Detroit rocker Bob Seger got inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Monday night. Our local paper had a big write up on Bob and his career and as I read through it, memories came flooding back. Memories and a lesson in perserverance.
Because Bob Seger had nine albums and sixteen years of playing in bands before he finally got a national hit album with Live Bullet. “Beautiful Loser” is about someone who tries for a really long time but just can’t make it, which is exactly how Bob felt at the time he wrote that song. Here was a guy who was beloved in Detroit, who had local crowds at his shows, who actually got national record contracts, but who just couldn’t break out into the big time. His albums, for whatever reason, just didn’t sell in big numbers.
Bob had always loved songwriting, he’d written strong songs since his first local hit (East Side Story) at the age of 16. He says he started to think that maybe he just wasn’t good enough.
I know how that feels. Somehow, reading Bob’s story has made me hopeful for the first time in a long time. Because really, it’s not about selling a bunch of records (or books) so much as it is doing what you love. Even if you end up a beautiful loser.
So anyway, I met the man a couple of times. Once, it was after a concert he did at Aquinas High School in Southgate, Michigan. This had to be about 1970. I was 15. He had on tight bell bottom flag pants–one leg was red and white striped and one leg was blue with white stars. And he was barefoot and bare chested. His hair wasn’t really long yet, it was like the Beatle cut, maybe a little shaggier. And he played all his songs, the ones we heard on the radio that the rest of the country didn’t even know about. “Heavy Music” and “2+2=?” and “Persecution Smith.” I still love all those old songs the best.
Anyway, my uncle was a photographer and he happened to be shooting this particular concert, so he got me and my friends backstage after the show. I might have seen a bit of the fringe from his suede jacket as Bob hastily exited the venue. We were disappointed but consoled each other with the juicy gossip that the drummer (Pep Perrine) had tried to kiss my girlfriend Robin.
Then next time I saw Seger it was after he’d made it big nationally. My photographer uncle was getting married and a newly divorced me plus a very single Bob Seger found ourselves at the same wedding reception. He’s shy and so am I. So I was more mortified than star struck when my mother dragged me over to him and introduced us. I have no idea what I said or what he said but we chatted for a bit. He was wearing all black. And he had shoes on. And he was drinking a beer out of the bottle, which I thought was so cool. Very unassuming nice guy.
And that’s it. My Bob Seger stories. Now I need to go listen to “Beautiful Loser” again.