A Sign of Pretension

Recently film and TV actor, Hugh Laurie, released a Blues album that on select songs features Jazz and Blues legends such as Dr. John and Sir Tom Jones. This confuses people who have not followed Laurie's career; they may see an actor merely making a feeble attempt to be multi-talented in the arena of the liberal arts. How dare he. What audacity possesses an already wealthy man to venture into the musical realm without license or warrant or even a day pass? He just out right and did it. Inside the album booklet Laurie made a note of this; and it follows:

"I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. You may as well know this one now. I've never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. No gypsy woman attended my birth and there's no hellhound on my trail, as far as I'm aware. Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south.

if that weren't bad enough, I'm also an actor: one of those pampered ninnies who can't find his way through and airport without a babysitter. I wouldn't be surprised to find that I've got some Chinese characters tattooed on my arse. Or elbow. Same thing.

Worst of all, I've I have broken an important rule of art, music, and career paths: actors are supposed to act, and musicians are supposed to music. That's how it works. You don't buy fish from a dentist, or ask a plumber for financial advice, so why listen to an actor's music?

The answer is - there is no answer. If you care about pedigree then you should try elsewhere, because I have nothing in your size."

- Hugh Laurie

What was he communicating? That his Blues music is terrible? No, not at all. Simply, he says that if you are the kind of person who demands that Blues be done by troubled aging black men and acting be done by bratty self centered actors you had best not listen to his album, because you wont like it. Oh, the humanity! Or rather the pretension. Ought we demand that? Should we right off all paradoxical career breakers on the account that they are out of place? That since they aren't genuine they wont produce anything worth while? By no means! That would be the soul of pretension. You can imagine the hipster blabbing on about how they only listen to Robert Johnson (because that is the only Blues guitarist they have heard of), because he really "had the blues" or "walked the walk". Is great music reserved for specific feelings? I think not. Music as an art is a thing studied and not exclusively a thing felt. The sentiment may inspire the music and it may be the by product, but it does not write the music. Talent, skill and knowledge write the music; only that it may be good enough to evoke a particular feeling.

And so did Hugh Laurie. Listening to his album, which is not perfect, gave me a breath of fresh air. He had the Blues nailed. The man is a fantastic pianist. I never had the feeling that he was trying too hard. I hope for another record out of him; even in his comedy sketch show with Stephen Fry I was waiting for his regular musical performance not just for the humor but to catch his craft of a musician. Though he played the same song at the end of every episode I enjoyed it every time. I recognized his passion for the art.

So to Hugh Laurie I tip my hat with an expression that says, "Well done good and faithful artist". I urge you all (who enjoy the Blues) to give it a listen and post back what might be said of it.

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