(Photo by Brian Diescher)
You hated me in high school.
I was the kid who loved doing research papers. I absolutely loved them! While the rest of my class groaned about the impossibility of writing 10-12 pages about pretty much anything, I groaned because I felt there was no way I could say all I needed to say in that highly restrictive format. Invariably, my teacher would remind me she had about 90 of these papers to grade, and it would be in my best interest to conform.
Fine. If I must.
Advanced mathematics gives me the shakes. My head hurts instantly when I think of Chemistry or Physics. But writing a paper? BRING. IT. ON. Why? Well, for one thing, I’m very comfortable when I write. It actually relaxes me. For another thing, I actually enjoy doing research. I see reading numerous items from multiple sources and conducting interviews as a great deal of fun!
And it’s a good thing, too. Because where Bernie Worrell is concerned, there is a TON of research to be done.
An artist who appeared on at least 500 recordings has interacted with a LOT of people. It’s my job to seek out as many of those people as possible. Since Bernie passed away in 2016, it is obviously impossible for me to interview him. But many others had the privilege in years past. Now I have to track down, read, and gather information from those moments. I can certainly chew what I’ve bitten off, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a mouthful.
The information has only just started to flow in. I’ve turned on the information spigot, but I sense the dam will come close to breaking at some point as more and more people learn about the project and feel the need to reach out to me and add their two cents worth. I had a lot more control over my first book than I will over this one. I’ll have to be extra careful not to let this one spiral out of control.
If I have one great advantage, it’s the Internet. In high school and college, my life was about going to the library, leafing through the card catalog (or the much more modern microfiche), then coming home with an armload of books I couldn’t highlight or mark in any way. All I could do was take copious notes, annotate where the info came from, then create a bibliography. At least this time I can read, download, and print off specifically what I need (while still making sure to give proper credit where it’s due).
I also remember the days when conducting an interview meant scribbling furious notes and relying on my memory to get the quotes exactly right. At least this time I have a recorder to make sure I get what was said word for word. It’s a lot harder for your subject to howl about being taken out of context with those handy devices.
And then there’s Bernie’s music. So much music! Different bands, different roles, different styles … and I need to hear nearly all of it in order to paint a complete and proper picture of the man, his life, and his career output. On the surface, it can seem a bit intimidating. But that doesn’t make it any less fun.
And so I take my first steps down this fascinating rabbit hole. I’m sure I’ll complain from time to time. But it will be a joy all the same. And you’ll be glad that nerdy pain in the ass from English class is on top of this particular case.