When Henry Miller wrote "True art springs from the dynamic rebirth. Genius lies in the resurrection," I think he may have had someone like Jason Molina in mind. Molina died this past Saturday from what Rolling Stone reports as organ failure resulting from alcohol consumption (others have said natural causes) — it's the sad fact of life that this week, a lot more people are listening to Jason Molina. I don’t know anything about genius, but the little bit I know about Jason Molina is he wrote sad and pretty songs. I’d like to hear more about him.
Listening to him for the first time doesn't really feel that way — we’ve all felt blue at some point in our lives. It’s nostalgia. His music is reminiscent of whatever time in your life that you may have felt blue. If you close your eyes and listen to one of his melodic stories, you can even see a certain shade of blue. His songs are atmospheric and you can’t escape them.
It’s suiting that as I write this it’s raining outside. I imagine Molina is somewhere singing in the rain; with no place to go, rain all around, rain that won’t go away — rain, just singing and strumming his guitar. That’s what I imagine when I imagine the person I’m listening to right now for the very first time.
He’s like the artist’s artist. His sound is the sort of sound that you have hurt for. It’s too honest and unclean to be anything else but genuinely good sadness. His voice quivers in triumph when he proclaims, "I use to think that tomorrow was just out there waiting for me, but now I wonder where tomorrow, I wonder where tomorrow, I wonder where tomorrow is gonna be." It’s the bravest thing to be: a wonderer like that.
Listening to Molina, his pain, is your pain — it’s the music of everyman — we take his perceived sadness and filter it through our own pensive cushion, to lie on and to come to grip with our own troubles. Seldom do we take into account the music we rely on is being played by a human being on the other side of the words; the person constructing the music is not so far removed as to the degree that he wants to be heard — the musician wants his music to be understood. While we listen to a song as respite from everyday banality and acclimatize ourselves to a cool-song’s-sting, the songwriter is writing a new song.
Someone like Molina, who is honest and true, is fighting for validation in his craft. His craft is his livelihood and those are some cumbersome boots to walk in. When you weigh life in art, the two are intrinsically one and impossible to decipher; it can be a lifetime struggle, when you’re uncompromising, you face self-repudiation everyday you sit down to earn a living — making art out of sadness. I've heard Jason Molina was an alcoholic but that’s besides the point. He was a songwriter who made melancholy beautiful. It is a natural kind of beauty in the lonely space of a way to large atmosphere where sometimes not enough people are listening.
Where he is living now, he is still a storyteller and his stories will go on as long as people listen. If Molina is the muse, then his listeners are his students; the more of us who listen to Jason Molina, the more of us who will understand there is no loneliness in being alone, especially if we're all listening to the same song. I don’t think his songs are as sad as they may seem. I think that’s an important thing to understand in listening to songs like "Destiny." We’re all in it together. What I imagine Molina got out of music is an understanding that maybe writing songs for everyone to hear can make it so people don’t feel so alone in their sadness. I can scantly speculate as to how he felt, but I don’t think any songwriter writes not to be heard.
Outside my window,
a splotch of rain hits still water and its impact reverberates out in a perfect circle that forever owes its origins to a single brave drop that fell from great heights to contribute to the half full cup of life. I've been listening to Jason Molina all day. It’s tragic I’m listening to him now when he’s gone, but it feels good just to know that his music will be remembered.