This weekend I went on what has become an annual pilgrimage to a small club in Cleveland to hear Rik Emmett. For those of you who do not know that name, Rik was the lead singer and guitarist for Triumph. Triumph was a “power trio” from Canada that started in the 1970’s and played together through the late 1980’s. Their music was incredibly important to me in my youth and I still get that same feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I hear “Magic Power” played on the radio.
Since the band broke up, Rik has written and recorded music that is much more jazz infused and soft rock than the music I grew up with. I will say that it took some time for me to reconcile that one of the rockers I used to idolize was know winning “Jazz musician of the year” in Canada. The more I thought about it, the more I came to embrace his transition. I began to see that he had stayed true to his art and his heart and written music about his life instead of continuing to grind out music that Triumph fans had become accustomed to. He was a person just like the rest of us and he did not want to be the same person he was 25 years ago. I am sure we could all relate but accepting that Rik was now 55 years old with grown children and a side job teaching music at the local college was difficult at first.
What this meant to me really became evident this past Friday evening. Johnny and I (he is one of my closest friends…we have known each other since kindergarten) had one too many beers during our long conversations before the show began. We had not embraced what Rik already knew, things change and that is okay. More than okay, it is needed. We agreed on the way home that if we are lucky enough to attend the show next year, the pre show activities will be greatly altered. In the true spirit of the event, we owe it to Rik to sit there and listen to the music with the same reverence he has as he plays.
I think this is indicative of our lives in general. I am not sure that we all recognize that we cannot continue to do things the way we always did them or we will always get the same results. As we move through our lives, we cheat ourselves if we continue to think and act in the same manner we did since we were young. If we do not embrace the opportunity to change and look at things differently, it is not likely we will grow as a person. I believe human beings have such tremendous potential but we seem to act in a way that essentially prevents us from reaching our potential. We should be able to hold opposing ideas in our head and remain functional. We cannot close off and become so binary in our thinking that there is no room for gray area. In fact, I think the gray area often mentioned is really the gray matter of our brain that we do not use when we choose to be black and white.
Rik has provided a terrific example of how to focus on your core values and who you are and pay less attention to how it is perceived by others or the end product. In fact, during the 2nd set, just before he played an old Triumph tune, he told us that we were know hearing the song in the way it was originally intended to be played. When he would write a song for the band, he would always play it for them acoustically. Now, 25 years later, we were hearing him sing “Ordinary Man” the way he wrote it. That alone was worth the trip. From that song, I will leave you with this benediction,
“Here’s to health, here’s to wealth, may you never doubt yourself.”
You can check Rik out at www.rikemmett.com