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Duff McKagan is the founding bassist of Guns N' Roses and the leader of Seattle's Loaded. His column runs every Thursday on Reverb.
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The Rock-and-Roll Lifestyle: Single Moms, Students, and Upton Sinclair

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Duff McKagan is the founding bassist of Guns N' Roses and the leader of Seattle's Loaded. His column runs every Thursday on Reverb.
With a couple of tours coming up, and the inevitable round of interviews, I know I'll be asked a lot about what my "rock-and-roll lifestyle" is like.

I tend to take a breath at this line of questioning. I could just make some shit up (I HAVE done that), or get kind of pissed off about the laziness of the question (yes, I have unfortunately done THAT too). I like to talk about music to a knowledgeable questioner, but sometimes . . . you've got to put up with some malarkey (and there ARE plenty of good music journalists out there).

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What does that term actually mean? What IS a rock-and-roll lifestyle? Is it simply listening to loud rock, getting tattoos and a leather jacket, drinking Jack, and spitting every so often? Riding a Harley? Limos and a pimp cup?

The use of well-placed terminology does help us all to identify certain things, of course.

I DO love the term "ROCKER." The word itself imbues a ton of imagery and romance. But I don't think a rocker needs to have AC/DC and Metallica and the Black Keys rumbling through their car speakers speeding headlong into the night.

Words and titles can be used as dictums and guides for all of us. A certain word can suddenly snap us back to a good place. "Rocker" works for me.

Prince is a rocker.

Upton Sinclair is a rocker. He exposed all kinds of wrong in the American workplace 100 years ago.

That person who stops a blind person from crossing the street into traffic is a rocker.

That single mother of a child with special needs who works hard to make ends meet is a fucking rocker.

Yes, for sure, there are rockers like Jack White and the Refused who embody more of the pigeonholed idea of what we think rockers are. But after living and observing this rock world, I think the ethos of rock is so much more far-reaching than guitars and Marshall stacks.

Have you ever observed those people who seem to strive to be truthful and honest more often than the norm? Or someone who seems to be searching for the "truth" in life? Those people who are more calm, and are not racing to some sort of nonexistent finish line?

Henry Rollins is a rocker.

Lemmy Kilmeister is most certainly a rocker.

We can talk about politics and Second Amendment rights and illegal downloading and bad TV and "provocative" entertainment news all we want, but as long as we just want to spell out what is wrong with other people or how they feel about certain subjects--without first making sure "our side of the street" is as clean as possible--we cannot be rockers.

Being a rocker, to me, is equal to living as much of the truth as possible.

Personally, I have to keep telling myself to slow the fuck down. Life is NOT a race. We are all so damn quick to "get there." Shit, aren't we "here" now? Goals are great and should be applauded, but this journey should be a blast, too. Laugh now. Laugh all the time, as often as possible. We all certainly have enough humor that we can direct at ourselves. We are funny fuckers, us humans.

When you don't fight with your loved ones, you are a rocker.

And when you go see bands at a live venue and celebrate the fact that you are in a shared moment that will never happen again, you are living the rock-'n'-roll lifestyle.

I don't think all this traffic-revision crap in Seattle is very rock.

Crack in Belltown is not rock.

I met a 20-year-old at the gym the other day in Seattle. Tattooed, and into some new and hard Metal, but also into poetry and into asking questions about life, and admitting that at 20 years of age there was a LOT to learn. The conversation was refreshing and positive, and made me glad to be alive and a fan of music and writers of words.

THAT 20-year-old is a rocker.

And there are those who think they know it all, and believe that they are better than others because of their knowledge or lofty monetary perch. Not rock.

John Cage was a rocker, as was his partner Merce Cunningham. Being openly gay WAY before it was condoned like it is somewhat now in 2012: THAT is a rock-and-roll lifestyle.

Blind hate does not rock.

The presidential debate last night was a serious affair for sure. This country seems divided in a way that many of us are afraid to say out loud. The liberals are more timid than usual, and the conservatives are louder and more boisterous than before. The fact-checking of the debate talking points by the different news agencies later last night and this morning exposed expansions of the truth by both the President and Mitt Romney.

Not being straight-up in a public debate does NOT rock.

More Duff:

-- Q&A: Duff McKagan and Jack White Talk Happy Accidents, Lanegan, and Growing Up With GNR

-- J.P. Patches Made Seattle Bands a Little Bit Different. Seriously

-- Those About to Rock Need Slipknot, Slayer... and a Tall Ice-Cream Cone

-- Hey, What Happened to the Radio?

 
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