By The Landlord
“As you think, so shall you become.” – Bruce Lee
“I am not a has-been. I am a will be.” – Lauren Bacall
“Knock the ’t’ off the ‘can’t.’” – Samuel Johnson
“Confidence is the only outfit you can’t buy.” – Leonardo DiCaprio
It’s sexier than beauty and cleverer than brains. It seduces, gains advantage, makes things happen. It can come out in all sorts of ways, as the big, loud brash, coke-cocksure battery ram of action, as the quiet, sneaky key to success, or the silken, silver-tongued, swaggering charm towards power and popularity. It appears to be natural, but is it? Musicians and performers have it spades – but in equal measure to their insecurity. It is the thing that allows us to fall backwards and be caught by our friends, hopefully. But where does it come from, and why can it be also be so fragile? This week we’re all about that precious quality that’s known called confidence – getting it, needing it, having it, keeping it, using it, and sometimes losing it, expressed in all sorts of ways in lyrics, and often in the style of performance. A confident performance would include most recordings – so the songs in question must lyrically pertain to some aspect of it.
So this week a host of confident, or otherwise visitors to the Bar are either striding in calmly or pushing with sharp elbows to have their say on the subject. Here’s the writer Thomas Carlyle, oozing confidence and profundity, if not a little pomposity, but with fine wines ordered, he is absolutely right in pronouncing that: “Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.” And here’s Dale Carnegie, author of the massive bestselller How to Win Friends and Influence People confirming thsi on similar lines: “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
Many performers, not merely in music, are deeply insecure, but gain confidence by practice. This week we’ve even got a couple of sports stars in: “Confidence is the most important single factor in this game, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work,” says the golfer Jack Nicklaus. And here’s that squeaky-voiced superstar, David Beckham, who surely has everything. How can you fail if you look like or have his talents? Not at all. His life has been full of self-doubt. What’s the answer David? “Um, well, her, that was my way of getting through difficult times of low confidence – hard work.” Yes! Kick it, David!
So in other words, do it. Do it! Though if you want to come across as confident, not necessarily like this:
But confidence is much to do with how you carry yourself, and it doesn’t always mean being talented or intelligent. How many of us in have found from teenage times onwards others less capable or bright getting the girl, or the job, or the opportunity, because they lacked self-doubt, or the tendency to hesitate or think to much. Here’s Mark Twain: “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” And even Charles Darwin is here, who, despite his world-changing work, went through many doubts and pains, and still confirms that many it is often those with less in their heads that get ahead: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
And yet that other great scientist, Archimedes, famously pronounced: “Give me a place to stand and I shall move the Earth!” Actually he wasn’t just bigging himself up as being super brainy, but probably saying: “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Archimedes was all about getting things done, moving stuff – earth, water, with inventions such as the Archimedes Screw.
Talking of which, of moving, and screwing that is, let’s now enjoy one of the most confident stars of the 20th century, who had about as much front as anyone, alive or dead. Take it away, Mae:
Mae has many fans at the Bar today. “I think confidence is the sexiest thing to have,” says Jessie J, gushing a bit. “Well, I love the confidence that makeup gives me,” says the model, Tyra Banks. An embarrassed silence follows. But Katy Perry is also here, and is so impressed by Mae, she’s inspired to say: “Wow, yes. If you're presenting yourself with confidence, you can pull off pretty much anything.” Mae West smiless wickedly and her response to Katy’s choice of phrase is, well, you can only imagine …
And now that other great dirty of dirtiest stars, the 20s and 30s blues singer Lucille Bogan, who also sang under the name Bessie Jackson, and featured in yesterday’s playlists with the extraordinary Shave ‘Em Dry, has no shortage of confidence either. She could show the thrusting Miley Cyrus or Lil' Kim a thing or two about be shocking. Just look at the glint in her eye:
So confidence is not how you look, all about how you carry yourself and you wear it. George Clinton knows how to wear just about anything. Hey George, what do you have to say about your appearance? “Well, style is whatever you want to do, if you can do it with confidence”. And George has certainly got oodles of that.
Now let’s have a confident song to get your started. Possibly one of the biggest songs of bragging brilliance is by Bo Diddley, which features bizarre and very imaginative lines: “I got a band new chimney put on top, and it's a-made out of human skull”, “I've got a tombstone hand and a graveyard mind, I'm just twenty-two and I don't mind dying, and “I walked forty-seven miles of barbed wire, I got a cobra snake for a necktie.” Now that’s confidence.
And from 1957, let’s jump all the way to 2018 and a brand new song by the American singer Josh T Pearson. Previously, his last album, he was heavily bearded melancholy singer. Now he has taken on a new persona, that of a super-confident, bragging smooth-talking Texan in a sharp suit and cowboy hat. I actually met him a last week and of course he is not really like that, but a very funny, subtle, ironic, sensitive songwriter playing this role for fun. Perhaps though this persona will be a self-fulfilling prophecy and help send his record straight to the top:
So confidence is a lot to do with telling yourself the right things, even if they seem superficial. “In the morning, before I leave the house, I say five things I love about myself, like 'You have really pretty eyes.' That way I can go out into the world with that little bit of extra confidence, says the actress Jennifer Love Hewitt. Well, that’s great Jennifer. Mind you, even your name suggest an extraodinary level of narcissistic adoration, but it obviously works.
But from the superficial, let’s dig deeper into where confidence comes from. It’s more often than not from your childhood. Sigmund Freud is also here, and says: “If a man has been his mother's undisputed darling he retains throughout life the triumphant feeling, the confidence in success, which not seldom brings actual success along with it.” And Gene Wilder, who professes to have been very much lacking in confidence as a child, admits that his calm, comedic talent did come from a maternal influence: “When your mother gives you confidence about anything that you do, you carry that confidence with you.”
But many people are spurred on by a lack of parental support. “I don't even know how to speak up for myself, because I don't really have a father who would give me the confidence or advice,” says Eminem, who clearly worked out how to channel the resulting anger.
And now Joan Collins is here, revealing, as many famous people do, that a lot of what gave them confidence was making up for a shortage of it from their father, and needing to gain it: “I used to not be confident. My father certainly didn't add to my confidence. When I was 17 or 18, I was voted the most beautiful girl in England by the association of press photographers. When they called Daddy for a comment, he said, 'I'm amazed. She's a nice looking girl, but nothing special.’
So many things can knock confidence for anybody, no matter whether talented or otherwise. But perhaps the best way of dealing with it comes with the words of Barbra Streisand, who knows plenty about the ups and downs of the business: “Doubt can motivate you, so don't be afraid of it. Confidence and doubt are at two ends of the scale, and you need both. They balance each other out.”
Confidence can be interpreted in all sorts of other ways too. Confidence tricksters are very confident of course, and aim to inspire trust in others. Politicians are often confidence tricksters on a much bigger scale. But even that is fragile, and even if you’re a real leader, like Catherine the Great, who said: “Power without a nation's confidence is nothing.” Confidence in politics is currently at an all-time low, and James Comey, the former director of the FBI, sacked by Donald Trump when he began to investigate the Russian interference in the election, when he was still in the job, put the issue very well: “Public corruption is the FBI's top criminal priority. The threat - which involves the corruption of local, state, and federally elected, appointed, or contracted officials - strikes at the heart of government, eroding public confidence and undermining the strength of our democracy.”
But the Song Bar is nothing like the world of politics, thankfully. So then, it’s time to turn this topic over to you, and, like in one of those exercises, I fall backwards, in the confidence and trust that this topic will caught by a line of learned friends, rather than just go smack on the ground! I’ve no doubt that this topic will be carried aloft on many brilliant song nominations. But who will be the chief catcher and turn all nominations into playlists. It's the superb severin! I have every confidence that this will be another fantastic week.
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