I'm having a love affair with Steven Tyler. No, not a real one. I'm reading his memoir Does the Noise in my Head Bother You? And the answer is - no, Steven, it doesn't.
Reading his book is a bit like watching a train wreck - you want to look away, but you just can't. It was at the same time (which is quite a feat) riveting, fascinating, horrifying, appalling, inspiring, captivating, and nothing short of completely entertaining.
If genius is its own form of insanity, then Steven Tyler delivers both the profound and the crazy in equal measure. And his passion is contagious. He's a walking encyclopedia of songs, and his knowledge isn't limited to the genre that made him famous. His tastes are eclectic and his influences meld into what makes him a force to be reckoned with in entertainment.
Lest you think I started out as a huge Aerosmith fan, I must dispel that myth from the getgo. I can't name five songs of theirs. So how did I get to be a Steven Tyler fan in my forties? And why did I choose to read nearly four hundred pages about a guy whose drug use has conceivably destroyed more brain cells than I will ever have? Well, the answer is kind of simple - he's from my hometown of Yonkers, New York, and we went to the same high school (which he got kicked out of). I wanted to know what the trajectory was that got him from Yonkers, New York to rock 'n' roll super stardom, because, believe me, it's not an obvious transition.
Not to over analyze here, but the take away from his book in answer to that question is - have a very clear vision of what you want for yourself, learn everything you can about it, and then don't stop until you get there.
It sounds simple, and it may be simple, but the one thing it isn't is easy. Unlike the kids he judges on American Idol, Steven Tyler has something our current crop of young performers don't anymore - seasoning. It is not easy to play every dive bar, restaurant, barn, hoedown, whatever for years and years. Long before you have your own roadies, there is schlepping involved, and a lot of driving, sleeping in cars, going hungry, and assorted other glamorous things that earn you the right to have the four decade career that Steven Tyler has had. And though the perks be many once you get there, celebrity doesn't come without a heavy price it exacts for the privilege. So while most of us cannot relate to the degree of excess that much of this book describes in great detail, given the underlying current of reality pulsing through it, most of us wouldn't choose this life even if we could have it. It might be fun for five minutes, but it's a roller coaster ride anyone who is faint of heart would be screaming to get off of.
If there is something enviable that I took away from this read, it is the bravery, reckless abandon, and fearlessness with which Steven Tyler seems to have lived his life. While it's true that he is not the poster child for clean living, he is the poster child for being completely authentic, and for as wild as that may come across at times, it is an admirable quality to be sure. To be true to yourself as you walk through life takes a kind of courage we don't often see today. And it is a beautiful thing. So if the eccentric clothes and long hair put you off, then so be it. We express ourselves in ways both big and small. I view it as another layer of creativity in the many layers of a complex and artistic soul. We could all stand to be a little less like sheep, even in how we dress.
While I can't say that his memoir will win him any literary awards, I can and will say that, like Mozart and Beethoven, Steven Tyler's music will live on well beyond his time on earth. And that, my friends, speaks volumes. So in the immortal words of the man himself, come on and sing it with me - "dream on - dream until your dreams come true."
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