Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Teenage Idol and American Idol

Rick Nelson was my first crush.  He was handsome and I watched him grow up on his parent's show, "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet".   He was one of the first Teenage Idols and he utilized the new media to promote his records.  One of the hits he wrote about those early days was called, with no irony intended, Teenage Idol.  Here are the words:

Some people call me a teenage idol
Some people say they envy me
I guess they got no way of knowing
How lonesome I can be

I need somebody to be my baby
Someone to tell my troubles to
I've got no time to ever find her
Cause I'm just passing through

I travel around from town to lonely town
I guess I'll always be just a rolling stone
If I find fortune and fame and lots of people know my name
That won't mean a thing if I'm all alone

I get no rest when I'm feeling weary
I got to pack my bags and go
I got to be somewhere tomorrow
To smile and do my show

Rick had the advantage of being born into a musical family and into a time when TV was king.  Later on in his career, things were not so easy for him.  In many minds, he was stuck in the early 60's, another pretty boy with some talent, but basically just an oldies act with no bearing on the current music scene.  In the early 70's, he was booed when he sang some new songs at Madison Square Garden.  Later he wrote about that experience and he called it Garden Party.  The chorus spelled out his philosophy:

"But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself"

The lesson was hard earned and Nelson moved on, creating the music he wanted to create and, if he was not as successful as in his teen idol days, I am certain he was at least satisfied that he had risen from the ashes of the flames lobbed at him by his critics. Rick died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve, 1985.  His legacy was preserved two years later when he was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.   He was not just another teenage idol.  

Tonight, American Idol will feature this year's crop of hopefuls.  They are being given a chance to shine on the show. Of course, Randy, Cara and Simon are not Ozzie and Harriet and the would be contestants are not necessarily genetically endowed with musical talent. But for the few who make it to Hollywood and rise to the top, I have a wish. May they prove to be as resilient and as true to who they are as Rick Nelson was.  Shine on, children of the millenium, shine on.

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