Is Anything Authentic Anymore?

I dragged myself out of bed and headed in the general direction of the treadmill. Not an easy task this morning as two long rounds of disc golf yesterday had my legs feeling like lead weights. Usually on the treadmill I listen to Podcasts or Audio books, but that just wasn’t going to get it done today. Today I needed something special for that extra motivation. When I really need to get fired up, nothing works like listening to the music of my youth.

I don’t know why that is, but that is what I needed to hear on this day. So as I searched through the ipod I landed on “Journey”, and the album “Evolution”.

Recorded in 1978 this album was done “Old School” – 2 inch tape, all musicians playing together… and what struck me on this particular morning was REAL vocal harmonies. My goodness, I am a professional musician and listen to both new and old stuff, and have heard these songs hundreds of times. And yet – there was something that hit me. Maybe it was the lack of sleep that put me in a haze laden mental state, but the result was clear. What I was really hearing was… authenticity.

After the album was finished I got off the treadmill and contemplated. Could it be that even someone such as myself has gotten so de-sensitized by the constant barrage of pitch corrected vocals and time corrected beats that hearing something “real” is a shock?

It started me thinking of other things that were amazing as “authentics”, but the copies never stand out in the same way. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech is a great example. When you listen to that speech it is not just the words or sentiments that have meaning; not just Dr. King’s excellent oratory skills or the way he delivers the proper inflection. It is the authenticity of the moment! I have since heard many politicians give a speech that is obviously based off of that same repetitive phrase style, and yet it always seems so…. Well, just not very inspiring. It has the technique but none of the soul.

Of course we live in a world of “reality” TV shows that have little if any reality in them. But this is what we have gotten used to; disposable celebrities and singers who can’t actually sing.

So can we ever go back to authenticity once we have been taken to the dark side of homogenized, watered down lackluster copies? Is it possible that we are all unaware of what is real? Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions”. Could it be that is where we have ended up, having our minds “stretched” to a place of mediocrity?

Sometimes people try to capture the “real” by consciously emulating what it is they think makes it so. Much of what we consider authentic is “the way it was back in the day”, especially when it comes to music. The way things are over-produced now with a slick finish and everything perfectly in tune and in time is a far cry from the early Dillon recordings that moved men’s souls. Then Jack White comes along and plays a few chords out of time and sings a few notes out of key and he is hailed as a genius. Maybe he is or maybe he isn’t – can we really tell? Are we being duped into believing something has some of those “authentic” qualities just because it is lo-fi? Or could it be that he, along with a number of others really ARE authentic, but now our skepticism makes us question all?

Well the Journey music got me through my workout and set me on a quest to examine if I could find authenticity around me.

I looked around my desk for authenticity. I saw an old hand crank coffee grinder that my Mom passed down to me, along with an old weathered wooden clock that was over 100 years old. These felt authentic. Then a quick look back at my music collection found AC/DC’s “Problem Child” with Bon Scott’s impromptu lyrics at the beginning, and Charlie Parker “Live from Montreal” blowing liquid improvised lines on the sax. This stuff was real! But hold on. Has authenticity been relegated to antiques and relics of bygone days? Have we lost it in the present?

As my eyes darted around looking for something that would tell me it is still alive and well and can be found with us today, my gaze fell on my dog looking up at me. I looked deep into his caramel brown eyes. He stared back at me with a trusting, loyal, un-selfish look, steeped in absolute pure love. Then he leaned up and licked my face as if to reassure me and prove that this indeed was a love that could only be described as “authentic”.

I smiled at him and he at me, and my hope was restored.


Take a minute and share in the comments where you have seen, heard, or experienced something authentic lately.