Things the Grandchildren Should Know

By MARK OLIVER EVERETT

Mark Oliver Everett is the kind of talented musician who has garnered plenty of critical acclaim but managed to steer his indie rock band, the Eels, clear of becoming the next big thing for decades. He’s fine with that. In fact, it comes as such a surprise to him that he’s made it in the music business (and through 44 years of living) that he’s written it down for posterity, even though he doesn’t have kids yet. Detailing his trudge through teen angst, Everett serves up musings on creativity and musical inspiration with generous helpings of personal tragedy including his father’s untimely death and his sister’s multiple suicide attempts. What keeps the drama meter from tilting too far over (as cancer, accidents, and overdoses claim the lives of parents, friends, and fellow musicians, and crazy girlfriends cause more heartbreak) is the telling. Whether he’s composing lyrics or describing his life, Everett’s words are consistently intelligent and unembellished. He doesn’t indulge in self-pity. Take this bit about his beloved sister, “I came home after the show and checked my phone messages. There was a message from my mom? ‘Liz took a bottle of pills and she went into a coma. Um?call?me.'” Through bad recording deals and other misfortunes Everett retains the forward-thinking optimism he had driving across the country to seek his fortune in California, pockets stuffed with nothing more than demo tapes. “All these deaths made me notice that I was still alive.” And if he ever does find the right girl, here’s what he wants his grandchildren to know, “I’ve been through a lot but I’m OK. And if I want to be I’m better than OK. I mean — I survived. And I survived just by being me. How lucky and amazing is that?”

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