Writing in short bites

Four Kings

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‘Smells like teen spirit’ is one of my better songs.

Call me Piper, everyone does. I write songs for a living, you might say. But I get paid more than the usual, and the money’s worth every note.

You might ask what a songwriter of my caliber is doing in a country like this. I like it here: the Boracay sunsets, the white sand, the beautiful women – trust me, Filipinas may be known around the world as domestic helpers, but they take good care of those they’re paid to love. Look at me: I’m pampered like a king.

Unfortunately, when a Filipina goes out with a Caucasian like me, most people here think: she’s a prostitute. And that’s damn unfair. But what can you do? Whether in their own country or abroad, the women of this country get the shit end of the bargain.

But where was I? Ah, yes, you were asking about me. Do you want a drink first? The margaritas here are real good. Me, I love the Pale Pilsen – definitely one of the best beers in the world.

Before anything else, I’d like to congratulate you. Not too many people know about my special relationship with the world music industry. I give you top marks for your reportorial skills. Where does Rolling Stones find you people? And tracking me all the way here? Brava, young woman, brava.

But I’m getting away from your question again, aren’t I?

All right: you know by now that I’ve written some rather popular songs. Kurt Cobain may have written many of his songs but the most popular ones were mine. A few of Elvis Presley’s as well. Michael Jackson, Freddie Mercury, John Lennon, and…

Sorry if I’m name-dropping. I’ll try not to do that.

So where do I start? How about the fact that I’m a lot older than I look? Can you guess? Forty? Fifty? Not even close. But trust me, I look younger than I really am.

Suffice it to say that in ancient days – and I can honestly say that I use that word accurately – I first charmed snakes in the East and then rats in the West with my songs. And when that didn’t pay so well, I sang to children, lured them out of cities, and found out that I did that pretty well. In fact, it worked so well that I started a whole children’s crusade during the Middle Ages.

Don’t understand me? Don’t worry, we can skip that part of my resume and move our timeline a little bit… oh, to the 20th century. By then, I’ve made a living on songs that would get the kids’ feet moving with far more verve than the prospect of sex. By then I was making deals left and right with musicians, making them play my music, instead of playing it myself. Sometimes it was just a tune or the whole song, and sometimes it was the gift of playing.

And when they didn’t pay – well, ask Robert Johnson what happened to him when he tried to avoid his rendezvous at the crossroads. Or Buddy Holly trying to fly away on his little airplane. Really, when you make a deal, you stick by it. And why not? I’m good at what I do. I make the songs that the whole world dances and listens to, so I should be paid what I’m owed, right?

Why am I doing this? Because I’m looking for certain… requirements for those who want to make a deal with me. Of course, I can give you a fantastic contract that begets you the whole world – but I’m not God. Time and chance can make a singer the next biggest thing, but no one can predict if you’ll last that long or become more popular than Jesus Christ. Hell has nothing on the vagaries of the music industry, and even my good friend Simon Cowell knows that well enough.

So I make these deals with the people, but only a few have managed to match the requisites I need. To be precise, I need four icons of music, four leading figures that have made their mark on history. It’s slow going on the road to fame and sometimes the singer can’t take it. Look at Cobain, Billie Holliday and Janis Joplin. Also, sometimes the level of fame isn’t enough at the end. Look at Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison.

Still, when you’ve lived as long as I have, you get lucky. Right now, I have two: Elvis who became the King of Rock and Roll, and Michael, who was the King of Pop. Once I have all four Kings, well, I will have what I want. I can open the gates of Hell, the voices of these Kings singing like the Cherubim of old and carrying me home finally. That’s not so bad, isn’t it? Unfortunately, once the gates are open, you can’t close them again. But that’s not my problem anymore.

Oh, look. Isn’t the sunset beautiful?

(from Literatunes, September 23, 2009 at www.allmusicjunkies.com)

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