As I washed dishes, listening to Pandora Beatles Radio, a familiar song came streaming through the tinny speakers of my laptop. You probably know it: a classic rock ditty called Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd.
I was unable to resist the slight head bounce (that of course belies the passionate cigarette lighter-waving, hair shaking “yeah man” that’s really going on inside) while I rinsed Dawn suds off my coffee cup. Aw yeah, be a simpuuuul, kind of ma-aaan! Be something you love and understaaaaand!
And that’s when the dime dropped.
As the music swelled, guitar strings vibrating deep in the soul, awakening dreams and longing and the whiff of the fog machine under blue and purple stage lights … none of that is simple! Lynyrd Skynyrd, rock gods that they were/are, had not a simple man amongst them! The entire song is basically saying, “Mama told me to chill out and stay home, and get a steady job, ya know? But I didn’t.” Each belting out of the word “simpuuuul!” and melodic confession that his mama told him to be satisfied proved that he was anything but! ‘Cause no rock star ever has been content, satisfied, simple or generally chilled out about their status in life. It just doesn’t work out that way.
Possibly—maybe—Cat Stevens could have made that claim. Having converted to Islam, that music superstar put aside his guitar for decades. But he’s back in the spotlight, because that’s what rock stars do. They find the spotlight.
Anyway … you can say a lot without saying it at all. It’s about context, about presentation, about exactly what you’re not saying, sometimes. That’s subtlety.