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My interview in Produce Business magazine.

A few months back I was interviewed by Produce Business magazine on the ever-popular topic of leadership. I've included an excerpt below, though I didn't mention at the time the influence of rock & roll on my thinking about leadership.

Looking back on it now, I can see that I began to identify critical leadership qualities from working with or closely observing successful musicians, talent agents, business managers, equipment managers, sound engineers, record producers, club owners, and concert promoters. (Of course some of those individuals lacked one or more of these qualities, which had a negative impact on their results—but that was equally instructive to me!)

Anyway, here's a brief excerpt from the interview…

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A night with Eric Clapton and Cream.

April 10 marks the fortieth anniversary of one of the more memorable events of my life. On that Wednesday evening in 1968 my rock band opened for Eric Clapton's Cream at Yale's venerable Woolsey Hall in New Haven.

Cream, the hottest supergroup on the scene, featuring the most critically acclaimed rock guitarist on the planet, was the envy of every pop musician I knew. Eric Clapton on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass and vocals, and Ginger Baker on drums were considered, well, the cream of the crop.

To add to their reputation, their latest single, "Sunshine of Your Love," had become a top forty hit. (It was one of those propitious moments when quality musicianship was rewarded with commercial success.)

My own band, The Morning—a local psych-folk-rock band composed of four Yale students and legendary Greenwich Village singer Randy Burns—was given the opportunity to open for these British demigods and we jumped at the chance.

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For whom would John Lennon vote?

A respondent to my recent post on John Lennon wondered how the former Beatle, if alive today, would weigh in on the current US presidential campaign—a momentous campaign, I might add, but vacuously covered (as usual) by an imagination-challenged electronic media.

After all, Lennon finally gained US residency a few years before his death in 1980. (The fact that Lennon was able to accomplish that was an amazing story in its own right, given the comical attempts years earlier by the Nixon administration, FBI, CIA, and INS to get him deported because of the apparently grave threat he posed to US security.)

Now in April, 2008—with the US involved in a protracted war in the Mid-east and the economy in its most worrisome shape in decades—we're approaching an election that citizens seem to care about.

Three "electable" candidates are left standing. (There are scores of candidates still running, but only three are currently conducting national campaigns.)

So whom would John Lennon support?

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John Lennon & the establishmentarians.

After ruminating on the Rumi nature of John Lennon's lyric in "Across the Universe" (as mentioned in a previous post), I began to ponder the paradox of John Lennon himself and his seemingly conflicting views on religion.

After all, three years after Lennon reverentially sang "jai guru deva om" ("thanks to God divine") he wistfully sang: "Imagine there's no countries. It isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, no religion too."

But on second glance there's no contradiction. Lennon simply did not equate religion with spirituality and could explore the latter without the baggage of the former. Or perhaps more specifically, without the baggage of religious authority. (In fact, shortly after writing "Across the Universe" he wrote "Sexy Sadie" which brilliantly—if harshly—lampooned the Beatles' one-time mentor, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.)

I think this also says something about the nature of musicians. As I will explore in a forthcoming book, rock & rollers in particular seem to have a healthy disregard for authority in general. (This is a trait that modern business teams would do well to emulate in a disruptive global economy—as I will elaborate on in a future post.)

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A brand launch across the universe.

More breaking news from the Beatles. You always hear that the Beatles brand has universal appeal. Why not market test it? That's exactly what will happen at 7pm EST tonight. NASA is beaming the Beatles song "Across the Universe," well, across the universe.

It's the first song to be sent into outer space, coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the Beatles recording of the tune, which appeared on their Let It Be soundtrack. (This year is also the fiftieth anniversary of NASA.)

"Across the Universe"—considered by critics (and by John Lennon) as one of his best compositions—will be aimed towards the North Star, Polaris, 2.5 quadrillion miles away, where nearby residents can hear it in 431 years. If they like it we'll get quick feedback 431 years later.

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