n a sense I'm like Paul Simon. Seldom does he listen to his records. When he is done writing and recording, he listens to whatever turns him on and gets him going. It's that admiration for other artists that gets us to the point where we seek out stuff to inspire us.
I was born in Detroit, but I grew up in Ann Arbor, and the R&B I listened to more than Motown, which was really good, was the R&B they played on WLAC out of Nashville. I would hear James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, the Falcons, the stuff was really gutsy, urban R&B that hit me harder than the Top 40 Motown factory beat. Motown was cool, too. But I found that I was appreciated best when I sang real hard. Those guys -- Wilson and James and guys like that -- sang their brains out. Those were the guys who got me going.
I don't write about my own life too much. I find that when I do it tends to be melodramatic. I try to write about other people's lives, people I'm close to, people in the band, a guy in the crew, or someone I just met. I listen real hard to get things from them. I went up to this actor friend's ranch in Montana, and I wrote a song about Montana called "West to the Moon." It was being there for three days. The place was just so beautiful.
I really like the level of celebrity I have. I feel sorry for people like Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen. The first thing that happened when Bruce got huge, I called Roy Bittan, his keyboard player, and I said, "OK, ask him where he goes for a hamburger now." Bruce always loved to, after the gig, go and find the best hamburger in whatever town he was in. Just go out and drive and find it. I'm glad that I can still do things like that. I try to stay off TV. I like to able to observe. I stayed off my album covers for seven years, just for that purpose. I don't mind my 2 million fans or whatever knowing it's me. That's a level I'm comfortable with.
I've kind of patterned myself a little bit after Peter Townshend of the Who. In spite of them being together for twenty years, they did not put out that many records. But the records they did put out where always good. I've seen a lot of artists putting out too many records. Record after record after record, their popularity gets diluted. The basic thing for me is to make sure that I wait until something I have is good enough to release rather than just making an album because I'm hot.
Early on, when I didn't know any better, my manager said, "Look at the Beatles catalog. Look at what they did in six years." Makes you kind of feel like you're lazy. But then I happen to know. For instance, Jimmy Iovine is a very good friend of mine. He worked with John Lennon. Jimmy said how easy it came for John. I mean, the guy could sit down in the studio and write a great song, just like that. Some people are more gifted. I'm slower. I'm not as talented, or as inherently gifted as John Lennon. I'd be the first to admit it. For me, it's more of a workman's effort. I have to keep at it. It's like Thomas Edison said, "It's 98 percent perspiration, and 2 percent inspiration."
I was a poor kid growing up. Looking back on it now, I really felt like I didn't deserve to be among the big guys. Eric Clapton is my age. Peter Townshend is younger. But yet they made it ten years before me. It took me a long time to feel like I deserved it. Because I'm not gifted, it took me a much longer time to learn how to really write a good song. I used to go out and play 250 nights a year. Drove all over the country in a station wagon from '65 to '75. I didn't believe I deserved it until probably '78. And that's in spite of Night Moves and Live Bullet. It wasn't until Stranger In Town that I really knew that, "Hey, I do deserve this."
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