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05 April 2008

Helpless

From the time he encountered Bobby Zimmerman at the University of Minnesota, Paul Nelson's trajectory took him into many a luminaries' orbit. In addition to the dozens of artists whom he interviewed (striking up friendships with many of them), Paul also enjoyed relationships with some pretty heady individuals socially. Among them was director Martin Scorsese, whom Paul met via their mutual friend Jay Cocks. Scorsese also contributed the blurb that appears on the back of the book Paul cowrote with William MacAdams: 701 Toughest Movie Trivia Questions of All Time.

As for Cocks, who wrote with Paul at Rolling Stone, he went on to write screenplays for, among other films, The Age of Innocence, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Gangs of New York. As one might expect of a friend of Scorsese's, he is also something of a film scholar, as he demonstrates on several notable DVD audio commentaries.

Yesterday, I pulled Scorsese's The Last Waltz off the shelf and realized that I'd never listened to the second commentary track (the one labeled "The Band and Others"). Popping it in, I was pleased to find among the "Others" none other than Jay Cocks. When I heard what he had to say about Neil Young's incandescent performance of "Helpless," I couldn't help but think of Paul and his life and perhaps what went wrong:

. . . [T]hinking how he’s just held true all these years. He’s found a way not only to keep going with the music but found a way that the music could renew him. It’s a really, really hard thing to do--with writing or painting or any kind of creative activity. He’s a guy who, instead of getting burned out, seems to be ignited by the act of creation.
Copyright 2008 by Kevin Avery. All rights reserved.
 

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