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More Fire from Barry McGuire
The Rock n Role Model Interview: Part II
By psychologist, Dr Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr BLT
It is fitting that my second interview with Barry McGuire would follow an interview I had with Pat Boone and would occur just prior an interview I have scheduled with Brian
"Head" Welch, formerly of the band, Korn.
Barry is from Pat Boone's generation, but his music is timeless. If you go back and check out this video, you'll know exactly what I mean. Furthermore, you'll know that its
not such a stretch to suggest that Korn, the band that spawned the reborn Brian "Head" Welch, is indebted to McGuire for giving musicians permission to let their anger enter
their music, without apology:
While other '60s folk were sticking to themes like love, peace and unity, Barry McGuire, while holding to those ideals, also introduced a decidedly darker side of the folk
If you missed the sixties, don't worry. Whether you were too young, or, simply, too stoned, to appreciate him back then, its not too late to climb aboard his musical train. As far as his legacy is concerned, it remains a work in progress.
Though thus far he has yet matched the phenomenal chart success of "Eve of Destruction," or the success he had on Broadway, landing the lead role in Hair, arguable one of the biggest musicals of all time, he remains a force to be reckoned with.
Being at the cutting edge of something that was, and is, timeless, allows him to be every bit as much a part of the present, as he was a part of the past.
These days, Barry has his priorities right. We spoke about the New Testament story of Mary and Martha and it's profound implications on how we are to live our lives. We need to live in the present, to be emotionally and spiritually aware and available for God to speak and to move in our lives. It is so easy to get caught up in a task-oriented
agenda, and to lose sight of what is really important. Based on our recent conversation, Barry seems to be keeping his eyes on Christ and the love of Christ, allowing that love, and the "peace that passeth all understanding" to guide his every step and to sustain him.
It's been a few years since I interviewed him last, and a few years since he graciously visited a university college class I was teaching and shared his heart, soul and music with my students. Since the man, his heart, and his music are timeless, I can say with all sincerity that he hasn't aged a bit. If you'll take the liberty of ease dropping on our
conversation, you'll understand what I'm trying to say.
Dr BLT: I know you're probably sick of this question, but, just for sake of the unfortunate few who are unfamiliar with your work, could you tell us a little about how you first burst on to the music scene in the '60s.
Barry McGuire: This information is on my blog page. Just go to www.barrymcguire.com, click on the blog and scroll down or read my bio that's on my website.
Dr. BLT: As you were growing up, which artists did you admire and why? How have they influenced and shaped your music and your direction?
McGuire: My favorite artists in my growing up years were Harry Belafonte, the Everly Brothers, Kingston Trio, Bob Gibson, Andy Williams, and numerous others. I admired them because their artistic expression transported me to a magical place that I can't explain. I wanted to experience what they were experiencing as I watched them sing the
songs and the only way I could do that was to do it myself. My direction just unfolded in front of me. I just did what each moment required of me and had fun along the way.
Dr BLT: I understand that faith has been a powerful aspect of your motivation, your inspiration, and your creative energy. How would you describe the way that faith has influenced your life and your music?
McGuire: I've always known that the universe is but a tiny speck suspended in an infinite sea of endless space, and here I am living on a planet lost within the vastness of this tiny speck called the universe. My faith is and has always been, there's someone out there who knows my name and I can trust him to unfold my life. But it's not someone
"out there" anymore. In the last few years I've discovered the someone out there to be the someone within me that I'm in the process of becoming one with.
Dr BLT: I know that many musicians have struggled, while others have failed at balancing the rigorous touring and recording schedule with family, How successful have you been over the years at balancing these two aspects of your life? What would you recommend to today's artists who are caught up in the middle of this struggle.
Barry McGuire: This is a major, major, major topic of conversation. So let me let my wife answer it for you.
Mari McGuire: As a wife you must be prepared to be a part time widow. You have to be able to stand on your own and get what you need from god because your husband is just not there.
It places a tremendous strain on the family dynamics because the children miss out on their dad being around. However, you either see your cup half full or half empty. So it really is a matter of perception. It can be an opportunity to grow spiritually as you do have to trust god for the safety of your traveling partner.
This situation really teaches your children to go to God too. And for me, I was fortunate to have my mom (a widow) live with us for 14 years while the children were young. She was a companion for me and a source of stability and wisdom and love for our children and without her, I wouldn't have made it, and they wouldn't be who they are today.
God provides our needs.
Trust is the foundation for any relationship. Faithfulness to god and to your marriage is the key to going the distance. It has to be a give, give and give again relationship as far as a wife of a traveling musician goes.
That is as short an answer as I can give - it's so multi layered - we could spend days on this subject. "Mari"
Now back to Barry.
McGuire: This has been an area of my personal life that has brought me the greatest struggle to keep a balance between my family and the demands of show business. It's heavy dues to be paid by both husband and wife and children. I would say to anyone venturing into a musical career, "Beware, beware, there be dragons everywhere. Walk
with sensitive steps and make sure there's total open communication and honesty between you and your partner." It's not an easy road to travel and many a marriage has been destroyed by this venture.
It's only by total faithfulness to God and to each other, total faithfulness and surrender to reality that we have survived.
Dr BLT: I understand that recently you recorded "The Pledge," a brand new song, that is probably more patriotic than any other song you have released. How does an artist who was born of the anti-establishment era, and one who released a once-world-wide number one hit, (usually presented as protest song) suddenly make the shift to a song
that reflects such gratitude for being a citizen of this country?
McGuire: I've never held anything but gratitude for the spirit of the nation I was born in. "Eve of Destruction" was a totally patriotic song. Because of my love for this nation, I was desperately trying to wake us up to the fact that we were heading for a reef that would tear the bottom out of our ship and destroy everything that we hold precious. "Eve" was nothing more than a diagnostic of our societal hypocrisy. If you love something or someone, and you see them doing something that you know is going to destroy them, how could you not try to warn them. "Eve" was that warning.
If you went to a doctor and he discovered a melanoma on your back, a malignant melanoma, would you call him a protest doctor? I don't think so. He's just diagnosed a condition that if not taken care of, will certainly end your life. Just as that doctor, I have never been against the establishment. I've only tried to wake them up to reality.
So "Pledge" is just a natural expression of my love and appreciation for the spirit of America. The spirit of freedom, the spirit of mutual respect for an eclectic bunch of refugees, wanderers and immigrants who've all wound up living together in this great nation we call America.
Dr BLT: Has this song opened any new doors for you?
McGuire: Not that I'm aware of.
Dr BLT: I understand that you are involved in a brand new television show called Trippin' in the '60s. Can you tell us a little bit about how that project was born, and what role you have in the launching of the program and in the actual broadcast of the program?
McGuire: Trippin' the '60s is not a TV show or a movie. It's nothing more than a musical presentation performed by myself and my singing partner Terry Talbot. It's telling the story of my life from 1963 through 1971 through the music that was sung by me and my friends through those turbulent and yet glorious years of the sixties.
Dr BLT: How has the aging process, or, in a more positive light, the seasoning process, influenced your lifestyle, your music and your life in general?
McGuire: It hasn't. Although my wife wishes it would have, but it seems I'm busier now than I've ever been in my life, working harder and earning less money than ever, but having more fun experiencing each explosive moment that wells up around me.
Dr BLT: Have you ever thought of re-recording your greatest hit, "Eve of Destruction," as a duet with a newly rising folk rock artist in the manner that has been done by the likes of Toby Grey ("Drift Away"), featuring Cracker, or have you ever thought of doing a live rendition on stage with a newly rising artist, in the manner that was done in 2003
with the since deceased Buck Owens, who teamed up with John McCrae of Cake to perform one of his big hits, "Excuse Me, I've Got a Heartache," or John Bon Jovi, who recently teamed up with members of the young pop-rock band, All-American Rejects to perform a new rendition of one of his greatest hits? If you were to symbolically "pass
the baton" in this manner, who (among newly rising modern folk rock artists) would you think you would most like to perform and/or record with?
McGuire: First of all, I've had people suggest that I do just what you've described. Secondly, no one as ever invited me to do something like that and thirdly, I don't really give a rip if I do it or not. Fourthly, I don't know who's who in the latest tweedly dum, tweedly dee, hoopty who, bangity bang singalong folks that are in pop music today. So I
wouldn't know - everything keeps changing so fast, I don't even try to keep up with it.
(So much for my vision of Barry McGuire, and the next interviewee on my list, Brian "Head" Welch, getting together for a ground-breaking nu metal/folk fusion rendition of "Eve of Destruction." Of course, you know me. I'm not one to give up that easy.)
Dr. BLT: What are your plans for the near future? What are your plans beyond the near future?
Barry McGuire: My plans for the near future are to do whatever is required to be done. That's what I've always done, that's what I'm doing now and that's what I'll always do. Just address the requirements of each moment as they present themselves. The telephone rings, the doorbell rings, somebody shakes my hand and introduces themselves
and invites me to participate in whatever.
Dr BLT: Thanks again for your contribution and congratulations on the success of your most recent musical endeavors.
The fire was still burning in Barry's soul when we said good-bye. We could have talked for hours, but the Mary in me (or was it the Martha? I always forget who was who in that important Bible story) kept telling me about all the things left on my to do list.
Yes, we could have traveled further down the trail of Barry's musical adventures, and we could have ventured deeper into his thoughts and reflections concerning the exciting journey he has boldly embarked upon. But I still have a day job and a wife and child to support, so I had to go. Thanks again, Barry. It was a real trip!
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