The Greatest Drummer in the World

September 26, 2007
Posted by Jay Livingston

Students are so young now. I remember when they were only a few years younger than I was, and we knew the same movies and music. We could talk.

That was then.

Now on the first day of class, I pass out index cards for students to put their vital information – names, e-mail, phone numbers. I ask them to put down the name of their favorite movie, book, and album.

I’m hoping that knowing a bit about such preferences might help me learn their names more quickly. But it’s also my desperate attempt to keep up in some small way with pop culture, which slips further and further away from me each year. Especially music. It’s not just that I don’t know the songs or what these singers sound like; I often don’t even recognize the names of the performers. I’ve made my peace with it; I’m resigned to the fate of never again being cool.

But this semester provided an opening I couldn’t resist. As I went through the cards calling names, talking briefly with each student, I came upon one that listed “Journey.”

“The group?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, “anything by them.”

Now in one of those strange accidents of proximity that can happen when you live in New York, I recently got to know the guy who played drums with Journey back in the day. So I asked, “Do you happen to know who the drummer with Journey was?”

No, she said, she just liked their music.

I was standing there debating whether to play my trump card right then – maybe it would appear too desperate – when another student called out, “It’s Steve Smith.” Then he added definitively, “the greatest drummer in the world.” After a pause he elaborated further, “Not so much his rock drumming, but the later stuff.”

“You mean the jazz fusion stuff with Vital Information?” I asked, not so much looking for agreement as just displaying this one slender wisp of cool.


Anonymous said...

Very cool! I love "small world" stuff like that.

Steve is, indeed, a monster drummer, though it's hard to imagine why someone would think that based on his Journey playing.

And now I have "don't stop believin'" stuck in my head...

kristina b said...

I also experience a disquieting age effect: I look about 10 years younger than I actually am (a blessing!), which leads to students and colleagues treating me that way sometimes.

Bad Runner said...

I confess I couldn't think of his name either--but I saw him in concert and I thought he was incredible. The journey stuff might not seem to tough--but try to play certain pieces of it and it's a totally different story. He slipped a lot of interesting stuff in there.

arnelle said...

Journey isn't too far out of our realm, I'm 25, a late but recent graduate. I love Journey though, nothing beats "hold on to that feelin'... " we just recently had a Journey and Stix concert here in Tampa. The crowd was a mixture. But when I went to the Roger Waters concert very very few of my friends didn't even have the slightest clue.

SARA said...

Great post and great picture Jay!
I've always admired the "drummer" in any band since they have to know their "fractions" well...laughing here.