I’m always bemused by that moment near the beginning of track 10 on Shut Up and Die Like an Aviator when Steve Earle responds to a hollered inquiry from the audience with a simple, declarative, “Doin’ fine.”
He wasn’t, of course. But that album remains one of my Steve Earle favorites, and when I feel like I’m taking time for granted, or flitting too far afield into fluffy jokester mode, or being timid-hearted, I pull it out and chef it up, because it takes me to a time when I was deep into every note Steve Earle recorded, and his music was one of the major forces driving me to chuck the straightforward approach and instead attempt to carve out a living with the keyboard and whatever else came to mind.
I’ve never been a hero-worshipper. I remember my father’s concern about my interest in John Lennon when I was a teenager (like many folks my age, I discovered the Beatles when John was shot), and yet even as I was mooning around plaintively crooning “All we are saying…is give peace a chance,” the farm-booted church-boy part of me had a firm grip on the concept that solving the complications of existence would require more sustained heavy lifting than a pop song can provide (not ironically at all, it was my father’s example that served as my rudder even when I was flying some of my sillier sails).
The thing is, someone can change your life without being your “hero.” In fact I might suggest that resisting the urge to deify someone is a platinum form of respect.
So I never fell for Steve Earle like he was a prophet. But the fact is, from Guitar Town right straight through to I Feel Alright his music spun my compass and bumped me over the fog line into the rumble strip just sufficiently to – this is not hyperbole, rather it is reportage – change my life.
And as far as him saying he was “Doin’ fine,” when he most certainly wasn’t, well, I’ve always said I was glad Steve Earle lived that way so I didn’t have to.*
And so the post peters out, no real summation, just a cheesehead glad Stephen Fain Earle dropped out of school when he was in 9th grade and started writing those songs.
*Including the part about seven marriages**, which is tough to sustain no matter how you chart it.
**Six wives. Married one twice.
Want to be the first to know when Mike has a new book, or is coming to your area? Please sign up for the email list.