Growing up in small town Iowa — back in the dark ages — my main life interests included sports, reading and writing, fishing, and rock music.
I loved all of those things, in no particular order. Those were the things I wanted to do with my life.
Of course, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I was never going to play sports at a level beyond high school, I wasn’t going to be able to pay the bills as a professional walleye fisherman, and I wasn’t on Eddie Van Halen’s short list when he was looking for a new lead singer.
So that left reading and writing, which was fine, because that’s what I’ve done.
The best thing about writing, either as a vocation or as a pastime, is that you can often combine it with the other things you love. I was a sports writer and sports editor for many years. I’ve also written extensively about fishing, hunting and the outdoors.
But I’ve never gotten the opportunity to write anything much about music. And then Maddie Poppe went on “American Idol.”
I’ve never been a fan of shows like “American Idol.” I’d never even bothered to watch a full episode until a couple of weeks ago, and I only watched that one because everyone was talking about an Iowa girl from nearby Clarksville who had been stealing the show this season.
I like all kinds of music — everything from metal to country, classical to jazz, blues to pop to showtunes — I enjoy a little bit of anything and a lot of everything. Eclectic tastes, so to speak.
But I do have preferences. If I’m going to be listening to music, I usually prefer the screaming guitars of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest — or maybe a local band of folks I know jamming at the neighborhood tavern — to a network television show that seemed to me like a souped-up, high-publicity karaoke contest.
Or at least that’s what I thought.
I watched an episode of “Idol,” though, and I was impressed — by Maddie Poppe, the local girl from nearby Clarksville. I could easily do without the judges — even the great Lionel Richie eventually started to annoy me — and I could live without that Ryan Seacrest character. The rest of the contestants were okay — they surely did better than I could have done — but they didn’t impress me the way the kid from the area did.
They all have guts, and they all have talent. But Maddie has solid pipes, diverse musical skills and tremendous gravitas for a 20-year old. And she has an enhanced musical taste that’s way beyond the level of the other contestants. She’s musically diverse and educated, and it shows not only in her selection of songs, but in her interpretation of them.
At her free concert in Allison Tuesday, she closed with the song “Me and Bobby McGee.” That’s one of the great songs of any genre. Written by Kris Kristofferson, made famous by Janis Joplin, I’m stunned that a 20-year old even knows that song exists.
The fact that she chose that song for her hometown fans, and performed it well, tells me she was raised right, at least when it comes to music.
Of course, that’s just the opinion of some old guy.
I went down to the Poppe parade on Tuesday, to take some photos for the newspaper, and was simply blown away at how Maddie has impacted the community of Clarksville. This young lady has them beaming with pride, and that’s a good thing in a world where sometimes you have to look hard to find good things.
Maddie’s going to have some success, whether or not she ultimately wins on “Idol.” And there’s no question Maddie’s success is good for Clarksville. It won’t change anything fundamentally — Memphis would essentially be the same with or without Graceland; Minneapolis would essentially be the same with or without Paisley Park — but it’s good to have something to celebrate, something to be proud of, something about your town that’s forever positive.
I sometimes pictured myself, back in the dark ages, as a “rock journalist.” Reviewing the latest albums and singles, going on tour with the bands and documenting the debauchery. It sounded fun when I was young, now it doesn’t sound fun at all. We get old.
But at least I got a little taste of that Tuesday, thanks to Maddie. I wasn’t exactly a rock journalist, or even a rock critic, but in the crowd among thousands of people and dozens of other journalists trying to take pictures, I felt like a member of the Paparazzi.
Or if you will, the “Poppe-razzi.”
As I write this, I don’t know the outcome — I don’t know if Maddie Poppe is the next American Idol or not. Personally, I’ve seen enough. To me, she’s already a star.
I’m sure she is to Clarksville, too.