Still Looking For A Hero

Elliott Murphy - photo by Jacques Schoumakers

June 1, 2021

The phrase “Hope springs eternal” came from the much-quoted English poet Alexander Pope (21 May 1688 – 30 May 1744) who upon hearing from his doctor how well he was recovering on the day of his death replied with more than a trace of irony, “Here am I, dying of a hundred good symptoms.” So, optimism rules to the end! And for better or worse, I suppose I would have to classify myself as an optimist just like Alexander Pope. In fact, that’s probably as close as I get when it comes to following any sort of creed or religion or believing in something when I have no concrete proof of its existence. Admittedly, I’m also a bit of a wise guy – a kind of humorous cynic who can respond to all news both good and bad with a joke in varying degrees of taste – but I blame that on my Long Island upbringing (Long Island being that fish shaped land mass jutting eastward out of New York City and the birthplace of many popular comedians from Jerry Seinfeld to Eddie Murphy.) Maybe it was something funny in the water supply, but I credit my cynical sense of buoyancy, even when it looks like we’re drowning in wave after wave of just plain old life, to my continuing fascination and belief in the power of rock ‘n roll music.

On my third album “Night Lights” there is a song “Looking for a hero” where in the last verse I lay it out:

A thousand years – explore the ruins
A tour guide explains bubble gum chewing
They had religion – skyscraper-ism
If you were black – you lived in prison
Through ancient billboards we’ve been told
They had one god – his name was Rock ‘n Roll
Rock ‘n Roll …

I wrote that song nearly fifty years ago and I’m no Nostradamus (at least I think I’m not) but so much of that song has come to pass. Look around you at the explosion in Skyscrapers of over 100 stories in China, the middle east, and the US – most of them built long after that song was written. And sadly, as Black Lives Matter can angrily attest to, African-Americans still form a disproportionate percentage of prison inmates today. According to the US Bureau of Justice, black males make up 34% of the current prison population. Now whether bubble gum chewing will be looked upon as a unique 20th century cultural habit of no particular value I’ll leave up to future sociologists. Personally, I always liked the smell of bubble gum better than the taste and the bubble often exploded on my face …

Like everyone, there were times during the pandemic when I was fearful and anxious but not really pessimistic as I held on to a firm belief we would pull through this somehow, someway, someday. Now I’ve been vaccinated and although many of my French friends have started kissing again on both cheeks, I’m not so fast to make that move. The truth is I’ve lived in Paris for over 30 years and never got used to kissing guys on the cheek with full beards anyway …

So, try to stay positive and don’t forget to turn out the lights …

Photo by Jacques Schoumakers