One of my rock & roll influences growing up was listening to Fats Domino’s 1961 hit cover of the Dave Bartholomew and Earl King penned, “I Hear You Knockin.'” Although Fats drove this song on his keyboard, my parents didn’t have the money for a piano so I learned the chord progression on my guitar and played along with Fats endlessly.
You can imagine my thrill in 1970 when I worked with Welsh singer, guitarist and record producer David WIlliam “Dave” Edmunds at Media Sound Studios in New York City to master his version of “I Hear You Knockin'” which reached #1 on the UK singles charts and #4 here in the States. The unique guitar sound meshed incredibly with his voice effects and that augmented piano chord strike on the turnaround never fails to grab me.
Today, when I listen to the lyrics of “I Hear You Knockin,'” entirely new thoughts come to mind. How many people have had dreams growing up and into young adulthood of what they wanted to do in life; not jobs but real passions that got squelched because of what their parents, teachers and mentors told them they “should” do. And, even when that original passion creeps into their consciousness later in life, that super strong superego pushes it back down and doesn’t let it come to fulfillment. These lyrics strike a chord, don’t they:
You went away and left me long time ago And now you’re knocking on my door I hear you knocking But you can’t come in I hear you knocking Go back where you’ve been
(Dave Bartholomew and Earl King)
Just like “resolution,” the move of a note or chord from dissonance (an unstable sound) to a consonance (a more final or stable sounding one), needs expression in music so, too, we need to give our dissonant, repressed passions full expression if we are to live fulfilling lives and give value to ourselves and others. Make sure you follow your passion when you “Hear it Knockin.'”
On April 12th, 1954, Bill Haley and the Comets had their first recording session at Pythian Temple studios in New York City after signing with American Decca Records. The landmark recording session almost didn’t take place when the band was traveling on a ferry that got stuck on a sandbar en route to the Big Apple from Philly. The 12-bar blues song, written by Max Freedman and James Myers, became a number one single on both the US and UK charts and opened the door to rock & roll as a commercial tsunami.
Find your own passion in life and career and live it every moment of every day: “Rock Around the Clock” with it. Will you look back a year from now and celebrate the anniversary of the realization of your own passion? Don’t let any psychological sandbars stop you!
Change has a way of eluding most people because they believe that in order to change you have to eat the whole enchilada rather than have just one bite. Take dieting, for example. Some of the most grandiose plans go into the most short-lived dieting strategies which fail because the incremental steps are dismissed in favor of all or nothing goals. But, just one small change, the right one, can bring major life-changing results.
51-seconds seems like an infinitesimal bit of time. Yet, for the American R&B, soul and funk band Bloodstone, it changed their musical path and launched them into the charts. “Natural High” was the first single and title track from their London Records album of the song name released in 1972. When I edited “Natural High” from 4:53 to 4:02 in 1973 to garner airplay on time-restricted AM radio stations, the song skyrocketed to the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #10 and to #4 on the Billboard R&B singles chart. The 51-seconds change turned out to be monumental in Bloodstone’s success.
That storm-strewn endogenous maelstrom we call our emotions can be calmed with “Just One Look,” as the lyrics of Doris Clark’s 1963 hit single exclaimed: “Just one look, that’s all it took” and “I fell so hard in love with you.”
As big as the world is, tiny things have changed the course of history. The failure of the tiny O-ring on the space shuttle Challenger led to a re-examination of the country’s space program and dashed people’s hopes and dreams. The Arab discovery of the zero (“0”) made modern mathematics possible. The invention of the printing press made mass education a reality. Security officer Frank Wills’ discovery of a piece of masking tape keeping a hotel room door unlocked led to the arrest of five men inside the Democratic National Committee’s office in the Washington D.C. Watergate building leading to an FBI investigation and the resignation of a president.
A tiny change can have massive creative and life-changing implications. Identify that one, small change you can make and do it. Focus all of your effort on it. Ignore the musical score and take laser focus on the one note of your life or career that moves you in a new direction.
In addition to the iconic rendition by actor Richard Harris, Jimmy Webb’s “MacArthur Park” has been recorded by some of the industry’s most celebrated artists, including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Diana Ross, The Four Tops and, most recently, Carrie Underwood. As any good story goes, it challenges us to want to know more. Whether it’s a lament over his lost relationship with a woman who later got married in that Los Angeles park on a rainy day or his bet with Richard Harris that he could write him a #1 song the prize of which would be a Rolls-Royce, the real impact is the emotion that wells up in us from listening to MacArthur Park and how it connects with our own feelings. Some of the greatest hit records can stand on their own as stories that move us: The Temptations’ “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone,” The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” The Kinks Ray Davies’ “Come Dancing” and so many more.
Stories have the power to inspire, to motivate, to touch deeply, to challenge and to lift us to an entirely different level of being. Stories make us come alive. We need to find and tell our own personal story in order to reach out to others and connect in authentic ways. Think about a song that has had a powerful emotional impact on you. The feelings that it brought about in you were genuine. They tapped into the authentic YOU where all personal greatness begins.
To reinvent our careers and to find out what we truly want to do in life, we need to find our inner story and share it with others. In business, we need stories to position ideas in order to make the greatest impact on our audience. Our personal stories, our lyrics, our brush strokes, our PowerPoint slides need to convey our story so that others are moved from where they are now to where we want to take them.
Anything American author Jane E. Brody writes never fails to capture my interest. For her to cover my favorite topic, reinvention, is a double treat. For her to reference Dorie Clark (who I’ve had the pleasure to interview on my radio program) as an “expert at self-reinvention and helping others make changes in their lives,” hits it out of the park for me.
In her New York Times article, Reinventing Yourself, Jane , a master of information and storytelling, provides inspiring examples of people who have “reinvented themselves, sometimes against considerable odds, other times in surprising ways.” I encourage everyone who is somewhere on the road from “not me” to being the “real me,” to read this article and give it an email folder so you can access it anytime and anywhere for a much needed dose of inspiration.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned beyond the shadow of a doubt in my lifetime it’s this: there’s not a single excuse anyone can come up with for not fulfilling their dream. Not one! For a guy who decades ago embarked on his business career with a crippling fear of public speaking, to be able to take a stand up comedy course with Stephen Rosenfield, described by the New York Times as “the best-known comedy teacher in America,” and then appear before an SRO crowd at the legendary Gotham Comedy Club was a life changer and testimony to just how far you can take your dreams.
As if facing the challenges of doing stand-up wouldn’t have made my dream cup runneth over enough, I decided that the experience was too unique not to capture on film and turn into a documentary. Funding? Director? Film Crew? The requirements would have been enough to turn anyone away from their dream. But, I heard that the Connecticut School of Broadcasting provided their graduates with access to equipment and editing suites free of charge. I presented my idea to CSB alumni and one of the graduates, an electrician by trade who couldn’t wait to trade in his cable cutters for a chance to hone his craft, jumped at the opportunity to do a documentary.
Talk about turning what could have been regarded as a roadblock around! Rorie Kelly, a brilliant singer-songwriter who had never done a sound track for a film, jumped at the chance to create the theme song. Her lyrics hit the nail on the head of what I was trying to convey and her production of the track was fabulous. We fed each other’s dreams and shared a common path to living our longing. Check out her “live” performance if she’s in your area.
My son, Chris, did the artwork. How wonderful having such graphic design talent in the family!!!!
When the documentary was done I called every TV station I could reach to air it. Much to my delightful surprise was the almost unanimous number of people I talked to who thought that what I had done was so cool and that they wished they could. I said, “Stop wishing. YOU CAN!” which has become my mantra to anyone and everyone I meet who has been dying to do something special that they’ve never done but have always wanted to. “Stop wishing. YOU CAN!”
And, what you’ll learn is that when you confront your excuses which you’ve sold yourself on as being insurmountable you find out just how achievable they are. At that moment when I took the microphone at the Gotham Comedy Club and the ‘fight or flight’ feeling hit me harder than it ever has, I actually listened to myself tell my first joke and hear the audience laughter in response. At that one moment I experienced a Superman-like rush of powers that was unlike anything I had ever known. And, I continue to draw on that mega-sized internal battery pack of motivation in everything I do in my life and career.
Had I listened to my own excuses I never would have hosted and produced a public television documentary (CPTV) on motorcycles and diners, presented to an audience of over 460+ people including the governor, produced legendary jazz pianist Erroll Garner, earned my PhD, led several major corporations to record-breaking sales, been featured in MotoStars: Celebrities and Motorcycles, produced and hosted a podcast radio show quickly approaching two million listens, published my first book and working on a 2nd with an Emmy Award-winning TV news anchor, performed at legendary CBGBs, been featured on ESPN 2′s “Extreme Magazine” and most recently filmed a demo in NYC for a reality TV series. Dreams are invitations to the greatest realities you’ve ever known.
The point is this: don’t put off making your dreams come true. Start now. Turn your excuses into opportunities to discover just how much you’re capable of achieving! The journey is incredible!
Oh, and a word about money and success: don’t define your success in terms of how much money you’ve made. That sets you up for failure from the get-go. Why? Because you end up comparing how well you’ve done to others and, guess what: they’ll always be someone who’s got more money that you. Define success on what YOU want for yourself. Set your target on being the best YOU can be at something. The recognition and money will come from that. Nobody anywhere can compete with how great YOU are! Go after life on YOUR terms and get out of the comparison trap.
"You've had such a varied and impressive career. It's awesome to read about your adventures and reinventions and how you're now helping others do the same," branding expert Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You, Stand Out and Entrepreneurial You