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nothing deeper than these changes

I don’t know which was more unlikely:
Obama becoming Prez
or a middle-aged rock freak winning a Tony.

I think the latter.

I thought 2007 was about as surreal as my life could possibly get.

2008 made 2007 look like an episode of that BBC series about the country veterinarians.

I’ve never bought into New Years hoopla. I find the parties embarrassing. I have grudgingly attended them only when I was too broke to refuse the highest paying gig of the year: executing grimly endless grooves for amateur drunks. Like my birthday, it’s always been just another day.

But 2008 rocked, nay, shook me in all sorts of ways: emotionally, politically, romantically, intellectually, career-wise, name it. I even learned how to cook chili. There’s more to it than opening a can, son. Anyway, 2008 chewed me up and, being the fat, overly spiced motherfucker that I am, spat me out. And I’m all the stronger for it.

But for the first time in my life I am feeling the significance of this insignificant marking of time. Because 2009 really will be different.
Ain’t no way around that.

The beautiful stuff that happened in 2008 was beyond description. Maybe some day I’ll find the words to describe how it felt to listen to Toni Morrison talking about PS as my ex-wife Freya, my daughter Bibi and my girlfriend Debbie, all Morrison fans, listened on in rapt attention. This was extra deep because Freya turned my Mom onto Morrison’s work. That moment with Ms. Morrison in my dressing room speaking directly to the women of my life, and thus, in a sense, directly to my Mother as well, was the moment I learned what success was. You couldn’t buy that moment with money. That was the real Toni award.

Back in LA when I was young and spending more time in garages rehearsing than I was onstage, often after practice the band would sit around drinking beer and smoking weed and inevitably somebody would get so high they’d start talking about what I “should be doing” with all these songs I was writing. And they’d say things like “Yo, Stew! Maaaaan, what you need to do is write a musical!” And then another dude would mutter, while passing the J and trying not to exhale, “And then get that shit on Broadway, dude…” And then the guy in the backseat, who was by now higher than all of us, would say “Yeah, yeah, yeah…and then you gotta get Spike Lee to film that shit!”

And then we’d all laugh.

Starting January 2008 and right up until a few weeks ago, this year has been a non-stop love rollercoaster of challenges both beautiful and painful. These challenges have changed my direction, my mind, my work, my life. I lost things that I thought I’d have forever. And I gained great things that I never thought I’d have. That’s a fair exchange. Or maybe about as fair an exchange as you can expect from life.

So for the first time ever, this New Year is really going to be “new.” Not because of some false significance that I imbue it with, but because real change has come.

So when I do the embarrasing toast tonight at midnight I’ll actually have something real to toast for a change, as I think will we all. And the only endless grooves I’ll be “spinning” will be from my “party play-list” in i-tunes.

I can’t listen to all these fireworks bombs going off here in Berlin tonight without thinking about Gaza. I’m not foolish enough to think I could possibly add anything valuable to that long sad song here on my goofy singer/songwriter blog. I’m more Sonny Bono than Bono. I just wanted to mention it since we were talking about change.

Nappy New Year,


  1. Carol & Co... wrote:

    We are so proud and happy that it has been such a wonderful year for you. Peace.

    Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at 11:01 pm | Permalink
  2. Joe C wrote:

    Congratulations on a successful year stew! I’m planning on attending your Oakland show in February and will be watching for more details.

    Take care stew, and all good things to you and yours,


    Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 3:34 pm | Permalink
  3. Susan wrote:

    A few privileged souls were able to experience Passing Strange on Broadway, and that made 2008 a memorable year for us. Hope the January 2009 Sundance premiere and other showings of Spike Lee’s film bring you to a worldwide audience our generation has been longing for.

    Friday, January 16, 2009 at 10:46 am | Permalink
  4. Ken wrote:

    I can’t wait for the Movie!

    LA misses you and Heidi.


    “The lyric guy”

    Monday, January 19, 2009 at 3:17 pm | Permalink
  5. hey man, passing strange was a road marker in my life. let me know i needed to go in a different direction. so i took the cue and moved to boston, my home. and in discovering passing strange, first off broadway and then on, i was introduced to your music. i ran my first marathon, and you carried me over the finish line. the power of art is awesome and unpredictable. so thanks, my stranger friend, for the guidance you didn’t know you were providing. –tommy o’malley

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

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