Aha Moment: Dave Alvin & Curtis Mayfield


Friday, May 25, 2012

A generation ago, the singer-songwriter Dave Alvin founded the rootsy-rock band The Blasters with his brother Phil in Los Angeles — and they made an indelible mark on the early 1980’s punk scene. “We became you know, I won’t say rock stars,” Alvin remembers. “We became cult heroes.”

But the life of a working musician, often playing to very small crowds, was trying. During a rough patch in the late ‘80s, Alvin found himself mourning the deaths of family and friends, deeply in debt, and ready to give up on the music industry. 

In 1989, Alvin went to see Curtis Mayfield perform at the Palomino Club in Los Angeles. While he was initially disappointed to find the soul legend playing to a meager audience of 80 people, Alvin was transformed by the performance. “I’ll just be me,” he resolved. “[I’m] gonna play to 80 people and love it as much as Curtis did.”

(Originally aired: January 13, 2006)

→ Is there a song, movie, book, or other work of art that has changed your life? Tell us in a comment below or by email.

    Music Playlist
  1. King of Calfornia
    Artist: Dave Alvin
    Album: King of California
    Label: Hightone Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. American Music
    Artist: The Blasters
    Album: American Music
    Label: Shout Factory
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. One Eye's Ballad
    Artist: Dave Alvin
    Album: Museum of Heart
    Label: Shout Factory B0000005QG
  4. Longer Than I Thought
    Artist: Dave Alvin
    Album: Museum of Heart
    Label: Shout Factory
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. People Get Ready
    Artist: Curtis Mayfield
    Album: Curtis/Live!
    Label: Rhino
    Purchase: Amazon
  6. So Long Baby Baby Goodbye
    Artist: Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men
    Album: Interstate City
    Label: Shout Factory
    Purchase: Amazon


Michael May

Comments [1]

Patrick Boulden from Tulsa, Oklahoma

You wanted to know about a work of art that changed my life. For me, it was the movie "Ordinary People". With the death of my father, by his own hand, when I was 14, I (and I believe my four brothers and mother) felt some responsibility. I believe it damaged my psyche and made me vulnerable to believing I was broken like my father. Ordinary People made be understand that when the death of someone close to you occurs, it doesn't have to be someones fault or mean that we don't deserve to live. Robert Redford's directing and the acting of Judd Hirsch, Donald Southerland, Mary Tyler Moore and especially Timothy Hutton was exquisite and went a long way to healed me. It changed my life by making me feel better about myself. I am now 59 years old and well over the tragic death of my father. Thanks for asking.

Patrick Boulden -Tulsa Oklahoma

May. 28 2012 01:01 AM

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