April 13, 2017

Embrace the Hate: An Argument for Using Rage as Fuel

This past week I was listening (as is often the case) to NPR where I heard Terry Gross interviewing John Kander, who, with the late Fred Ebb, wrote the songs for musicals such as “Cabaret”, “Chicago” and for Martin Scorsese’s film “New York, New York”. 

At the outset of the interview, the original version of “New York, New York” is played and Kander comments, “I’m surprised that I ever let anybody hear that first version.”

He then explains that the version we know only came to be after Robert DeNiro heard the first version and thought:

“…[it] was just too lightweight compared to the song that was attached to Liza, which was “The World Goes Round.” And would we consider taking another crack at it? And of course we left and thought, some actor is going to tell us how to write a song? And we could not have been more internally pompous, I think. Anyway, we went back to Fred’s apartment. And I think because the juices of rage were coursing through our bodies, we wrote another song very fast, probably 45 minutes, called “New York, New York” and took it back. and that was the song that was used in the movie and became the song which is now pretty well known.”

“The juices of rage”! I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear him applaud them.

Why? Because I have a longstanding belief that there’s nothing wrong with rage as long as you use it properly.

Because although I do not—in any way, shape, or form—espouse violence, I do want to point out that we all get angry: getting angry isn’t the issue. The issue is what we do with it.

Speaking for myself, I know the times in my life that I’ve been most motivated –and, incidentally, had my biggest successes– are when I’ve been told, “You’ll never be able to do that,” “I don’t think you can pull it off,” or (my favorite) “You’re just a freelance kid…I need someone more substantial.”

Um… Get on board or get out of my way.

And while this can be problematic when I need motivation (I sympathize with Terrie Garr in “Tootsie” when she says to Dustin Hoffman “I need you to come by tomorrow morning and enrage me,”) it does offer a productive way to deal with hate.

Embrace it.

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