Ron Cowan is a feature writer for the Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon


Dear Ron,

Regarding fame, fortune and Oregon I do wish I had more money.  As for fame, it can go to your head and you can become full of yourself.  This I was always afraid of and so it didn't happen to me.  It began to happen to me once, way back around 1969.  Fortunately I noticed it before anybody else did and I cut it out.  So what I do is this --when I go to the venue, I become the entertainer John Fahey.  But when I come off stage, I do not want adulation, I do not want to be worshipped.  I just want to be treated like an average guy.  So I refer to records by me as "Fahey records", "Fahey music", and so forth.  So I don't have to speak of MY, ME, I, etc. and keep talking about myself all the time, which bores me and everybody else.

While I recognize in the back of my mind that I am an occasionally brilliant guitar composer and arranger, innovator and player.  I also know that I am not a great technician.

Perhaps that is why I manage to keep some humility.

So when people ask me how good I am, I usually cop to being brilliant, even better than that, but short of genius.  But I say these things in an objective dispassionate manner because, you know, and I can't explain why, but being one of the greatest guitarists in the world simply is not very important to me. Oh, but if you took it away somehow I would be very unhappy.

But not suicidal.

I know many inferior guitarists who are very proud of the fact that they are as good as they are, when in fact they are only moderately good.  They parade around in their egotism with their groupies and fans and lord it over their worshippers.  I do not even laugh at this like others do because the relationship between entertainers and groupies is pathological.  As soon as the groupie finds out that you make errors in everyday life like everybody else does and that you are human, they turn on you and hate you.

This has happened to me.

It can hurt a lot especially in the case of girls.  As you know, I am very fond of these creatures.  Once upon a time I fell in love with a groupie, a Chicago girl, not knowing she was a groupie.  The usual thing happened and it was very painful to me.

From a social perspective, I am looking for friends, not acolytes.  Being worshipped is a horrible experience.

As for the source of the music, I believe it comes from the unconscious; that there is no such thing as talent.  There is simply a lot of hard work and more hard work and after that, more hard work.  I believe Thomas Edison said that.

The other thing in composition is opening up the unconscious.  I am especially good at the latter because, as I told you, I was in psychoanalysis for eight or nine years.  Most musicians I know cannot open up.  They are too focused on the audience rather than on their own emotions, or they are too focused on technique or perhaps on both.

When I play, I very quickly put myself into a light hypnotic trance and compose while playing, drawing directly from the emotions.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that I am playing emotions and expressing them in a coherent public language called music.  If you don't do that you sound stiff and uninspiring.

Your friend,
John Fahey