Monday, May 4, 2009
Fresh (sort of) in from tonight's Shawn Phillips concert, and at least somewhat rejuvenated by the experience. That someone as beat up by life as Shawn can keep smiling, keep trying new things and stay so alive creatively is both intimidating and inspiring.
For those not in the know: Shawn's father was a spy novelist (author of the Joe Gall books), a poet and a CIA agent. His mother killed herself with an overdose of sleeping pills, and died cradling a young sleeping Shawn in her arms. In his salad days, Shawn roomed with Lenny Bruce and Bill Cosby (separately), taught Joni Mitchell how to play the 12-string guitar, opened for Yes until they asked him to leave the tour because his act was better received, sang backup on the Beatles' Lovely Rita Meter Maid, wrote most of Donovan's first two albums (mostly uncredited), survived an accident in which hair became tangled in an outboard motor propeller, survived quadruple bypass surgery, was robbed of millions by a manager, was divorced three times, and went without a record deal for close to a decade, despite making millions for his label at his peak.
Survival gave him strength. In his later years, he became an EMT and moved to South Africa with his new wife, where they raise his three year old son Liam, got a new label and released his first live record ever.
Shawn reminds me of possibilities, and he seems to come around when I need him most.
The only photo I was able to get from my (ahem) front row center seat was this cheesy one of the stage, taken with my cel phone.
One of the highlights (and there were many) was a song Shawn had never before performed publicly, a memorial to the Hawai'ian singer Iz (Israel Kamakawiwo`ole).
Haunting and uplifiting, like much of Shawn's best work.