In 2015, Toni Morrison wrote an essay in which she remembered the days following the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush. “I am staring out of the window in an extremely dark mood, feeling helpless. Then a friend, a fellow artist, calls to wish me happy holidays. He asks, ‘How are you?’ And instead of “Oh, fine — and you?’, I blurt out the truth: ‘Not well. Not only am I depressed, I can’t seem to work, to write; it’s as though I am paralyzed, unable to write anything more in the novel I’ve begun. I’ve never felt this way before, but the election …’ I am about to explain with further detail when he interrupts, shouting: ‘No! No, no, no! This is precisely the time when artists go to work — not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. That’s our job!’ ”
That’s just the path that Morgan Fisher has followed during the coronavirus crisis. The composer, photographer, musician and producer — who has played keyboards for Mott the Hoople, Queen and others — has made good use of the free time he has while living in quarantine in Tokyo by making music and filming videos from a stash of songs previously recorded but never released.
He shared with NJArts.net’s Songs to See Us Through series his engrossing, prescient song “Cracks in the Wall,” written 20 years ago. The clip below — recently made with a hand-held camera and filled with hypnotic, surreal images — features nearly seven minutes of gorgeous, heart-wrenching music. Fisher distracts us from our current landscape of empty city streets and the noise of ambulance sirens and gives us a moment of hope that beauty and progressive change still exist.
Enjoy his rich voice as he sings:
Look for the cracks in the wall, crumble and fall
That’s where our new world is turning,
Cracks in your heart tear you apart
It’s the door to a new kind of learning.
We need a new kind of talking, share the truth we hid for so long
Cut through the guilt and the worry
Everybody sing their own sweet song.
Fisher has been home alone since mid-March. It’s a creative space with “a recording studio with numerous instruments, lights and cameras,” he says. “For many of us, this is an opportunity to get on with things we had put on the back burner due to pressures of work, etc. I decided to pull a song out of a batch of demos I made 20 years ago and never released. The lyrics are perhaps quite relevant now.”
He wrote the song when he had “come out of years of introspection, meditation and therapy,” he said. “And I was making a connection between my personal situation and that of the world at large: How breakdown can have the potential to lead to breakthrough.
“It sometimes feels to me that the current disaster will shake everything up so much that older ways of living, where corrupt politicians and greedy capitalists dominate the world, will just have to come to a stop. We have talked about it so much, but here nature seems to have pushed the pause button globally, giving us all real pause for thought, which may eventually lead to people saying NO on a massive scale to current leaders, and acting on it.”
He added: “Out of it some silver linings are already apparent: the reduction in pollution due to less travel and less consumption; the flourishing of individual creativity by people at home with more time on their hands; the increase of interest in meditation to help the stress some people feel in lockdown. I wrote on Facebook recently that ‘life will never go back to the way it was’ after this crisis has ended. Some people felt that to be a tragic thought. But many, like me, hope we can learn many things through this disaster — more compassion, awareness of what is truly important in life — what needs to stay and what needs to go.”
He then quoted from his own lyrics: “It’s a door to a new kind of learning.”
He says he went with a “quick and dirty edit” for the video, and didn’t try to clean up his sometimes inaccurate lip-syncing.
“It’s nice to trust one’s intuition and spontaneity in this way rather than trying to make things cool, impressive and oh-so-perfect,” he said. “I sang, played and programmed everything in this song, with the exception of a very special guest, Foday Musa Suso, a griot from Gambia and one of the world’s leading masters of the kora. He has played with Paul Simon, Philip Glass, Pharoah Sanders, Herbie Hancock … and 20 years ago he happened to be in Tokyo with Bill Laswell. I love the sparkle he brings to what might have been a bit of a heavy song.”
The last time I watched Fisher perform was at Mott the Hoople’s brilliant sold-out show at the Beacon Theatre in New York, last year. It was part of a tour celebrating the 45th anniversary of Mott the Hoople’s 1974 U.S. tour, and featured music from the band’s 1974 albums, The Hoople and Live, as well as other material.
Fisher had many notable moments, including his evocative classical introduction, “Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C Major,” to “Rest in Peace” from the Live album. As he does in “Cracks in the Wall,” he created hypnotic and magnificent music. His contribution to “Marionette” was stunning, adding depth to the dramatic song.
The venerated band cancelled its fall U.S. tour due to frontman Ian Hunter developing severe tinnitus.
I’ve always believed in finding silver linings even in the most difficult times. Fisher’s creative energy and song is the silver lining to a miserable week in New Jersey and New York, as death continues to rise and Vietnam’s nightly death tolls pale in comparison.
Sit back and listen to what artists do best: enlighten and educate us, relieve us of our doubts and negative musings, and create a respite from coronavirus’ storm.
“I do not consider myself either a teacher or a preacher,” Fisher said. “Like many of my lyrics, these came to me at a time when I needed to hear them. I haven’t shared them since that time over 20 years ago. Maybe it’s time to share.”
Fisher loves collaborations and is available for internet sessions. He can be reached via Facebook at facebook.com/morganicfisher.
NJArts.net’s Songs to See Us Through series is designed to spotlight songs relevant to the coronavirus crisis and encourage readers to support the artists who made them (and won’t be able to generate income via concerts at this time). Click here for links to all songs in the series.
We encourage artists to email us submissions (newly recorded, if possible) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include links to sites such as Patreon and Venmo. Readers can also make suggestions via that email address.
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