I don’t know Bob Lefsetz, but I wish I did, especially after reading this encomium from his excellent blog. It’s about the passing of an artist who you almost certainly never heard of named John Kilzer.
(If you’re wondering how obscure John Kilzer had become, there’s no Wikipedia page about him, this after a life that included being a high school All-American basketball player with a full ride to then-powerhouse Memphis State and a top-ten radio hit. In case you want to know something about the man, I used a link to his biography on the website of…the Methodist church where his title was “Associate Pastor – Recovery Ministries.”)
You should read Bob’s post because it’s a spectacular piece of writing. Also, when you read it, you won’t just experience the joy, the pain, and the memories of a certain part of Bob’s personal history, but you’ll be reminded of all of your own joy, pain and history from some pivotal moment(s) in your own life.
While commenting on music’s powerful ability to take us back in time, Bob uses the even greater power of personal vulnerability to walk us through a few intense parts in his life, thus making us feel our own version of what he feels.
For some personal stuff from me on the same subject, here’s a tale of a really talented person I used to coach who discovered the power of being open and vulnerable just one time. Oh, and here’s yours truly getting a little too weepy and personal after a long, sad day.
They’re decent reads, but they’re not on the level of Bob’s post because they’re there to talk about show business (emphasis on the business), rather than more personal matters. Bob’s piece, however, is eminently personal, and because of that, it’s incredibly powerful. If you want to connect with your fans, you’d do well to learn from what you’ll experience when reading the post. Here’s a sample:
“Our record collections were our most treasured possessions. And within those tracks lay our history and our identity. And if this piece is more about me than Kilzer…Maybe that’s the way it’s always been. The tracks are stones in the river, that we sometimes go back and touch…John Kilzer had a place in my heart, in my life. Whenever I saw his name I perked up, I wanted more information, because he made that album thirty years ago, that got me through a bad time, that rode shotgun in my life.”
Thirty years later, Bob still feels a powerful connection to both the artist and his album. How could he not? John Kilzer’s music helped forge his identity during a tough time that’s a key part of Bob’s personal history.
I got emotional telling my wife about the post because it took me back to a certain time in my own life, one where I was at a professional pivot point and had to decide to walk away from a gig and a group of people that I loved in order to grow. Because Bob is willing to share some powerful personal stuff with me, he caused me to have a powerful emotional reaction, one that was strong enough to, among other things, make me choke up in front of my wife and write this to share with you.
How far are you willing to go to connect with your audience? If only because the majority of our lives aren’t filled with heavy emotional periods, we can’t bare our souls every time we communicate, but at some point, if we want to forge powerful bonds, we’ve got to be willing to open up.
It might be time to give some thought to how and when you can do precisely that.
By the way, Bob was wrong about one thing. In his post, he says that Kilzer’s top-ten AOR* track, Red Blue Jeans, was “was too generic to make an impression.”
For him, perhaps.
It made an impression on me. It’s still on my phone, and I smile whenever I listen to it. I love the song (dated lyrics and all), and it takes me back to that certain pivot point in my own life, the time where I had to leave someplace special behind in order to move on.
The reality is that you can never be sure what will connect emotionally with any one person, much less an entire audience.
Human beings are so interesting because they’re so unpredictable, and it’s impossible to know how any one individual’s personal circumstances will help cement (or prevent) an emotional connection. Add up all the individuals you’re trying to communicate with, and you get an audience saturated with unique and unpredictable human beings.
That said, you don’t succeed if you don’t try, and you don’t succeed at connecting just by being professional. You do it by being personal, and the more deeply personal you are, the stronger a connection you can forge.
If you’re both good and fortunate, you might even form a 30-year bond.
*If you’re an old school rock radio person like me, I hope the use of AOR took you back for a moment.