Bruce Springsteen’s Stage Magic

Bruce Springsteen knows that there’s real magic in great rock & roll performances.  In a recent interview on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Bruce Springsteen spoke about the magic that he creates on stage every night.  He calls it his “magic trick.”  He explains in this clip (starting at 5:00) that he’s there to manifest something between himself and the audience.  Something that didn’t exist before.  His job is to assist in creating that magic – and, “hopefully on a good night there will be a little transcendence.”   Just like in great shamanic performances, everyone is transformed.  And, that’s real magic.

 

Change or Be Changed

“Times always change. They really do.
And you have to always be ready for something
that’s coming along and you never expected it.” 1Bob Dylan

We’re definitely living in interesting times – with lots of changes just around the corner. I find myself wondering if this change will be forced upon us by some calamity like an earthquake, more droughts, terrorism, a political coup, or some other environmental disaster.

And although I know that change is inevitable, it’s the not knowing part that causes me the most anxiety. My old habit of simply going back to sleep – by watching TV, partying with friends, shopping, or any number of distractions – no longer eases the feeling of dread about what might lie ahead.

Many of us are looking back to the 1960’s for clues as to what’s happening now. While those times were full of innovation – there was also the war, social unrest, and plenty of tragedies. And, yet it felt like we were on the verge of some revolutionary change. But, then came 1969 and the beginning of the great let down – and the realization that we hadn’t made all the needed transformations. And, soon followed that feeling of falling back to sleep.

And now, even though it feels like similar times, the stakes seem so much higher.  What’s needed is some perspective, perhaps a vision – and a shaman can provide that vision. The shaman knows a lot about change. He has transformed himself – and died to his old ways many, many times. And, when the very survival of the tribe is at stake, it’s the shaman who journeys into the spirit world and brings back the necessary vision to light the way.

The good news is that we all have the ability to make these journeys and access that wisdom.  And, working with a shaman or a shamanic practitioner can provide the much needed guidance and inspiration. With this wisdom we can change our ways of thinking and perceiving and hold onto that vision. And, with that power we can all dream a new world into being.  Each of us has a part to play.

So, where do you begin? If you’re already on this path – that’s great. If you’re new to it – these organizations listed below offer information and guidance – and are a great place to start. Welcome to the journey.


The Foundation for Shamanic Studies http://www.shamanism.org/
Based on the pioneering work of anthropologist Michael Harner – they offer books, articles, and training programs in shamanism and shamanic healing.

The Four Winds Society http://thefourwinds.com/
Founded by Alberto Villoldo Ph.D., a medical anthropologist and psychologist – they offer classes and in-depth training programs in luminous healing and energy medicine.

The School for The Shamanic Arts http://www.schoolfortheshamanicarts.com/
Founded by the Reverend Esther Miriam Jenkins, this school offers a variety of classes that explore shamanic and energetic traditions.

 

Notes:

  1. Bob Dylan, MusiCares speech, February 2015. Here’s the complete speech

Prince, the Ultimate Public Servant

Prince performing in 1983

Prince performing in 1983

Like so many of us, I was shocked and saddened to hear about Prince’s passing.  Not only was I a fan – but, I had hoped to interview him for my documentary, The Shamans of Rock & Roll.  Prince took us on a musical journey to other worlds – but, he was also the ultimate public servant.

After reading and watching all the interviews and comments from people who knew him well – the big takeaway for me was that he wanted to know what people were doing to change the world, to make the world a better place, and if they were using their platform for the good of others. That’s what mattered most to Prince.  He would often tell friends “whatever you are doing, level up!” 1

Shamans journey into other worlds and use the information, energy, and power from these worlds to affect positive change. They don’t use this power for themselves, they use it for the benefit of others. They’re the ultimate public servant. And, so was Prince.

Prince took us on a musical journey to other worlds. . .spreading messages about spirituality, sexuality, and politics throughout his performances. His artistry came out of the great African American musical tradition – which included Little Richard, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and Sly and the Family Stone.  These artists inspired him – but, he took it to a whole other level.

Prince was an activist, a social justice defender, and a philanthropist. He lead a revolution in artists’ rights, and even gave up his name during his battle with Warner Bros. just to make the point.

Because he didn’t advertise his contributions – and in many cases wanted to remain anonymous – we can only guess his true impact.  We do know that in recent years he had given money to the family of Trayvon Martin, supported school music and arts programs, 2 organized the “Rally 4 Peace” concert in Baltimore and released the song “Baltimore” as an ode to ending police violence.  But, this was just the tip of the iceberg.

In the tradition of a true shaman, Prince was all about public service.  And, he wanted everyone to get involved.  Beyond his musical contributions, this may be his biggest legacy.  So, what is your ‘level up’?

 

Notes:

  1. Here’s a clip from the April 25, 2016 Dr. Drew Show on HLN with Shaun Robinson talking about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJuxTwFiHNU
  2. Here’s one example of Prince donating to a school’s music and arts program: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/prince-reached-out-gave-money-to-delray-beach-art-/nq9hX/

Your film can set Hollywood on fire, if you know what you’ve got

Hollywood-on-Fire

We’re in the midst of a revolution in the way films are marketed and distributed.  There’s significant opportunity for filmmakers who navigate successfully through this rapidly changing environment.

At the same time, savvy investors want a clear understanding of how they can profit from their investment. Therefore, it’s crucial that the business plan for my documentary, The Shamans of Rock & Roll, include a marketing and distribution section that provides the background on how to achieve that goal.

In speaking with potential investors I often refer to the great insights provided by Kevin Goetz of Screen Engine at the ITVA’s 15th Annual Production Conference. Kevin’s company specializes in market research and he believes that “every movie can make money as long as you know what you have.”

In today’s marketplace, the Big Idea is the single most important indicator of a film’s success. More than even the story – it’s the idea of it all – the DNA. The Big Idea motivates a big audience.

Also, filmmakers should know just who makes up their audience. Who are they making their film for? How large is this audience?

Kevin stressed that it’s important for films to be “comp’d” (using examples of other films that are similar) correctly. Filmmakers should not use “aspirational” comps – what they wish it could be.  They should choose films with similar genres and similar budget ranges.

To be successful, a film needs to have at least one the following:

  • Capability – the DNA measurement, the gut.
  • Playability – the audience’s experience when they sit down and watch the film.  How well does it “play”?
  • Marketability – the ability of a film to attract an audience.
  • Buzzability – what critics and social media want to see.

I’ve found that it’s been extremely useful to include a discussion of these ideas in conversations with potential investors – especially those from outside the entertainment industry.  It gives them an understanding of today’s marketplace and just how successful my film can be.

_________________

This article was originally posted on my LinkedIn page.

David Bowie’s Shaman Eye

The first time I saw a photograph of David Bowie and his amazing left eye, I remember thinking. . . .aah, he’s got a shaman eye.   Somewhere back in my childhood I had been told that when someone has an eye that’s distinctly different from the other eye – this was the mark of a shaman.  But, what does that really mean?

Life on Mars Screenshot

Screenshot from “Life on Mars” video

David Bowie was born with blue eyes – but, after an injury as a teenager, he ended up with one blue eye and his left eye, with a permanently enlarged pupil, appeared brown or green depending on the light. 1

Although visible birth marks and birth defects are sometimes considered shamanic markings – people who suffer from hardships and traumas in their early lives – like family tragedies, accidents, illnesses, or even rejection from the tribe – are also likely candidates for shamanhood.  These experiences become part of their initiation process – forcing them to become familiar with the spirit world. By withstanding these trials, they build the strength and courage necessary to ultimately be transformed into a shaman.

David had injured his eye during a fight in high school and it nearly cost him his sight.  He describes how “the pupil was paralyzed. It started bleeding. I was in hospital for months. I was very near to losing the sight in both eyes. They operated and saved my right eye but my left eye is still very dodgy.” 2 He was left with a paralyzed and permanently dilated pupil. 3

This ordeal – and the other injuries and hard times he experienced growing up – set the stage for his initiation.  His inspired music and theatrical performances were full of channeled messages from the dreamtime.  He ultimately became a master of transformation – inviting his audience right along for the ride.

For more on the hard times in David Bowie’s early life, see my article,  David Bowie – Shaman’s Apprentice.

Notes:

  1. David Buckley, Strange Fascination. David Bowie: The Definitive Story, (London: Virgin Books, 1999), 21.
  2. Ibid., 5.
  3. Ibid., 21.

What Makes A Great Rock and Roll Star?

Patti Smith performing at the Orpheum Theatre 2015

Patti Smith – Orpheum Theatre – 2015

While there are lots of opinions on what makes a great rock and roll star – my documentary, The Shamans of Rock & Roll, puts forward the proposition that there’s a magical potency to great rock and rollers – with fans who seem to almost worship them  – because they are, in fact, the shamans for their tribe.

We look at the early lives and music of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and John Lennon from a shamanic perspective.  And, while the shaman archetype is by no means limited to just these four artists – nor is it limited to just men – I’ve been called out more than once for not including a woman among the four artists that are highlighted.

While I can appreciate that people have differing opinions on which artists they consider worthy of analysis – I consider comments suggesting that my documentary will be viewed as anti-woman or that I’m intentionally excluding women to be shortsighted.  After all, I’m a woman; I have an anthropologist as an adviser who’s a woman; and she’ll be interviewed along with other musical artists that are women.

Bottom line, I’ve chosen to focus on these 4 guys because they had the biggest impact on my life. As a teenager growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, they inspired me and informed my worldview in a way that other artists have not. That’s not to say that I didn’t love and appreciate lots of other singers and rock & roll artists. But, for me, these guys rose above the fray.

And, it seems that I’m not alone in my experience.

During a recent conversation about her new book, M Train, Patti Smith offered insight into how she sees herself as an artist. She said that she doesn’t consider herself to be a great singer or a musician – she considers herself to be a writer who performs rock & roll. And when she performs, she “grabs for the performer that informs the work” that she’s doing. Adding,

I just modeled myself after the ones I related to . . . and let’s face it, our greatest rock stars have been men . . . I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen a girl yet as great as Jimi Hendrix.

She admitted that it’s a tricky thing to talk about. And, that although she loves women,

When I was young . . . when I thought of rock & roll stars . . . coming up through the 60’s and early 70’s, I gravitated toward our male performers . . . Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Bob Dylan.

Patti went on to say that as an artist, from an early age, she “staked the right to not have to be fettered by gender.” She knows who she is. And, she doesn’t like the idea of being labeled a “female artist.” Do people say that Picasso was a white, male artist? Artists shouldn’t have to be identified by their sexuality, their race, or their gender.

I hear you, Patti – and, I couldn’t agree more.

 

Source:

“An Evening with Patti Smith. M Train. Reading and conversation with Jonathan Lethem.”  Hosted by The Library Foundation of Los Angeles at The Orpheum Theatre.  November 16, 2015.  http://lfla.org/event/an-evening-with-patti-smith-2/

You Say You Want a Revolution

Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You’d better free your mind instead 1

John-editedYes, we are definitely living in interesting times.  On every level – economically, politically, socially, environmentally – it feels like we’re on the brink of some massive change.

People everywhere are waking up and demanding an end to the status quo. They’re tired of the political and corporate interests that seem to be ruling the world. Traditional power structures and institutions like government, banking, healthcare, education and the media have to transform. And, climate change just might be the final straw.

Everyone is looking for answers – and, they’re looking for leaders to show them the way.  But, can we really wait for those leaders to appear? Or is it up to each of us as individuals to clean up our own acts first?

Like John Lennon was telling us back in 1968. . .”you got to free your mind instead. . .”   A successful revolution can only come from within. . .by truly understanding who you really are. . .self-awareness is the key.  And, a powerful approach toward achieving new levels of self-awareness comes to us through the practice of shamanic healing.

But, why would a modern person want to look to some ancient system of knowledge for help? Well, it’s been my experience, that by working with a shamanic practitioner and looking at your life from a shamanistic perspective, you can find healing for whatever is ailing you. . .which can lead to a deeper understanding of your role in this revolution.

Shamans believe that during periods of great stress, fear, and trauma a person’s soul 2 will fragment. And, these “lost” or fragmented pieces will need to be found and re-incorporated into the whole.

So, if you find that you’re feeling angry, hurt, or disempowered. . .a shamanic practitioner can work with you to identify those lost parts and restore you to wholeness.

Yes, it’s definitely time for a revolutionary shift. . .and you are the key to making this happen.

The call is as potent as ever. . .please watch, Revolution. 3

Notes:

  1. Lyrics from Revolution by The Beatles, 1968, Apple Records.
  2. By soul I mean the spiritual essence that’s essential throughout your life. For more information, see Michael Harner’s at http://www.shamanism.org/articles/article01page2.html
  3. The Beatles are lip syncing to a pre-recorded track. . .the opening scream is actually John, not Paul.

David Bowie – Shaman’s Apprentice

“If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now, I’d either be in the nuthouse or in prison.” 1 David Bowie, 1972.

Shaman's Apprentice David Bowie 1967

David Bowie, 1967

It’s not uncommon for shaman candidates to have suffered from events or traumas like a family tragedy, accidents, illnesses, or rejection. These experiences become part of their shamanic initiation process. . .forcing them to become familiar with the spirit world. By withstanding these trials, the shaman candidate builds the strength and courage that’s necessary to be transformed into a shaman.

While on the surface it may appear that David Bowie had a happy, suburban, middle class childhood – a deeper look reveals that he experienced suffering, trauma, and alienation while growing up in post-war England.

David Jones (who changed his name to David Bowie in 1965) was born at home in January of 1947 – with his midwife purportedly announcing,  “this child has been on earth before!” 2  His parents married later that year. His father had 2 daughters from a previous marriage (although one was put up for adoption) – and, his mother already had a son, Terry, who was almost 10 years old when they married.

David grew up in Brixton, London – a poor, working-class area crowded with families whose homes had been destroyed during the London bombings of WWII. He later told an interviewer, “I never wanted and never went hungry but I saw people deprived all around and I wanted them to have better.” 3

When he was 8, he and his half-brother Terry went to live with their paternal uncle in a farmhouse in Yorkshire. The farmhouse was in the countryside surrounded by cattle and sheep – however, they were never really happy there. They returned to live with their parents who now lived in a small, but comfortable house in the suburbs of London. 4  Speaking to a journalist David commented

I’ve seen pretty well the best of both (worlds), from the terrible slum area of Brixton, with a heavy Black population, to right up in the country on the farms. I’ve been a child through both so that both halves of it really influenced me and produced a schizoid attitude in life. I think that’s what confused me. 5

Biographers also allude to the “sub-zero emotional climate in the Jones’ house.” 6 They write of “the austere, non-physical nature of his relationship with his parents” that may have left a mark on Bowie. 7 Evidently, Terry was forever arguing with his mother – while his dad was “often in a state of quizzical, melancholic withdrawal.” 8

David shared a bedroom with his teenage brother, Terry, throughout his school years and the two became very close – with Terry becoming a great influence in his life. 9 Terry had read Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and spent a lot of this time at late night jazz clubs. According to David, “it was Terry who really started everything for me. He was into all these different Beat writers and listening to jazz musicians like John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy.” 10

However, Terry was prone to bouts of depression and would ultimately be diagnosed with schizophrenia. “Aural and visual hallucinations, images of bright, searing lights (heavenly) and flames (hellish) would increasingly blight Terry’s life. . . He would often hear the ‘voices from God.'” 11 His increasingly erratic behavior “was horrifying to Bowie.” 12

Adding to the difficult circumstances in his early life, Bowie was plagued with a score of physical injuries. He claimed to have been

Under a doctor’s care during much of my youth not because I was sickly but because I was accident prone. I broke a hand and then after it healed I broke a thumb on the same hand. . . Then I ran over myself with an automobile. I was cranking the car with it in gear and it ran against me breaking both my legs. That time I very nearly lost my masculinity entirely and to this day I have a large scar on the inner side of my leg. 13

At 14, while in high school, David had a fight with a friend over girl and that single punch nearly cost him the sight in his eye. According to David, “The pupil was paralyzed. It started bleeding. I was in hospital for months. I was very near to losing the sight in both eyes. They operated and saved my right eye but my left eye is still very dodgy.” 14He was left with a paralyzed and permanently dilated pupil. Born with blue eyes, he now had one blue eye and his left eye, with the permanently enlarged pupil, appears brown or green depending on the light. 15

It was while David was in the hospital recovering from eye surgery that Terry, the brother that he looked up to and adored, was committed to a mental institution. David and his family would visit him every two weeks. 16 One can only imagine how this impacted David.

In fact, “the taint of ‘madness’ in the Jones’ family terrified the young Bowie – not only was Terry profoundly disturbed but many of his extended family on his mother’s side had psychological or mental problems, too.” 17 One aunt, a schizophrenic, died in her late 30’s after enduring electric shock treatment and internment in a mental institution. Another aunt also had schizophrenic episodes. And, a third aunt had been lobotomized in order to treat her nervous disposition. And, his grandmother also claimed to be a “madwoman.” 18 It’s not surprising that the young Bowie felt society’s stigma against the mentally ill all around him. 19

Unfortunately, in 1985, at the age of 47, Terry killed himself after lying down on the railway lines at Coulsdon South station, London. He was killed instantly by a passing train.

These dramatic experiences in David Bowie’s early life – the multiple injuries; his family’s mental illness; his brother’s descent into madness; and, the possible alienation and lack of emotional support in his family environment – all set the stage for his initiation into shamanhood. Through it all, he developed a strong connection with the spirit world – along with the strength, courage and perseverance to overcome these obstacles – ultimately laying the foundation for him becoming a true shaman.

Notes:

  1. Barry Miles, David Bowie Black Book, (London: Omnibus Press, A Division of Book Sales Limited, 1980), 43.
  2. David Buckley, Strange Fascination. David Bowie: The Definitive Story, (London: Virgin Books, 1999), 13.
  3. Miles, David Bowie Black Book, 5.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Buckley, Strange Fascination, 14.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Miles, David Bowie Black Book, 6.
  11. Buckley, Strange Fascination, 20.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Miles, David Bowie Black Book, 6.
  14. Ibid., 5.
  15. Buckley, Strange Fascination, 21.
  16. Miles, David Bowie Black Book, 6.
  17. Buckley, Strange Fascination, 19.
  18. Ibid, 20.
  19. Ibid.

Dylan’s Epic Shaman Songs

Although much of the rock and roll in the early 1960’s focused on adolescent themes with relatively simple lyrics and melodies – Bob Dylan changed all that.  He blew the doors wide open by writing rock and roll songs that included epic 1 themes.

Dylan Epic Songs

Like a true shaman, Dylan’s epic songwriting was inspired by his mystical experiences in the dreamtime.  It changed the way people listened to music.  Dylan did “more than anybody else. . . to develop in a mass audience the kind of receptiveness to things imaginative and nontrivial.” 2

Here was rock music, part of the pop world, yet with it Bob Dylan was pumping out something of infinitely more dimensions than any one else had ever thought of in pop before. 3

Shamans’ songs are first-hand accounts of their ecstatic experiences. And, scholars theorize that ecstatic euphoria constitutes one of the universal sources of lyric and epic poetry.

The shaman’s adventures in the other world, the ordeals that he undergoes in his ecstatic descents below and ascents to the sky, suggest the adventures of the figures in popular tales and the heroes of epic literature. Probably a large number of epic ‘subjects’ or motifs. . .of epic literature, are. . .of ecstatic origin. . .in the sense that they were borrowed from the narratives of shamans describing their journeys and adventures in the superhuman worlds. 4

In Martin Scorsese’s film “No Direction Home,” Bob Neuwirth, friend and associate of Dylan, explains how during the early 60’s in the Village a key question always asked about any performer was “does he have anything to say?” 5  That was all that mattered.  And, Bob Dylan offered his vision as to what was really going on.  He changed the way people listened to music – with his audience becoming part of a magical initiation that had the potential to transform anyone who was listening.

Notes:

  1. An epic (from the Ancient Greek adjective epikos, from epos “word, story, poem”) is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epic_poetry
  2. Michael Gray, Song & Dance Man/The Art of Bob Dylan, (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1972), 144.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Micea Eliade, Shaman­ism: Archaic Tech­niques of Ecstasy, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1964), 510.
  5. Martin Scorsese, No Direction Home, 2005.

You Might Say I’m A Dreamer. . .

Anthropologists suggest that a significant factor determining whether or not a person becomes a shaman is that from an early age they are dreamers who have out-of-the-ordinary perceptions.  Their dreams connect them with the spirit world – which, ultimately, is the source of their power.

Like a shaman candidate, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Jimi Hendrix, and John Lennon were dreamers who saw the world differently than most people.

Cave drawings on Sicily - Learn about John Lennon's Connection to Shamanism in the new John Lennon Movie - Shaman's of Rock and Roll

Cave drawings in Sicily

As a child growing up in Minnesota, Dylan recalled staring at the snow and having “amazing hallucinogenic experiences doing nothing but looking out your window.” 1 Later, in a “Rolling Stone” interview he commented that “I live in my dreams. I don’t really live in the actual world.” 2

Jimi Hendrix was also a shy, dreamy kid – who spoke with a stammer. He claimed to see colors, not notes in his head as he played his guitar. 3  “I used to dream in Technicolor that 1966 was the year that something would happen to me.” 4  And, in 1966, Jimi went to London and everything changed.

John Lennon said that “psychedelic vision is reality to me and always was. Even as a child. When I looked at myself in the mirror . . . I used to, literally, trance out . . . seeing these hallucinatory images of my face changing, becoming cosmic and complete.” 5

And, in his song ‘When I Live My Dream’ David Bowie declares that: “It’s a broken heart that dreams.” He acknowledges that he’s a “dreaming kind of guy.” And, he promises: “Nothing in my dream can hurt you.” 6 This is just one of Bowie’s many songs about dreams.

These artists were definitely in touch with the dreamtime. It was a source of their creativity and it gave them the power to transform their lives.  And, for those who were listening . . . it showed us a way of connecting with realities far beyond our normal experience . . . opening us to the possibility of connecting with the source of our power.

Notes:

  1. Howard Sounes, Down the Highway. The Life of Bob Dylan, (New York: Grove Press, 2001), 17.
  2. Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stone Interview, January 26, 1978.
  3. Charles Cross, Room Full of Mirrors. A Biography of Jimi Hendrix, (New York: Hyperion, 2005), 133.
  4. Ibid., 118.
  5. David Sheff, All We Are Saying: The Last Major Interview with John Lennon and Yoko One, (New York: Playboy Enterprises, Inc, St. Martins Press, 1981), 158.
  6. From the album The World of David Bowie released in 1970.