I was invited along to a talk yesterday, given by a man I’d never heard of, but had heard many times in my life, without knowing it. Ralph Rolle, drummer with the band Chic came to Athlone Institute of technology, to give a talk to my brother in law’s students, who are studying instrument making and other aspects of the music business such as sound engineering.
The reason I am writing about it today, is that I woke this morning still thinking about the talk Ralph Rolle had given and the completely calm, level and gracious person he appeared to be during the afternoon visit.
It’s quite possible he liked it that way, but I don’t think any of the young students listening to Ralph yesterday, considered him “famous”. I can say this with confidence because not one looked for a selfy with him or looked for his autograph. This was intriguing to me because Ralph Rolle has a resume like no one I have met. Apart from playing with the band Chic, an iconic group of the funk era, he has toured and played on sessions with everyone from Paul Simon to Prince to Sting. What I found intriguing is that the generation of young people sitting in front of me in the small lecture theatre yesterday, seemed not to measure fame by achievement, ability or experience. They are of the generation that looks at fame as something separate from achievement. They see fame and recognition as something that can be obtained without accomplishing or creating anything. They see “famous” people all the time on TV, who are, as the old saying goes, ‘famous for being famous’.
Fitting then, that the talk Ralph gave, concerned itself with the themes of, Hard Work, Perseverance, Diligence and a humble attitude when comporting oneself in the world of work. He spoke about a need to put yourself forward, to do the lowliest work, (as he had done), for little or no financial reward, at the beginning of your career. This pays off in the long run, because it shows real dedication and interest and it lets you mingle in the environment you want to work in. This attitude is important in all careers, not just in the environment of the recording studio.
The reason that Ralp Rolle isn’t ‘famous’ in the celebrity sense of the word, is that I don’t get the impression he would think much about that kind of renown. I hope that rubbed off on the students a bit yesterday, because they live in a world of great privilege; a world of instant access to information on any subject you could think of, instant communication, from wherever you are, to any number of people simultaneously, and sadly a growing sense of entitlement, to anything desired because of that instant world.
You have to work hard for what you really want, if it’s something worth achieving. You cant allow words like “can’t” into your vocabulary. If you want to be a good musician, you gotta put in the practice, hours and hours of it. If you want to be a sound engineer, you gotta put in the hours, you gotta sweep the floor, before you pan the tracks!
Luckily in life, we sometimes get to encounter people who show us a model of how we can behave as professionals and the attitude we can adopt toward the people around us, on a human level. Ralph certainly gave a great example of who we can aspire to be in our dealing with others, in business or otherwise.
As a footnote, I should mention that I contacted my daughter, Aoife, who is studying in Tokyo at the moment, telling her to check and see if Ralph’s cookie store still exists in there. It is mentioned in the YouTube video I have linked below. After watching the video, Aoife texted me back saying of Ralph Rolles, “What a Geezer”. Indeed, What a Geezer.