1996 to 1998.”
SINGER was already famous and had many hit songs but SONG became one of his best known pieces and moved the heart of millions?
Dying of curiosity?
SONG is “Change the World” and SINGER is Eric Clapton. Both won Grammys.
But Change the World almost died unknown and unheard of.
As Thomas Gray put it poetically:
Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
And the lesson for you?
Know that the world is not ‘fair’. That many great books sell only a handful of copies. Many wonderful movies languish in theaters. Many great shows do not make it to opening night and disappear during preview week.
Do the best you can but do not let your emotional well-being be hostage to accolades that may never come.