Plays Well With Others
Luxury Liner was the first Emmylou Harris album I ever bought, and that was forty-one years ago. I played it so much over the years that I nearly wore it out and have been a huge fan ever since. Not until just this week, however, did I have the privilege to see her in concert and was even fortunate to have the chance to meet and speak with her after the show. This opportunity to see her in person did not disappoint. Her concert and my interaction with her were soulful, authentic, and uplifting, just as I have always experienced her music.
Over the last few weeks, as I would mention to people that I was going to be attending her upcoming show, they often commented that they knew who she was but couldn't name any of her "hit songs." Even though she has won fourteen Grammys, and just this year received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award, she did not stand out as a big celebrity or musical star in peoples' memories.
Some of my friends asked me why I had remained such a devoted fan for four decades. My response was that I find her music to have great depth, authenticity, and soulfulness. In addition, one of the things I love about Emmylou Harris is that she is such an outstanding collaborator. She has recorded and performed with over a hundred other notable artists including, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Bill Monroe, Alison Kraus, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Lucinda Williams, Tracy Chapman, Gram Parsons, John Prine, Guy Clark, Neil Young, Mark Knoplfer, The Band, and Bob Dylan . A talented songwriter herself, throughout her career she has also discovered and supported a multitude of other songwriters and musicians.
In a world that often overvalues the role of the individual star or talent, I find Emmylou to be a refreshing alternative. She has embodied the truth captured in the African proverb, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." A "one-hit wonder" might be able to create a splash with a top-selling hit song and have short-lived fame, but an artist like Emmylou Harris, on the other hand, has the ability to perform at a high level over a long period of time. She has lasted in the music industry over fifty years due to both her individual talent and her gift of collaborating with so many others, across a wide variety of music genres.
To be a good collaborator, you need specific skills. You must be a good communicator, be willing to bring people from different walks of life together and celebrate their unique strengths, be prepared to compromise, be tolerant and accepting of others, be able to work well with others and conduct yourself in a way that adds value to the whole. You must be able to value the ability sing harmony as much as you value the ability to sing lead. Emmylou must have these skills and traits to be the collaborator she is, and I admire that in her as much as I admire her music.
This is a wellness column, and so what's the connection to wellness in all of this? When I reflect on my description of Ms. Harris, it seems to me like the perfect description of a well-lived life: depth, authenticity, soulfulness, and the ability to collaborate well with others. These traits, while perhaps not assisting us in being able to travel fast, will definitely help us to travel far.
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