Over time

by Paul Burmeister

Musicians and performers of popular music are acutely aware how short the window of time can be for their careers. Popular music is generally a youth music. Yet some artists are able to build remarkable bodies of work over time.
I find myself continually surprised by the longevity of artists to whom I was first attracted almost 40 years ago. Their music may no longer be youthful, naturally. And despite their use of  forms and styles rooted in their youth, their expressions have changed, and they have remained relevant. In fact, one of the chief enjoyments of their music is how they have authentically blended marks of their youth with perspectives of time.
Among others, Bruce Cockburn, Peter Frampton, John Mellencamp, and Richard Thompson are producing work that is as strong or stronger than output from any time during their long careers. Frampton is perhaps the most interesting example. I remember first-hand how a popular mania pushed him too close to the sun with Frampton Comes Alive. At the time he even eclipsed McCartney's Wings over America live record. No fault of Frampton's that Comes Alive was so eminently likable. Following his blockbuster, expectations were unrealistic, and he became something of a teen idol, which wasn't who he was. His career ebbed for a while, but he recovered nicely, and the listener can gain much pleasure from his more recent output.