A TALENT was originally a weight of silver or gold and hence a sum of money. The word entered our language via the Parable of the Talents in the Bible. (Matthew 24:14-30; Luke 19:12-28.)
Spiritual interpretations aside a Talent is something valuable which it's up to us to use and not take for granted. Talented people have made the world a lot of what it is. Talent can change the world again.
Talent should never be wasted.
I was wondering why I felt increasingly uptight about what I saw as other people's "waste of talent". Michael Jackson who could sing so well hardly ever really showed off his voice. He was also a more than capable actor (see yesterday). But he never starred in a feature-film. MJ was said to have a thing about ET, and he knew Stephen Spielberg. Imagine what could have been achieved if Jacko and Spielberg had got together...
As we all know, Michael Jackson's career was all but ruined by child abuse allegations. He achieved more than any other musical star of his or any other generation. And yet...
He died in a drugged-out haze.
If you want to hear him singing a song named Morphine, click here.
Whitney Houston's voice was one of the wonders of the world. (Far better than Mariah Carey. Screaming an octave over top C is not a talent. That's like having extra long fingers or a third nipple. That ain't music, that's freakery.)
I'm more than amenable to middle of the road music, though it's not always my favourite. The only Whitney song I really like, from the first half of her career is the Dolly Parton cover I Will Always Love You. This morning (for some reason) I had Saving All My Love for You swirling round my head when I was buying Value Thin Bleach (20p) from Morrisons...
In the 1990s, having made her name and fortune, she went R&B and did put down a few tracks that are not only memorable but good. (One Moment in Time is memorable, but just did not do it for me.)
She was recently on tour in Europe. The press coverage was nearly all the same. The voice is gone.
The word is, she lost her voice to crack. Though she famously declared to Dianne Sawyer: "crack? We don't do that. Crack is cheap. I make two much money to ever do crack. Crack is whack."
A phrase that has come back to haunt her...
I could give legions of examples of hugely Talented people who made careers in average films, throw-away music... whatever, whatever.
This is not to mention the endless multitudes who can sing, act, create in various ways (I'm focusing on showbusiness because it's common ground. Y'all know what I'm talking about. "High" art I often find not only pretentious but irrelevant...)
I once lived in a house in a bourgeois suburb of London that wasn't posh but "happening". Television faces drank in the local pub. I passed actors and musicians in the street. At one point I sat opposite Annie Lennox on the top deck of the bus. A car once zoomed past with comic actress Maureen Lipman's head (for some reason) sticking out of the passenger seat window. I dunno who she was looking for. One time Phil Mitchell from EastEnders was at the bar. Certain friends kept ribbing me to go up and point out that Phil ("the hardman of Albert Square and a nasty drunk) was on the waggon. I didn't dare. I subsequently heard stories about this actor, more than once, waving £20 notes at the homeless and snatching them away... Mark Fowler (another EastEnders character ~ EastEnders is, or was, Britain's most popular TV programme, with top episodes attracting Royal Wedding-style 20,000,000 viewing figures)... Yeah Mark Fowler. He gave me £1.67 when I was begging outside Sainsbury's.
My point being that everyone in my house and many people in the area all around it, all wanted to make something of themselves. In a short space of time we had two actors, a singer, a yoga teacher, a maker of luxury furniture (it was just under £1000 a dining chair) and a trainee Alexander teacher were all in this house. I was the writer.
What makes me sad is that the singer, who I think did have beautiful warm, pure voice was a lush. She came in drunk most nights. She hung out with people one of the famous pirate radio stations. This was 1996, when the UK style of garage was all over pirate FM stations, soon to emerge overground. She could have been one of the UK's first "urban" artists. I handed her a Madonna biography hoping she might take inspiration and a few tips, because I could have told her more about the music business than she seemed to know. You need an experienced manager, being an obvious one. Madonna took Michael Jackson's old manager. The singer gave it back complaining Madonna was a tart and then mentioned she couldn't see her manager that morning. He was signing on the dole. Then I despaired. This girl hadn't a clue. She thought talent was a passport to automatic success, it is not. What's that phrase about 1% inspiration 99% perspiration..?
None of the people I knew from that time are now famous. Our actress got into a Spice Girls video. The Spice Girls were the phenomenon of the moment. A week later Oasis phoned wanting her to play violin (that is presumably mime) in a video...
So it was all exciting. But in the end not one of these people made a name for themselves. The person with the most drive had the least talent (a sad mismatch). The actor downstairs did get a speaking part in EastEnders though it was only one or possibly two episodes. As far as I know they all gave up and do normal jobs.
Which leaves me, feeling uptight about the paths other people took when they "could have done so much more"... what's the saying? One finger points forward, three point back?
I've lost an entire decade to heroin. The time before that was an odd-crossover period lasting maybe three years when I dabbled increasingly and at two points got myself tiny habits. But I knew what I was doing was not good. I had seen the utter despair of dead-end addicts. I knew the local beggars, "ticket touts" and homeless.
I was buying used one-day travelcards for £1-2. (I think they were £2 before 8pm or some set time; £1 thereafter.) Even the homeless lived by rules. These ticket touts congregated at tube stations. When a train emptied out it was "Finished with your travelcard?... Finished with your travelcard..?" Then people came in "Do you want a travelcard?...Want a travelcard?" You could go anywhere in London free on bus, train or tube until about 2am. A travelcard then cost £3.50, so to get one for a pound was a bargain. It meant I could go visiting in Hackney, Stepney and West Hampstead, where I sat round drinking red wine, eating middle-class Bulgar wheat veggie type food. I wasn't vegetarian but only knew how to cook veggie. I hated the thought of handling dead flesh...
... Anyway. It was through these ticket touts, who were all junkies, that I got introduced to heroin. I saw the life, I saw the misery. I wanted to try it to see what the fuss was all about (I had tried it once years before but took so many other drugs including acid that night, I had no idea what was doing what...) So I tried it, and still wondered what all the fuss was about. It certainly didn't seem worth going homeless for. And I couldn't understand why they didn't just stop doing it but they were like automatons. Get up, probably feeling a bit sick. Use. Feel OK. Go out. Beg. Score. Beg a bit more. Score again. Go to tube station for early evening rush hour. Sell travel cards. go down West End. Beg up huge amounts of money. Score from late night dealer, heroin and crack. Pipe late into the night. Knock self out with huge hit. Sleep till late morning. And so it starts again.
I was never into West End begging ~ around theatreland and the tourist spots. You got endless hassle from police. Some people begged inside the actual underground stations down there, but again you were liable to get arrested. I begged in the suburbs where you got less money, but hardly any hassle. And the dealers were all nearby.
Someone once pointed out to me that what had started out as a joke "I got drunk with the homeless" had turned into a reality. "I am homeless. Plus I'm a junkie." I did feel strangely accepted by these addicts ~ as I never really was by the shoplifting and prostitution contingent (they were a totally different crowd). Even in rehab shoplifters looked down on beggars. What's that saying now...
Rich man, poor man, beggarman ... THIEF!
Everyone I knew who begged did it for the same reason: they didn't want to steal. Or sell their body. (Though judging by the state of a lot of them, they'd have had a job doing that anyway...)
SO! All this happened. And now I'm here. And I still have some talent. And I got keranged round the head with three ideas in two days.
Because Talent is not to be taken for granted, not to be wasted. A waste of talent is a crying shame. So is a waste of a life.
I will not go on about what I'm doing or want to do because I've done that before and nothing happened. So I'm just doing it.
Gotta go, it's quarter past five in the morning and I need a drink...
My Love Is Your Love 1998 ~ already she's sounding hoarse...
Contains the line: if I'm homeless on the streets, and I'm sleeping in Grand Central station it's ok if you're sleeping with me....
Thank God that never became a reality.
"Crack is whack... to Dianne Sawyer"
To Oprah. The heavy drugs started after The Bodyguard (explains why she followed the biggest hit of her career with... nothing). "I was freebasing cocaine, but only with weed in a joint". Then she mentions heroin and cocaine speedballing. (I used to luuurve doing that. That's why it took me two years from deciding to give up crack to actually doing it 100%.)
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