I met up with a friend last night at a local pub around the corner. It was good to catch up. I haven’t hung out with him since we both lived in Wichita Falls over a year and a half ago. Conversation was running smoothly until four dudes in an 80’s cover band called Metal Shop got on stage and started channeling David Lee Roth.
“Might as well jump. JUMP!”
Actually, I might as well get my tab and head to the other half of the bar. I figured the scene of forty something’s that had quickly accumulated would enjoy extreme decibel levels more than I would. Any other night maybe, but I was there to catch up with an old friend, not relive an era of cocaine and strippers. Even David Lee Roth couldn’t have gotten me into party mode.
As we were waiting for our checks, I started to realize how much this cover band actually sounded like Van Halen. If I was blind, I might have been convinced that this was the first stop on Van Halen’s comeback tour and that the second-hand inflection in David Lee Roth’s voice was the result of a few turbulent decades. The guitarists were playing their instruments as if they had written the chords and the drummer pounded away in an accurate symphony of beats. Subtract the oversized speakers and it wasn’t half bad.
Towards the end of their first song, I wondered if the dudes in this cover band ever wished that they had written and recorded the song on their own accord. I mean, they knew every chord, beat, and lyric to a song that was successful two decades ago, and they played it well. It seemed like the only thing that kept them from fame was the fact that it had been done before. If you put these guys in a time machine, knowing what they know now, I wonder if Van Halen would have ever been Van Halen. Maybe Van Halen would have been the new Metal Shop.
Somehow, I transferred that over to life. As I stared at some dude in a wig riff on an electric guitar, I realized that most of us live as if we are in cover bands. We do our best to imitate and follow a pattern of success. We learn the chords, lyrics, and beat to something that worked for somebody else, never truly identifying ourselves with something other than what we try to imitate. And all the while we think, “if only I had thought of this sooner, made this decision, or moved forward with something that hadn’t been done before I could have been an innovator”. That’s the difference between David Lee Roth and some guy who gets on stage and channels him at a medium sized pub in Dallas, Texas. I also suppose that’s the difference between allowing yourself to express your creativity even when you’re afraid you’ll fail and doing something that hasn’t failed simply because it’s been done before. The truth is that for every Van Halen there are a thousand Metal Shop’s. For every one person, there are a thousand imitators.
Be who you are called to be and embrace it.