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. 🙂

Image via Wikipedia





5 Responses

  1. There’s a lot of wisdom in this. However, I’m not sure retreating to the echo chamber is entirely effective. It depends what your end-game is. And, how confident you are in your own opinions and how you’re delivering them. The real issue is respect and open-mindedness on the part of the audience. If they’ve decided what they want to hear, there’s a larger problem at play.

    Of course, I’ve only been awake for a few minutes so I probably should re-read your post and make sure I’m not embarrassing myself. That’s another side-effect of this democratized communication. We act, often too quickly.

    Have a great Friday!

    1. That’s a great point Mark. Sometimes it is up to us to open our audiences’ eyes to a new perspective. It’s a challenging task, being that people dislike change. Convincing people of your point of view is a tall order sometimes, though not impossible. As teachers, we often live this in our jobs, right?

      I guess what I’m saying here is, if you don’t fully understand your audience, then you may fall short if you’re trying to communicate well to them. Do you change your tune to suit them? Perhaps. But sometimes you miss the mark (no pun intended…well, maybe). Sometimes you’ve either misjudged what they really are looking for, or you are trying to convince the wrong crowd.

      Either way, being self aware enough to know when you need to adjust is the key.

  2. Great blog, as well as the conversation between you and Mark.

    So it’s not just about being authentic, but knowing or finding the audience that cares. Or maybe your audience really does and you don’t know it? Testing, testing 🙂

    1. Being authentic is definitely very important. As Valdy demonstrated in the song, he stayed true to himself, didn’t change his approach. Rather, he sought out the people he could provide value to.

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