"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

In the Key of Life

I was going home last night on the 1 train when a guy with a guitar walked into the car. He was a short Latin man with spiked black hair, a black pea coat (with the collar turned up), grey slacks and polished black shoes. He stood in front of me and put his fingers on his guitar, in no hurry to begin. I made a face when he strummed a few chords because his instrument was not in tune. Then he began to play and sing. I looked at his fingers and saw a white callus on his left index finger that looked like an extension of his finger nail.

He sang with conviction and strummed with force. He was stern almost somber but his voice was emotional, direct. I wondered if he just didn’t care that his guitar was out-of-tune. When he was finished, he spoke so softly that even sitting a foot away I couldn’t make out what he was saying. But as he walked through the car, people gave him dollar bills, not coins.

Nobody cared that his guitar was out of tune. His music still moved them.

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1 Jon DeRosa   ~  Mar 10, 2010 10:51 am

It's awesome that you noticed the quality of the performance and it's effect on others. I usually have the head phones on and can't hear the subway performers that well.

Did you read that article about Joshua Bell performing outside the DC Metro station? One of the greatest musicians in the world and few stopped to listen. Were they not paying attention? Had they already completely dismissed him as a "street performer" of no value? I wish I could say I would have noticed, but I doubt I would have.

Last night I got a finger jammed in my ear in my hoops game and it crusted over with blood. So I couldn't put the head phones in on the way home. Had a really good drummer on the train, and for once, I listened.

2 Jon DeRosa   ~  Mar 10, 2010 11:01 am

Here's that Joshua Bell story...


3 Alex Belth   ~  Mar 10, 2010 11:03 am

I usually stop to listen or watch the other passenger's and see how they react to a musician. I like the doo wop guys who end their routine with, "And remember, SMILE, it won't ruin your hair."

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver