Like many among you, I, too, love the song "One of These Nights." The tune led a trio of hits that sprung from the eponymous monster album released in 1975...just two months after I had turned 19.
The opening of the song gives way to a fantastic riff that, once it gets in your ears, creeps into your brain and ricochets inside your skull every time you breathe. But, you do not mind it a bit. I didn't.
The harmony and the beat are unparalleled. Half incantation, half curse, Henley's raspy voice conveys an uneasy, yet enticing eerie feeling impossible to ignore. In other words, the whole package is the perfect recipe for a hit; and what a hit it was!
But, they lost me with the lyrics. The time to which they refer in the song is vague and imprecise. All important things will [may] happen "one of these nights." All important decisions will be made [or not] "one of these nights." That imprecision and vagueness bothered me them. Why couldn't my favourite song be perfect in every respect?
About 6 or 7 months after "One of These Nights", British singer Rod Stewart gave us a big hit. The ballad "Tonight is the Night" was recorded with the assistance of The Swampers, that incomparable crew of studio musicians at "Muscle Shoals Studios", Alabama.
The suggestive inflection of Stewart's voice and the explicit lyrics left no doubt in anyone's mind that a man was definitely going to make love to a woman.
There was no hesitation or random probability. It was all very clear: "tonight is the night." I like that kind of committed thinking.
Four years later in 1981, Rod Stewart would come back with yet another powerful message in the runaway hit "Young Turks." This time, the lyrics were inspirational. Yes, young people have the right [and must] live their own lives; regardless of what adults may think. The story reveals that Billy and Patty, the young couple in the story, had successfully eloped [as the adults on both sides refused to listen to the young souls] and that Patty was now a young mother. She had given birth to a 10-pound baby boy.
The message in the lyrics does not end there. There is also a clear warning that young people must heed: "We got but one shot of life, let's take it while we're still not afraid. Because life is so brief and time is a thief when you're undecided. And like a fistful of sand, it can slip right through your hands."
That particular message rings true for every one of us, then, now and tomorrow. Because−and the song lyrics get this part wrong−time is not on our side. In fact, it rarely is.
Back in 1981, I discussed the lyrics of "Young Turks" with Arthur, a then 60-year old man who was my dad's best friend. It seemed to me then that my dad, who was about to turn 45, looked up to Arthur almost as a father figure.
Yes, Arthur agreed with the whole message in the song from beginning to end. −"Those adults were rather obtuse", he sentenced. He, Arthur, would have handled the situation in a different way. As the conversation progressed, I somehow put my big foot in my mouth by asking Arthur to tell me what had guided his life since he was 30 to make it 60.
The old man sprung like a cobra and shouted back at me −Who cares what I have done in the last 30 years? What matters is what I am going to do in the next 30 years!"
I have never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer. I confess that it took me many years [24 to be exact] to understand what Arthur had tried to tell me.
Arthur died at age 84. My father gave the eulogy. There was not a dry eye in sight. The funeral home was packed and the procession to the cemetery was long and intentionally slow. Arthur was a great guy and many people wanted to pay their respects and say good-bye to him in his final journey.
As we drove home after the burial, my father could barely speak. He had asked me to drive [something he had never done before]. I drove to my house first. From there, my father had a very short drive to his home. I ask my dad to come in. I grabbed two tumblers and a bottle of rum. −To Arthur...a great man!" I said rising my glass. My dad drank the rum in complete silence. He was thinking.
It occurred to me at that moment to share with my dad what Arthur had told me two and a half decades earlier. −"Frankly, dad. I think I just got it!", I confessed with pride. −"And it only took you a quarter of a century!", retorted my dad being in his usual acerbic tone. −"Mother was right...David is a special little boy!" Yeap, my old man was back to his regular sarcastic self.
Arthur was very clear: What matters is what's ahead. That's the only thing that matters. Not even the present is that relevant. The present becomes the past in only seconds. The notion of "living in the present" can be a dangerous thing. Only the future is truly up for grabs. As elusive as it may be, the future, not the present, is the only time we can prepare for in order to get certain outcomes. And, despite the fact that there are no guarantees in life, working toward future goals is well worth doing. Time and age have nothing to do with it. Time and age play little or no role in it.
When he was 30, Arthur shaped his actions to be the best husband and father he could be. At age 60−although he was still trying to be all that−Arthur faced a new stretch of road altogether as there were grandchildren, health issues and many other challenges in the picture. Furthermore, he had plans to build a new house [and by golly, he did!], do some traveling, write a couple of books and learn to play the violin. He did all that and a whole lot more. How did he manage to do so much starting at the ripe age of 60?: Because he did not bellyache about the present or fantasized about the past. He always looked at what he could start today and finish tomorrow.
Like Arthur then, I am now 60 years old myself. For obvious reasons, I no longer consider 60-year people "old." I would be a fool if I did.
I am learning to play the guitar. I have made some modest progress. I could do much better if I practiced more. My age does not prevent me from being a better guitar player, my poor work ethics does.
There are so many things to be done. Ideas to implement, lands to be explored, love to be shared, stories to be told, books to be written.
Most of that will get done if I keep in mind that I cannot wait for "one of these nights" to get started. Remember, my friend: "Tonight is the night!"