Boys Must Be Strong

Written by Music

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away lived a kid who hadn’t a care in the world. In the small Indiana town he called home, he had a ton of friends and spent his summers riding bikes around the neighborhood, building makeshift ramps out of scrap pieces of wood, and giving the stay-at-home moms (of which there were many in those days) around the neighborhood minor heart attacks with stunts that would give Evel Knievel pause.

Then one day his own mother told him the grandfather he loved more than anything was dying of leukemia. The family would move to Michigan as his dad had agreed to step in and run the auto parts stores his grandfather had turned into a thriving business.

His first day of school in Michigan would set the tone for the remainder of his childhood. One of the kids took him aside and told him that if anyone tried to beat him up, he’d protect him. Why anyone would beat him up was such a foreign concept. Back in Indiana, there’d been no cliques, no bullies, and no reason to need one of the bigger kids to protect him.

Unable to reconcile such idiocy in his mind, he retreated into his own world and found solace in the music that blasted from his stereo. It became his most trusted friend when others failed him. It understood him when others couldn’t be bothered to try. When his grandfather passed away – having beaten the cancer, but being too weak to stave off the pneumonia that followed – he lost the one human who never judged him harshly, who’d always believed in his every dream as if it were his own. This was a man who’d been told by a teacher that he’d never amount to anything. Years later, after having become a successful business owner, he was visited by this same teacher, who’d come into the store for the express purpose of saying he was wrong. The kid always remembered this when someone told him that he too would never amount to anything.

On April 14th, the kid celebrated his 42nd birthday and found that he feels no less alone, no less understood, and no less a man than he was then. Through every tough time that has come his way – of which there have been too many to count – he has found incredible solace in music made by artists and bands who channeled their pain and isolation into music that spoke to his very soul when nothing else did.

As if he ever had a choice in the matter, he too became a musician, realizing that the words that failed him in real life often revealed themselves in song after song after song. Quick success soon gave way to dashed hopes as band mates, managers, and record deals came and went in rapid succession. Through it all, he has somehow managed to continue finding strength to persevere through increasing odds and diminishing returns. It isn’t about the career, or the money anymore. Music is who he is. He can’t stop doing the very thing that gave the confused kid hope and eventually came to define him.

As he looks back on his life, he can no longer count the broken hearts, the poorly-attended gigs, the rejection letters, or each dead-end job that he swore would be the last “before things finally take off”. At 42, the likelihood of his music career taking off is as unlikely as John Lennon rising from the grave and he finds himself facing down the reality that much of his life has been wasted. His younger brother has a son starting college. His sister has three sweet kids, a loving husband, and a nice house. He, on the other hand, lives in an apartment smaller than any he has ever lived in before, filled with music gear in lieu of furniture and artifacts of a life spent on the road and in studios around the world the only rewards of the life he has lived.

On a dark night where the weight of every mistake leaves him too exhausted for words, he aches to find comfort in music, his only friend, and prays that daylight will bring something worth living for.

Fischer-Z “So Long”

Off Broadway “Boys Must Be Strong”

Fire Town “Carry The Torch”

Nada Surf “Beautiful Beat”

Joan Jett “Ashes In The Wind”

Godfathers “How Does It Feel To Feel?”

Pedro The Lion “Rapture”

Posies “Golden Blunders”

Gary Allan “Smoke Rings In The Dark”

Matt Skiba “Fuck You Aurora”