I must say there aren't many things I have looked forward as much as I am looking forward to this,( well most definitely seeing and meeting Robin Williams), but this will be an unforgettable event which I wish I could share with my mom, since she listened to him as I was growing up in Germany. I have been captured by the unmistakeably sound of his voice since I was a little girl.
For over four decades he has been one of the most important and influential songwriters of our time, a figure whose body of work achieves greater depths of mystery and meaning as time goes on. His songs have set a virtually unmatched standard in their seriousness and range. Sex, spirituality, religion, power – he has relentlessly examined the largest issues in human lives, always with a full appreciation of how elusive answers can be to the vexing questions he raises. But those questions, and the journey he has traveled in seeking to address them, are the ever-shifting substance of his work, as well as the reasons why his songs never lose their overwhelming emotional force.
His first album announced him as an undeniable major talent. Most songs from it are now all longstanding classics. If he had never recorded another album, his daunting reputation would have been assured by this one alone.
However, the two extraordinary albums that followed,provided whatever proof anyone may have required that the greatness of his debut was not a fluke.
Part of the reason why his early work revealed such a high degree of achievement is that he was an accomplished literary figure before he ever began to record. His collections of poetry had already brought him considerable recognition in his homeland. His dual careers in music and literature have continued feeding each other over the decades – his songs revealing a literary quality rare in the world of popular music, and his poetry and prose informed by a rich musicality.
One of the most revered figures of the singer-songwriter movement of the late Sixties and early Seventies, he soon developed a desire to move beyond the folk trappings of that genre. By temperament and approach, he had always been closer to the European art song – Add to that a fondness for country music; an ear for R&B-styled female background vocals; a sly appreciation for cabaret jazz, and a regard for rhythm not often encountered in singer-songwriters, and the extent of his musical palette becomes clear. Each of his albums reflects not simply the issues that are on his mind as a writer, but the sonic landscape he wishes to explore as well. The through-lines in his work, of course, his voice and lyrics, as distinctive as any in the world of music.
Recent Songs and Various Positions returned him to more recognizable sonic terrain, though the latter album, in a perhaps misguided nod to the trend at the time of its release, prominently incorporated synthesizers.
As the Eighties and their garishness began to wane, his star began to rise once again. The listeners that had grown up with him had reached an age at which they wanted to re-examine the music of their past, and a new generation of artists and fans discovered him, attracted by the dignity, ambition and sheer quality of his songs.
He rose to the opportunity this audience represented by releasing two consecutive albums, that not only rank among the finest of his career, but that perfectly capture the texture of particularly complicated times. He had long documented the high rate of casualties in the love wars, so the profound anxieties generated by the AIDS crisis were no news to him.
He ironically describes himself as “the little Jew who wrote the Bible,” and his immersion in Jewish culture, obsession with Christian imagery, and deep commitment to Buddhist detachment rendered him an ideal commentator on the approaching millennium and the apocalyptic fears it generated. Our human imperfections, he seems to be saying, are finally what will bring us whatever transcendence we can attain.
Even at his age he continues to produce compelling work, while enjoying the honors that deservedly come to artists who have achieved his legendary status.