Happy 60th Birthday John Taylor!

You would think that I would welcome writing this blog, right? After all, I am a John Taylor fan. He’s my favorite. Yet, this blog makes me nervous as I want to do an amazing job to be worthy, to do his birthday justice. I am not all that confident that I’m up to the task, especially since this is a big birthday for our favorite bass man. Alas, I’ll do the best I can.

Childhood

I have a confession to make. I was not always a John Taylor girl. I hesitate to even admit this but…when I first found out about Duran Duran at the tender age of 8, I gravitated towards Simon. After all, he was the voice of the band. Even the initial videos that I saw from Hungry Like the Wolf to Save a Prayer focused on him, or at least that is how I saw it then. One video changed all that.

All it took was one direct look into the camera for me to openly and loudly declare, “Oh, he’s cute!” Thankfully, my childhood best friend totally agreed with me. We both fell for him at the same time. Interestingly enough, we were too young to compete or to fight over who got to claim him as theirs as many other young, female Duranies did. No, for us, it was reassuring that we could pick out the “cute one.” It meant that we were normal, somehow.

After that, Beth (my childhood friend) and I sought out every picture, every interview, every moment focusing on John Taylor. When one of us got a new magazine, we would stare and dissect every picture and every word credited to be his. We tried to like what he did. John is a James Bond fan? Let’s check out some Bond films. He liked cars. Let’s fantasize about which cars we wanted as adults. Of course, we followed him with the Power Station side project and thought we had died and gone to heaven when this solo song came out.

For me, for my friend, John Taylor was just the coolest. He was so fashionable, so smart, so articulate–the exact opposite of what we saw in our working class south suburb of Chicago.

Reunion

Like so many, Duran Duran took the back seat of life for awhile as I finished high school and throughout college. Yet, I never forgot the band and tried to pay attention to what they were doing, when I could. At that point, a new friend made sure to let me know what she was hearing about the band happenings. We went to see Duran for the first time in 1993 and loved the show even though something felt slightly off to me. After that, I paid a little bit more attention and remember being shocked when I heard that John had left the band. It felt like one more foundational piece of my childhood was gone. I didn’t know the circumstances or his reasoning. I just never thought I would see it. That said, I still felt excited whenever I saw John appear on TV, usually to celebrate the 80s like in this clip:

Thankfully, all the stars aligned in the early 2000s as the band reunited and I finished graduate school. I found myself with more time and desperately seeking some fun. All I needed was to have someone mention Duran Duran and their reunion and I became obsessed. When did they get back together? Would that make new music? Would they tour? Would I be able to find fellow fans to hang out with? Similarly, what did I miss? What could I catch up on? It was like someone invited me to a Duran Duran all-you-can-eat buffet. I literally could not get enough as I caught up with albums like Medazzaland and Pop Trash. More fun, though, was to find all of John’s solo work.

As I got to know John’s work, I discovered that his lyrics were vastly different than what we were used to with Simon. John’s words tended to be more personal, more obviously autobiographical. As I listened, I often thought to myself that he had to write them in such a way. He needed to. He needed to be that honest, that open. It reminds me of how writing this blog has allowed me to think through things, to figure stuff out. While many Duranies criticized his work for this reason or others, I found it so incredibly brave. It is not easy to show yourself like that, especially after being on a pedestal for decades by countless fans.

Present Day

As the reunion moved into present day Duran Duran, I noticed that I began seeing John differently. He was no longer that perfect fantasy of youth, cooler than cool. He also wasn’t the guy trying to process through life changes and the battle for sobriety that I saw in looking back at his solo days. It felt like I began to see John more as a complex human being with a full range of characteristics, feelings, etc. He was no longer the flat stereotype of a teen heart throb of my childhood and he was no longer the 2 dimensional image of a rock star trying to get himself together. No, he is way more than that. He can be the teacher educating us all about how various Duran songs were created in his bass tutorials. He can also be the writer of his own experiences in his autobiography.

While he is still the coolest guy in the room, he is also willing to be silly and even dorky as seen by the awesome Dad dancing of Danceophobia.

As I think about wishing John Taylor a happy birthday, I cannot help but to think about the gifts that he has given all of us. Those presents are more than just the music that he has created and performed over the years, at least for me. I think about how much he has taught me about the kind of person I would like to be. It isn’t about trying to be super cool. No, it is about embracing who you are, sharing your truth and finding joy without really caring what others might think of you. For all of that and more, I wish John the happiest of birthdays and many, many, many more to come!

-A

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