Like many people over the past three years or so, life as I knew it has gone badly badly wrong.
Working as a freelancer, single and alone, the recession has caused havoc with my finances, thrown my career down the toilet and has deeply affected my confidence, all this in my mid 40's, at the very time things should be coming together, they have fallen apart. There are days when I don't even leave the house, speak to a soul, except the Inland Revenue who have decided to ignore Google and Amazon's tax avoidance and aggressively pursue me for £7k instead. Money, dear reader, I spent on rent and food for the past year, trying to survive.
It wasn't always thus. Not very long ago I thought things might be on the up after years of struggling. I genuinely thought that if you worked hard enough, gave it everything you have got, cared enough and walked a straight line, not harming anyone and trying to do the right thing by everyone you meet then life would come good in the end. Not that I craved a life of extreme riches or anything like that, just a normal secure life, with a nice job, a secure roof over my head and stability, a life free from the extreme ups and downs and nosedives of the past, but the last three years put paid to that dream.
There are times (and they are becoming much more frequent) that I simply don't know where I am going to find the reserves or that little bit extra juice in my tank to dust myself off and start again from scratch in my mid 40's. If this is what the next 25 years are going to be like, then count me out.
I then by accident happened upon a BBC 4 documentary last night about a little known US singer called Charles Bradley. Charles is brilliant, in fact I am listening to his amazing debut album 'No Time for Dreaming' at the moment, check it out and get it, not only is his album fantastic, his is an amazing lesson in keeping going despite the odds and shit thrown at you constantly, epitomised in his song 'Why is it so hard'.
Charles was 62, working as a James Brown impersonator in Brooklyn New York when he was 'discovered' and signed by Daptone Records around 2010. He had a tough, miserable life by all accounts up to this, Charles lived on the streets for two years when he was 14, lived in a crappy basement, worked as a cook, buried his brother after a brutal murder, looks after his Mum, is learning to read and write and does what he can to survive. Listen to his song 'How Long', it gives you some idea just how bad he was feeling.
His voice, his lyrics (which are bang on the button about struggling) his intensity is just wonderful, especially at his age, when most 60 odd year olds I know are clogging up trains milking their free travel passes and blowing their platinum pensions and house equity( having priced us all out of ever owning our own homes) on cruise ships and holiday flats in Southern Europe. Charles is finally living his dream, recording, performing to sell out audiences, and getting all that is due to him.
I couldn't fail to be moved when he saw an article about himself on page 6 of the New York Post, he was genuinely delighted, and there he was out in his 60's promoting his album and concerts on the streets of Brooklyn and hoping people would come to his concert. He needn't have worried it was a complete sell out. I was thrilled for him despite not knowing, you can't help but root for him.
Charles story reminds me of another guy I recently came across , a singer called Rodriquez who again struggled for over 40 years on building sites in Detroit, who had no idea that he was a major star (even bigger than Elvis) in South Africa. It was tragic story, (no-one knows where the royalties went during the 40 years!) but one with a happy ending. Rodriquez is again back in the game and doing really well. Check out his album 'Sugarman' and documentary 'Searching for Sugarman' which won an Oscar, again, its brilliant.
Both guys are now finally getting the appreciation, recognition and hopefully riches and decent, secure lives they so deserve in the October/November's of their lives. At a time in my life when I wasn't sure if I could plough on, these stories do send you hope. Maybe 'I've just taken the long road' (song title from Naomi Shelton again signed to Daptone records- also brilliant, check her out) , so I'll just have to keep going, keep trying, be decent, be good and something might just work out in the end and if nothing else I have found three amazing artists to listen to and lift my spirits.