Dying Inspiration

Today my granddaughter went to her Prom. Now, it wasn’t the real prom. she’s in eighth grade. None of the kids had dates, It really was just a dressed up school dance.But, she looked beautiful and it made me really happy to pose for a picture with her. I know that a granddaughter going to the prom is supposed to make you feel old, but I didn’t feel that way. More and more, these events just make me grateful that I’ve had a good life and it all fits together.

As a young man I had two celebrity inspirations. Two larger than like stars who walked their own paths and were true to their inner selves. One was Muhammad Ali, who recently passed. There is just way too much to say about Ali and, others have already said it. But, with his great success and flamboyant personality he was a magnetic attraction for me. When he stood his ground and refused to be drafted, he spoke to me about being true to personal beliefs regardless of cost.

This week also marked the birthday of the Kinks front man, Ray Davies.He turned 72. Now, when I first fell in love with the Kinks, 72 was an amazingly old age. Today, it’s not so horrible. But, the end is near for those of us in, and approaching, our seventies.

Davies’ music was special to me from the first time I heard it. He had me at the first note. I can remember delivering the Daily News by bicycle as a young teen and Tired of Waiting was playing on my tiny transistor radio.  I stopped riding and stood astride my bike, listening intently in the middle of the road, not wanting to miss any bit of it.

His music grabbed me right away and was a mainstay throughout my youth. I often joked that Kinks music was the soundtrack of my life.  The Kinks never reached the height of popularity that their British Invasion brethren achieved. They never had the success of The Who, The Stones or The Beatles. They didn’t have their success but they earned their respect. Pete Townshend was famously open about his appreciation for Ray Davies.

Davies moved on from early typical teenage topics of love and angst to more adult themes. He wrote of his love for a simple English life that struggled to hold onto its place in a nation that was eager to move on. His lyrics resonated with me and made me appreciate the simple things in my American life.  When he sang of country picnics and lovely village greens I thought of the community picnics we had on the grounds of the VFW hall in my tiny town of Tottenville.

I enjoyed other bands, of course. None of them were able to inspire the devotion that Ray stirred up so easily in me.  When the Kinks fell from popularly due to some silly conflict with American unions, they got no airplay on the radio. Their albums got no support and were very difficult to find. There was no internet then to check for news on their album release dates. I found their albums through diligence in checking the record racks, often finding them in the bargain bin at a great price, although the corners were cut off like veterinarians do with stray cats they’ve spayed. Stray cats or not, the records were great.

Ray is 72. His brother Dave is only a bit younger. They are still producing music separately but have only teased us with rumors of a Kinks reunion.  I’m really hoping against all hope that they can rise above the sibling rivalry that persists into their old age and get on the stage for one more time. That they would do it for me, at least.

The world just lost Muhammad Ali. Ali’s career covered the same time period as Ray’s.  I loved them both, Ali and Davies.  With Muhammad passing and Ray aging, I see I’m on the verge of losing the last of those who inspired me as a young man. So, I’m  looking ahead for that person who can inspire me in my years to come. The one who can take their places. After all, I can’t have my inspirations dying off.

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