Practice, man, practice

I have become a belated fan of Sparks ever since the closing credits of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel season finale, which I wrote about the other day. The song “How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall?” has been an occasional earworm these past few days. OMG, is it catchy.

And how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, man, practice, on the Steinway, on the Steinway, on the Steinway. It’s the perfect accompaniment as Lenny Bruce’s impassioned exhortation echoes in the mind: “Don’t plan! Work! Just work and keep working.”

Ron and Russell Mael, aka Sparks, have kept working for more than 50 years. Their first album was released in 1971, and over the years they’ve made 23 more studio albums, a live album, a movie soundtrack and a collaborative album with Franz Ferdinand as FFS.

In other words, they just work and keep working. That’s a half-century of practice, man. 

“How Do I Get to Carnegie Hall” is on their 19th studio album, Lil’ Beethoven, released in 2002, 31 years after their first effort. Talk about your “overnight success” — two decades after its creation, the song finds its perfect place over the closing credits of a story that involves a legendary performance at New York City’s most prestigious venue. 

It’s an inspiring thought. How do you survive 50 years in the music business? Practice, man, practice. Work, and keep on working. And how do you know if one of your songs is any good? Wait 20 years and see.

I am a broken record spitting out the Ray Bradbury quotes: “You only fail if you stop writing.” If you believe in yourself, don’t quit. Just work and keep working, and there’s a good chance, one day, you’ll turn a corner. Robert A. Heinlein’s Rule No. 5 is, “You must keep it on the market until sold.” Well, Sparks just sold a copy of Lil’ Beethoven 20 years after they produced it, and I bet I’m not their only customer.

There’s something to be said about persistence and staying power. How many artists hit a home run in their 19th album?

Published by WarrenBluhm

Wordsmith and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his wife, two golden retrievers, Dejah and Summer, and Blackberry, an insistent cat. Author of It's Going to Be All Right, Echoes of Freedom Past, Full, Refuse to be Afraid, Gladness is Infectious, 24 flashes, How to Play a Blue Guitar, Myke Phoenix: The Complete Novelettes, A Bridge at Crossroads, The Imaginary Bomb, A Scream of Consciousness, and The Imaginary Revolution.

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