As a DJ there's a lot that I've been passionate about. In my youth, I was passionate about music. I still remember saving up my allowance and buying my first 7" single, "The Cars - Shake It Up". A week or two later I followed that by buying "Steve Miller Band - Abracadabra". Soon after, I was buying full albums on tape and savoring every high hat, guitar riff, and vocal expression on them. These songs seemed to be able to influence my moods, and usually brighten them.
This passion surrounding music focused itself tighter as I became a lyricist, and I started concentrating on artist's lyrics as well as my own. In the summer of 1987 I bought my first set of turntables and my focus shifted to harmonic blending. It seems I was a natural with that so soon I was playing my first gig. After a while of playing house parties and clubs, I got into the wedding scene, and realized I had a whole new area to focus my passion on: Entertainment. As a DJ there's so much more to focus on Â€Â”event coordination, microphone skills, wit, and even lighting control. It all matters, right?
Recently I performed at an event in which the host gave me a large "Must play" list as well as a big "Do not play" list. When I received the list my body got a slight chill. The combination of these is usually not a good thing. It means a bride and groom want me to play all their favorite songs and disregard what the guests really want. The only way that this type of reception is successful is if the guests all have the same musical tastes of the wedding couple. Or, if the bride and/or groom is/are so charismatic that they drive everyone onto the floor to have fun even though they may not care for the music!
At some point in the night I was going to have to play "What Is Love" by Haddaway. It was on that "Must play" list, and they seemed to have a serious affection for it. Now, I don't particularly mind the song, but I've seen it clear more dance floors than Crash Test Dummies's "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm". Being passionate about my work, I like to maintain a packed dance floor and this song had the potential to ruin that. What was I to do?
I never did figure a way out of it, so in traditional creative format, I blended from some other songs that had the word "love" in them, and just let it fly. And the dance floor got even more packed! I could see the bride out there and she was just singing along at the top of her lungs. The guests were feeding off the energy as she held her arms high and kept this incredibly big smile across her face. She looked so happy that she could just burst. And that's when the words of the 80s band, Secret Weapon, came to my head-- "must be the music!"
Strangely enough, the words, "the music" are not often well received. Try referring to a band as "the music" and see how well that goes over.
Performers cringe when they hear "oh, here comes the music" from the venue coordinators. A few years ago there was even a campaign where t-shirts were made in typical "Got Milk?" style that said simply, "Got Music?". Yeah, there was controversy about those shirts.
Being an DJ, I get the issue, trust me. To be the best you have to do so much more than play music. But when you get right down to the very essence of our existence, we stir emotions and energize people via the music we spin. We wield a powerful tool with our craft. We can cause romance and love to bloom. We can invoke sorrow by playing a dedication to a lost friend or family member. Heck, I can't even count the number of guests I made willingly cry when asked to play dedications to the September 11th tragedy.
We take all these songs that other artists have written and poured their hearts, souls, and lives into, and we weave them together to create an emotional ride. We prepare for a song by playing two right before it so that when we finally play the third it fits "just perfect", or we beatmatch and blend two songs together so skillfully that the guests on the dance floor don't even realize the song has changed for a minute or two. And we take a song like "What Is Love" and play it with a big smile and take a step back as we watch a bride and her guests have the time of their lives.
So sure, we do a lot of things. We emcee and coordinate events. We alert photographers and videographers when we're going to start a special event. We bring light shows that allow us to spotlight the first dance and then throw an array of lasers and LEDs across the dance floor when it's time for open dancing. We record toasts and play them back at opportune moments. But, we do these all while paying attention to everyone to determine what songs we're going to play when it is time to get everyone out onto the dance floor. And that, my friends, is one of the parts that keeps me in this field of entertainment. That's my passion. Dropping a song at just the right time and watching the reaction. Dropping a known old-school song and hearing, "Oh my! I haven't heard this song since 1990!" while they're tearing it up on the dance floor. Watching the guests sing along to a favorite tune, or sneaking a classic favorite on top of a new top-40 song and then hitting them with the chorus when they finally realized that they're dancing to a different song. Having older couples come up at the end of the night and thank me for playing a certain song that was one of their favorites, even when they didn't even request it. And of course, watching the bride singing at the top of her lungs to a song I wouldn't have attempted to put on if it hadn't been in that pesky "Must play" list.
Music is my passion, and something that has always made a difference in my life. DJing is another passion, which I was led to by my love of music. So yes, I'm still doing this after all these years. When people ask me why I haven't retired or tried something else, I simply reply, "Must be the music!"
Must be the music
It's turning me on (must be the music)
Must be the music
I can not go wrong
Must be the music