I thought I’d take a minute to reflect on why Ben Folds is my favorite modern singer/songwriter dude. He truly is awesome. I have loved his music since I heard his version of Elton John’s Tiny Dancer, which he plays with as much energy and technique as any accomplished piano player. The fact that he attended the University of Miami for percussion (not a slack school) and then dropped out when his superiors insisted he play a jury with a broken hand (he had been partying the night before), moved to Nashville, practiced his ass off running scales every day and went on to become relatively famous, speaks to just how awesome he really is. I mean, Ben Folds is undeniably the Real Deal. Not only a fantastic multi-intsrumentalist (he is proficient on drums and bass), but an incredible lyricist and craftsman of melodies, he is nothing short of an idol for me. Always has, always will be.
When I saw him perform with the Louisville Symphony back in the summer of 2008, the conductor of the Symphony said a few words before Ben came onstage. He said something about hanging out with Ben backstage and talking music with him, and Ben might have been doodling on the bass or guitar. Then he said something to the effect of, “We have with us today a true musical genius, and his name is Ben Folds.”
The fact that today with things in the music industry as they are, that someone can come out of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with a sound so distinct and yet accessible, drawn from so many influences from ’90s Grunge Rock to Dixieland jazz to ’70s rhythm and blues, to take that sound and first present it in a trio setting and then an orchestral setting and STILL BE POPULAR, that is indeed the work of a true musical genius. The whole essence of musical genius is, in my humble opinion, the ability to create an exquisitely crafted piece of music and still have the masses enjoy it, or at least most people, so as not to be enclosed in a sort of “box,” or, from the other end, to be superficial and cliche. This is EXTREMELY difficult to do and only can be achieved through very high levels of dedication and determination.
That’s why what Ben did, and continues to do, never ceases to amaze me. He totally understands how to retain his integrity (not be a sell-out) and still sell records. Which is, hopefully, what any self-respecting musician aspires to do. What is more, he has his own sound. One that is unmistakably Ben Folds-y, and yet the product of so many influences and genres. Let’s face it, that’s hard to do these days. He took the piano, put it in the forefront in a trio setting, and somehow managed to present music through that setting that people love, music that sounds like him and nobody else.
So anyway, that’s why I love Ben Folds. He is probably, other than Billy Joel, my number one musical go-to when people ask me about my influences. I hope that I can be like Ben one day.
If you in turn enjoy the music of Ben Folds, feel free to Like or Share this post! Also, check out the new Ben Folds Five “Live” album, where he, Darren and Jesse explore a bit of jazz with a rendition of Billie’s Bounce, and also briefly revisit the classic Weber tune “Heaven On Their Minds” from my favorite musical of all time, Jesus Christ Superstar.
That’s all for now, peace.