Daily Archives: August 16, 2014

Stairway To Fela

Originally posted 8/1/2010.

I heard “Stairway To Heaven”
on the car radio tonight
for the first time in a long time.

I have heard “Stairway To Heaven”
at least three hundred times in my life,
having been born at the right time
to have been inundated with it constantly
on the radio stations of my adolescence.
I do not own a copy of it because
I’ve never needed one if I wanted to hear it;
all I have to do is hear the title
and every note
is immediately present in my head
as it was written and played,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and forever shall be,
world without end…

In a bag on my couch
is a gift from a friend,

a recording
of the music of Fela Kuti

that I have not yet heard.

At the age of 50
I am relatively new
to the music
of Fela Kuti.
I have not heard
the music of Fela Kuti
on the radio very often,

have certainly not heard anything
by Fela Kuti
three hundred times in my life,
and
what little I know 

of the music of Fela Kuti
leaves me
breathless.

Perhaps “Stairway To Heaven” is as good
as anything Fela wrote
but I’ve never had the chance
to decide for myself.

Fela Kuti first began recording in the late 1960s,
much as did Led Zeppelin.
What would be different
if I’d heard Fela in my life
as much or more
than I’ve heard
“Stairway To Heaven?”

Years have gone by
with me hearing snatches of “Stairway”
at odd moments and thinking
that I really didn’t like the song,

but much like “Yankee Doodle”
it’s one of those things that sits in me
as soundtrack or background,
informing me, insinuating itself
into the meaning of dates and places
that might have felt different
with Afrobeat in its place.

In that alternate world
of multiple possibilities,
who knows where I’d be today?
What arpeggios
might I have learned to play
if “Stairway” hadn’t been the first thing
to rise in my fingers
when a resemblance to it was detected
in some random sequence
I’d noodled forth
upon my guitar?

If there had been a universe
where a Fela Kuti song
could have been heard
as often as “Stairway To Heaven”
by suburban American teenagers,
what would have glittered there?
What would we all have learned?
What music might we have made?
Where might we have landed?

Listening again to “Stairway” in my head
I am angry unto death
with this unchosen path
and I don’t know if
there’s still time
to change the road we’re on.