Archive for July 28th, 2008

An Open “Dear Jon” Letter

Monday, July 28th, 2008

(Note: Jonathan Edwards recorded the 1972 hit “Sunshine”. He continues to perform regularly for his fans, and – this past week – he had a spectacular opportunity to add to his fan base. In my opinion, it was an opportunity he squandered. How? Read on.)

Dear Jonathan,

I saw you July 20th when the “Hippiefest” Tour came to our town. Both the tour’s name and its website suggest a “Summer of Love” vibe, conjuring up images of those whom Scott McKenzie called “gentle people with flowers in their hair.” Fond memories of that Aquarian Age, plus the opportunity to see a number of name acts of the era, attracted thousands of us who were united by our appreciation of late-sixties music.

At least, we were united until you opened the show. Five minutes into the four-hour evening, you honed in with laser accuracy on an issue guaranteed to divide us. Introducing your hit “Sunshine,” you described it as having been written in response to “another war” built on “lies.”

A few dozen audience members shouted their agreement with you, and – doubtless – many more in a crowd that size silently concurred. But statistically, about 30% of Americans think our nation’s current war effort is necessary. (In Texas, and with hundreds of veterans in the audience, our percentage may have been significantly higher). Still, using the lower figure as a benchmark, your remark – mere moments into the concert – essentially said that 1 out of every 3 persons present (who shelled out $60 each to be there) are either aiding and abetting “lies,” or are just too stupid to realize they’ve been duped.

Whether they are evil or simply fools, you made it clear that – while you’re perfectly willing to take their money – those of the 30% will never be enlightened like you.

Congratulations, Jonathan. The fragile golden thread of audience unity was severed so fast that it may be a world’s record (though not one most entertainers would aspire to hold.)

When I wrote you via your website last week to express these same thoughts, I mentioned that Eric Burdon of The Animals urged us to “Pray for Peace” without offending anyone, while Flo and Eddie of The Turtles encouraged all of us to vote, again without dividing the audience into “us” and “them.” Unlike you, they used their talents to build bridges, instead of burn them.

Hippiefest draws thousands of Americans each night, each with their own solutions to the problems facing our nation. Either you’ve forgotten how to entertain a broad demographic without alienating a significant portion of the crowd, or – even worse – you knew you were being divisive and yet you spoke anyway.

And therein lies the tragedy of your ill-chosen words, Jonathan. Hippiefest was your opportunity to re-introduce yourself to audiences who would otherwise never see you. This was a perfect place to remind them of just what an extraordinary talent you have, and to add them to your legion of admirers. But it was an opportunity wasted, because of your polarizing invective.

If your goal is to open hearts and minds, use your gift of song. Name-calling won’t get you there.

Sincerely, Dave Tanner