Pass the mic
I have sheet music from three songs framed and hanging in my living room.
The piece in the center is intentionally situated as a reminder.
I have its chorus tattooed on my back between as a prescription I wrote myself before I even knew I needed it.
I came to know Jimi Hendrix in an effort to be the cool girl who could hear the difference between a Strat and a Les Paul, and explain why you should run a 4-3 with your ballsiest linebacker covering the tight end.
I wanted boys to be refreshingly surprised by my mastery of "their" brand of knowledge, so much so that they would allow me to infiltrate their worlds and hearts. I just needed to find a way in, and because I'm a relentless/passionate overachiever, I found a way to become an authority (or authority by proxy) in music.
I started working at the Rock 'n Soul Museum and Gibson Guitar Factory in Memphis when I was a sophomore in college. I landed the job by sending a flattering and entirely authentic email to the owner about how life-altering it was to discover the history of this music that I felt rattle and echo in me. I hated most museums at the time, but I loved this one. I loved how it invited me in and asked me to look and listen.
Look at these people. See their faces.
Understand their lives.
Read the words of historians looking back while listening to the voices of the souls living it.
I listened to songs and met people I'd never heard of. I became fascinated with the sound of a guitar. The guitar doesn't sound like anything else to me. I don't have a metaphor for how it makes me feel. It is so singular and definitive in me that I can't translate it. It defies every attempt.
Josh, a co-worker and aspiring musician, started gifting me mixed CDs of his favorite guitarists after spending hours hearing me talk about how little I knew, but how much I felt about that sound. I spent my trips to and from my dorm poring over them like my literature anthologies. I'd spend my breaks in the guitar factory staring, strumming, and listening. I needed this sound. It made perfect sense and no sense at all.
The sixth CD changed me. Track 4 was "Red House", originally written by Jimi Hendrix in '66 and later recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I had never heard a voice like that.
It was curious, not always certain, always going.
It was Big.
It billowed like smoke.
It sounded like forever.
I made (MADE) Josh burn me every Hendrix song he had. I needed to hear him sing every word so I could hear them again, learn how they sounded in the air around him. He was all I listened to when I was alone; the irony of my learning all this about music to ensnare boys and become tragically awesome, then only keeping my devotion to myself is not lost on me, friend.
I listened to each CD in chronological order, never skipping between or among them. At the end of the second CD was "Bold as Love", the title track for the album and what I hope is written on my tombstone. The song startles you because it doesn't flirt--it BEGINS. It's moving and you can jump on if you want, but you better hurry. It's disorienting because there are personified emotions, fully dressed, and given their own emotions and corresponding colors. How does a mind conceive of something in a way that you've never considered, yet you recognize as your own? How does this man know what it looks like in here, in me?
The chorus--Bold as love--is an adjective and a sentence and the wholeness of my selves.
Love is brave.
Love is not apologetic because it doesn't entertain the possibility or necessity of apology: it IS. It exists. It predates me and this soul. I was born of it, made of it, inside it, and surrounded by it.
It never fails, is never wasted. It gives gives gives.
Even its opposition (if you consider hate its antithesis) is born of it. It is constant and eternal. It will survive me and this self.
Love is bold.
Bold as love.