What exactly makes Paul great?

I’ve been asked this question with much to say in praise of him, but he’s a character that is difficult to pinpoint the genius in. I see it most in his lyrics and musical delivery… The appeal for me is an emotional connection to the lyrics and interest in wordplay. Also his sound is pretty unique– Pleasant voice (albeit raw and maybe seldom out of key, not Frank Sinatra), varying arrangements (from rough demos to layered pieces).

So to all readers, why should Westerberg have a place with other music legends?

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13 Comments

  1. Placemat 29.Oct.07 at 10:25 am

    As the previous thread illustrates, the man is a master wordsmith. The songs alone make him a legend.

    But speaking personally, I’ve always been drawn to the quick wit & (sometimes) snotty attitude. Plus the guy makes me laugh with a stoopid grin.

  2. kidblue 29.Oct.07 at 12:04 pm

    He’s prophetic.
    All of a sudden, he makes it accessible to find something you were looking for, whether you want it or not. The Truth hurts but he makes it beautiful, cathartic and real. In spite of so many reasons, you have to believe and you want to believe.
    Dylan, Gram Parsons, The Stones, Paul and The ‘Mats; They all have a way of telling the truth in spite.

  3. RJ 29.Oct.07 at 1:26 pm

    I like the way PW and his point of view has aged.

    While some older punks are mired in their snot-nosed youth (see the Vandals, etc), others cry out for a kind of redemption: it feels like Social Distortion’s career went from “Mommy’s Little Monster” to “Prison Bound” to “I Was Wrong” in the course of about 3 or 4 records.

    I’m less than 2 years older than PW, and he is like my personal Hank Williams Sr. His string of “Red light! Red light! Run it!” and “Your age is the hardest age, everything just drags and drags…” to “Make way for the grey that’s in your brown,” “No longer in a hurry to get anywhere” and the new “God Damn Angel” seems less forced and much more natural to me.

    Plus, he rocks.

  4. Color Me Impressed 29.Oct.07 at 3:39 pm

    I’ve always liked Paul and his music because they’re both very real and relatable. I think just about anyone could find a lyric of Paul’s that they can relate to or at least appreciate. As RJ said above me, Paul’s music appeals to all ages. How often do you find a songwritter who’s music hits home to both teenagers and grown adults? He also doesn’t have a huge rock star ego, which just makes him more real.

  5. Joey Ramone 29.Oct.07 at 4:50 pm

    One song will make you cry, the next make you laugh, the next will make you think about the decisions you’ve made with your life. Most his releases run the gamut.

    And he makes messy hair cool.

  6. jay 30.Oct.07 at 8:40 am

    He says what I want to say but can’t find words for.

  7. pzp 30.Oct.07 at 12:31 pm

    He says what I want to say but can’t find words for.

    Well said.

    The fact that after they played ‘Achin to Be’ on at their last show he cracks “That was our power ballad.”

  8. Rob 30.Oct.07 at 4:14 pm

    To quote the man himself, his musics great ’cause it “straddles the line between comedy and tragedy”. Those ragged melodies, that hoarse, honest voice, all the timeless songs, from “fuck school” to “answering machine” to
    “let the bad times roll”. Theres also always been a complete lack of pretension and bullshit about the man…I can’t express in words how much his songs mean to me!! Legend!!

  9. Rob 30.Oct.07 at 4:15 pm

    Plus its great music to get drunk and fall down too!!

  10. Davein DK 31.Oct.07 at 4:23 am

    Real live bleeding fingers and broken guitar strings.

  11. FreeRider 31.Oct.07 at 2:11 pm

    I think, to just build on what RJ and and Jay have said, it’s interesting to see Paul write about songs that are relevant to YOUR life. But not only that, he rocks and he has a sense for melody that blends perfectly together with his sense of rock rhythm. I think the best artists are the ones who can tap into those universal feelings we all have, that collective consciousness. And Paul has that gift.

    Art is supposed to be a reflection of society. If you accept that definition, then what Paul does attains the level of art. Not everyone achieves that. And that’s why, like Jay said, he says the things I can’t. That’s what a good artist will do—he/she will articulate all the things you feel, the things you think about but just can’t quite express. There is the shock of self recognition in the songs. And that’s what makes him great.

    Now having said that, I once stood in a steady rainfall for 45 minutes after Paul’s show here in DC (Folker Tour) to meet him and to get his autograph. I wouldn’t do this for anyone else but Paul. So, I’d like to turn the question around a bit:

    What is it about Paul that evokes such loyalty? Or affection for the guy? What is it that makes us drawn to him? Obviously, it’s the music (duh!) but there has to be something more there, some other quality that draws us in.

  12. Color Me Impressed 31.Oct.07 at 9:10 pm

    jay said it all in one sentence. Are you sure you’re not Paul Westerberg himself?

  13. jay 01.Nov.07 at 12:49 am

    No, though i’ve got the shoes.