If you’re Canadian, and you grew up in the 60s and 70s, chances are you’ve heard of Valdy. He’s one of the most well-known folk singers in Canada, and is famous for his hit song “Play Me a Rock ‘N Roll Song”. Here it is, have a listen. It’s okay, I’ll wait.
Notice what he says at the beginning of the video.
“This is a song about mass rejection…I was out of place, but I got a good song out of it.”
The song is a true story. Valdy is a folk singer, plain and simple. As he says in the song, he sings about “freedom and joy”. He really did go and play in front of 5000 rock ‘n roll fans. They really didn’t want to listen. They wanted rock ‘n roll…or nothing.
Valdy could have paid attention to his critics. He could have done what was popular at the time, and started playing rock ‘n roll. He’s an accomplished songwriter and an extraordinary guitar player. He could have handled switching genres quite easily. It would have been easy for him to do so, and it would have gotten his critics off his back. He was being booed. He was being openly criticized. It would have been easier to stop. But he kept playing his songs about peace and contentment anyway.
As he says in the song, if he had done what his audience had wanted of him, and played rock n’ roll songs, he wouldn’t have been real. He wouldn’t have been true to himself. His “head isn’t there”.
Every morning I spend a bit of time, as I sip my coffee, perusing news feeds, Twitter, and the like, to see what the day’s popular stories are. While there is some gold in them thar hills, more and more what I’m seeing is just the regurgitation of whatever happens to be popular and trendy at the moment. I see post after buzzword-filled post about how to be more human, how to be a social business, 10 steps to a better blog, and so on. Not that these aren’t good and valuable topics to cover. But to cover those the same way as every other blogger out there is akin to Valdy selling out to his audience and breaking into “Back in Black” in the middle of his set. It’s not real. It’s not true. It’s trying to be like everyone else, in the hopes that you’ll please people.
Who you are is a real person, with real opinions and points of view that are uniquely yours. And if you’re just agreeing with everyone else, going along with what’s popular, you’re selling yourself short. You don’t need to talk about what’s popular. You need to talk about what you care about. You need to stay true to your own roots of what you know and what you think. You need to stop listening to the critics who are telling you to talk about something different just because that’s what everyone else is doing.
Your audience may want a rock ‘n roll song, but if peace and contentment is what you’re offering, then it might be time to do like Valdy, head back to the country, and find a new audience. The people who want to listen to your song are out there.
And you want to know a secret? You find them not by talking, but by listening.
We could all take a page from Valdy’s songbook, don’t you think? And oh, by the way, he’s one heck of a pool player too. In fact, he taught me everything I know about playing the game. But that’s another story. :)