Recently some other performers and I were discussing the fact that in November, the Western Music Association will give out their annual Awards of Excellence. What does that have to do with riding the river, you ask? Hang on, I’ll get there. In the Western entertainment field, we have the WMA awards, the Academy of Western Artists (AWA) awards and the Western Writers of America’s Spur Awards. Of course, on a larger scale, there are the Grammy Awards, the CMA Awards, the Oscars, the Emmys, the Tonys, the Golden Globes and on and on. I don’t expect to ever receive a Grammy, Oscar, CMA award, Tony, Emmy or Golden Globe. I have been a finalist for and received some awards from the WMA, WWA and AWA. It’s nice to be nominated…it’s even nicer to win. I’m just not sure what it all means in the big scheme of things.
I’ve heard people who are knowledgeable say that the big awards…Oscars, Grammys…go to the people/labels/studios, etc. who spend the most money. In other words, to a large extent, they are bought and paid for. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the art and artist are not extremely good, it just means that the process is suspect and perhaps tarnished. In the smaller pond of Western music, what I hear most often from people is that they have no idea how decisions are made regarding who and what receives an award. As a result, while no one seems to think these awards are bought and paid for, there is a sense that they are not particularly meaningful. While I’m grateful for the ones I’ve been nominated for or received, I don’t spend much time thinking about them or gazing adoringly at them. In fact, I have them stored in a closet. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure why I was the one to receive some of them. To be clear, I’m NOT giving them back. I’m just a little bit mystified.
If awards aren’t where it’s at, what is? Where do we find measures of our worth as human beings that we can trust to be meaningful? Glad you asked, now I can tie this all together. There are people in my life…past and present…who’ll do to ride the river with. Family and friends, colleagues in both my music/writing career as well as my other former career of working with children and families. Country folks and city folks, cowboys and psychiatrists, inlaws and outlaws. People whom I respect and admire deeply. Nothing makes me feel better than knowing that these people think highly of me and return that respect and admiration. Nothing makes me feel worse than thinking I might have let them down in some way. They provide me with a code of behavior to follow and a standard of excellence for which to strive. Unlike the various awards I mentioned above, there is nothing suspect or tarnished about this process. It’s solid gold. You know when you've measured up and you keep this knowledge in a special place in your heart, mind and soul. It’s better than any award you will ever receive. You are a man or woman to ride the river with.