Is it wrong to steal songs from children? No, I’m seriously asking. I mean, what are they gonna do? I’m way bigger than they are, and I’m not afraid of their tiny fists. If I need to make a getaway, I can drive a car and would leave their puny bicycles in the dust.
I found myself asking this question last week while volunteering to help with Girls Rock camp. Girls ages 8 to 16 come for a week, form rock bands, write songs, find empowerment, make history, join a community of female musicians, blah blah blah… Look, I get it, this is a good thing and that’s why I give up my time to coach them.
Seriously though, little girls scare the shit out of me. Ever since the third grade when Mona Hinmen shoved me against a wall at Girl Scout camp for having a crush on the boy she was like-totally-playground-married to, I have avoided large groups of girls.
And yet, here I’ve found myself in the middle of 40 running, screaming, glitter-wearing, cartwheel-twirling, guitar-wielding children fighting the urge to lock myself in the bathroom and start throwing back cheap whiskey like some tattooed version of Miss Hannigan from Annie. I mean honestly, I sleep until noon, make $11,000 a year, and I’m supposed to convince these girls that I’m some kind of authority figure? Um… not likely.
But I managed to make it to the end of the week and my girls were ready for their showcase. We all gathered in the main room to watch all the bands do their pre-showcase run-through, and then it happened: This 10 year-old girl stepped up to the mic, holding a bass that was almost as big as she was, and fucking channeled the spirit of Ian Curtis before our eyes. She was playing perfect droning Joy Division bass and belting out “Loooove is an irritation! It gets under my skin…” with flawless Ian Curtis darkness. Every adult in the place watched open mouthed. People actually teared up.
Seriously? A fucking 10 year-old wrote this? She’s never even heard of Joy Division. I know I should’ve been glowing with pride or whatever, but all I could think was—would anyone notice if I punch her in the face and run back to Le Divorce with her song? Hey guys! Check out what I just wrote, it’s our next big hit. I know, it IS rad. No I didn’t steal it from a 10 year-old, why do you ask?
I know why I’m feeling this way. I wrote a song Le D has been working on for several weeks now, and for some reason can’t seem to make it gel. The guys are having trouble understanding my vision for the song, and I am having trouble feeling like I don’t suck. They stare at me blankly while I play it, as I wonder—where have I gone wrong? Did I accidentally channel Chad Kroeger or something? I keep asking myself if I should let them off the hook and abandon the song altogether. Meanwhile this kid comes along and writes a song so profoundly beyond my grasp, I find myself wondering if I have any business writing music at all.
But I’m not going gentle into that good night, and I’m not getting eclipsed by a kid with an 8pm bedtime. So I ask you again, is it wrong to steal songs from children? After all, Pablo Picasso said—good artists borrow, but great artists steal. So I’d really just be following the advice of a genius. This kid has plenty of time to be talented, but I’m getting older by the minute. And anyway, how would she ever know? She can’t get into the club to hear us play, there’s no way a bouncer would buy her fake ID, she doesn’t even wear a training bra. I’m just saying…