Where Have All The Billy Braggs Gone?

I have been writing a lot. I know. It’s an experiment.

Who are your heroes?

I know who mine are. Like most people, I have many, not just one. You see those people on the street who have just one sometimes. You can tell they want to be Keith Richards, or Liam Gallagher, or Woody Allen.

But I have many. How could I not? I’m just a big sponge for culture anyway. So many influences come rushing my way.

Just think for a second of how many people you’ve ever met in your life. Then add people you’ve read about, or seen. Then add fictional characters from movies, books and all. Must be thousands. Tens of thousands. Maybe hundreds of thousands. How many names do you know? Friends, family, famous and fictional. How can it not rub off on you? How can you not have a million heroes.

But there’s one type of hero for me that I keep returning to. A bunch of guys with familiar character traits that make me think, and think often – I want to be like that.

Bruce Springsteen. Elvis Costello. Joe Strummer. Billy Bragg. Lloyd Cole. Paul Westerberg. More I can’t think of right now.

(Funnily enough, all men who were at their prime in the 80s as people)

It’s got nothing to do with the music, but them as people. There’s a mix of strength, of rocking, of doing, mixed with passion and emotion, and quite a bit of smarts. All those men you can imagine rolling up their sleeves and changing a car tire. All those men you can imagine have had their fair share of dark moments in love. And all those men are well read and are articulate.

And it’s the mix that’s most important of all. Of Tough, Romance and Intelligence. Obviously there are those who lean highly to one of the three. Steven Segal is all brawn, rock, and physicality. He can fix your shed, but not much else. Romance taken to the extreme and you get the flowery poets. No one likes them. And all intellect is another cartoon – Steven Hawking?

When you mix it up a little it gets more interesting (for me). Romance and Intellect gets you into Niles from Frasier territory. It’s a character I love to pieces, but useless more than not. Romance and Tough, you get Rocky Balboa. Emotional, and can only bash at things to express his emotion. He would attack marble with a mallet. Intellect and Tough? You get Henry Rollins. I hope than man gets into politics. Personally, I need a bit of heart.

And it seems each has a detractor. The indie nerd eschews toughness. The Silent Types eschew emotion. The jock eschews intelligence.

So I go on about this for a very good reason. I feel like that kind of guy is lost. Or at least it’s been a while since I met one. Especially in greater culture. Where are the artful, emotional and strong role models? The man who understands the world, who can feel for the world, and can change the world?

We need another Billy Bragg. We need someone who can play and sing and spit with every muscle behind him, can write a sad song about girl he once loved, and use a line as intelligent and witty as ‘I put you on the pedestal, they put you on the pill.”

Where have all the Billy Braggs gone?

Danny

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