Thursday, April 5, 2012

How Dr. John Got His Groove Back

Dr. John: The Night Tripper got his start in New Orleans in the 1950's making big, bad, boogie woogie voodoo music. His incorporation of local tribal chants into his bluesy R&B music gained him big name followers such as Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger, and his music came to define the "New Orleans sound." Gris-Gris, his first album, would even go on to be ranked 143rd on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. You've heard him if you've seen Disney's The Princess and the Frog; he sings the movie's opening song "Down in New Orleans."
This is Dr. John.
It's certain that his music has accumulated critical acclaim, and he worked to define a genre that was completely original. However, Dr. John's career has been in a lull since the late 80's/early 90's, and he has been experiencing a similar phenomenon to many of our Creatives from class. His inability to produce work as original and beloved by the general public as his early works is directly parallel to Albert Einstein's struggle to complete groundbreaking work in the post-Theory of Relativity stage of his life. This is merely one example, and we've seen many Creatives struggle to continue to make multiple creative contributions to their respective fields.

Just recently, however, Dr. John has rediscovered his groove. With the help of the singer of my favorite band, The Black Keys, Dr. John has re-imagined his song writing and musical style to produce a new album, titled Locked Down. Dan Auerbach, produces the album in the music business sense of the word, and their collaboration is extremely relevant to topics we've been discussing in class. "It's hard being a musician that's out of fashion," says Auerbach. "When you can play that New Orleans stuff so well without even thinking about it, and can collect that paycheck ... you can't blame him." On Dr. John's new album, however, Auerbach pushed Dr. John to retrieve the magic of his early works.

The pair worked together to re-inspire Dr. John, and Auerbach pushed him by asking him to write its songs outside of his native New Orleans, for example. He also encouraged him to write about personal subject matters, previously unexplored by John.  It's interesting to analyze their partnership, as in class we've discussed examples which both catalyze (Watson and Crick) and hinder creativity (Graham and her husband).  It's certain that Auerbach and John's relationship was extremely beneficial to the creative processes of Dr. John, and the album has received the high acclaim similar to his earlier creative works.
Dan and the Dr.

It seems as if John has rediscovered his musical groove, and that Locked Down was the "Aha! moment" that our Creatives describe when creating something especially meaningful. "Everything came together for this album," says Dr. John. "Mystically, spiritually, emotionally, and musically. I wasn't expecting it, but it came together. That's how the world works sometimes." Sounds like inspiration to me.

[Here} is the link to read more about their collaboration and the review of Locked Down.

1 comment:

  1. I actually think this is really great. Collaboration is definitely one of the most interesting aspects of creativity in my opinion, and to see an "old" man work with a young one to create is inspirational.

    At first glance, I was like okay... the "Q" here is negligible. They're both musicians, so what gives? But after reading your post again I see that we have two people with a great age difference, great difference in background, but have music tying them together. And to read that the collaboration lead to a unique perspective on motivation for song writing - that is, Auerbach encouraging John through collaboration to explore untouched areas of creating music - to me proves that both are creative and insightful. I really like the idea of diverse pairs (no more than 2) coming together to create together. While it seems that Auerbach had to push a little more than in other instances to help John to "get his groove back", it works.

    This example, and one from our book, that is, Stravinsky collaborating outside his field with Roerich, makes me think that companies today should be hiring from EVERY major possible to make their workforce diverse. It is almost unarguable in my eyes, backed up by our readings as well, that two people with greatly different (career/musical/academic) backgrounds can often bring about really novel ideas. Collaboration is the door that opens so many possibilities as long as it is kept in check. Great post.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.