Those of you who know me in any capacity probably know that I play the drums. Those of you who are my actual friends know that I was involved in what I called “My Secret British Mission” and on my social media, I also called it “The Magical Mystery Tour!” as I posted several photos of myself and Darlene while we were in London for a week in May. I was asked to keep it a secret and even had to sign a non-disclosure agreement for social media. Well, the secret is now out!
In early 2016, I received a strange email to our intake page at alvinlaw.com and I don’t mean it was another Nigerian Bank Scam, but it was close in its being sketchy. It seems a company called “Blink Productions” had seen me play the drums on my website and they were looking for a disabled drummer to be in a promotional video for a London Television Network. So let’s be clear, I have done this before, but you probably didn’t see it or know it if you did as it was so fast. I actually played the drums in a Nike commercial when they introduced the new running shoe, “Nike Free”. It was actually petty cool as I played a set of drums in a garage in Venice Beach and the idea was the running shoe feels like wearing bare feet so everyone in the commercial were in bare feet including tennis stars Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova and footballer Ronaldo. No I didn’t meet them but Sharapova was in her motor home on the set when I was there. It only played in Europe and I don’t know for how long it was on the air but I did meet someone in an airport once who recognized me from the ad. I also played the drums in a short film by the quirky producer/director, Harmony Korine. It was called, ” Julien…Donkey Boy” and it was definitely not main stream, although I did a couple of scenes not playing the drums with legitimate star, Werner Herzog where I played the neighbor to a man whose son was having a schizophrenic breakdown (Herzog was the dad) and we played cards and watched female figure skating on television. As to the drumming, I had a set in my dining room in our home in Queens New York (It was a real house owned by Philipino family who loved velvet artwork and was rented for the film) and I played the drumset for my wife who was a six foot tall, three hundred pound black woman with eighteen inch fingernails! So, I should just get to where I was going, right?
Playing the drums the way I do presents a fascinating conundrum. Some might see it as a novelty act, even akin to the old circus side shows with the freaks. Strange huh? A hundred years ago, that might have been the only work I could have got, being a circus freak! That’s a vital reference point so keep reading. The simple fact is I started playing the drums with my feet when I was ten years old after the ancient piano teacher my Mom took me to for piano lessons told us trying to play music with your feet was nothing but an idealistic notion and that I was a cripple, I’d always be a cripple and she would know because she’d been teaching piano for almost forty years! Absolutely true story. So my parents bought me my one and only “guilt gift” in my life and that was a beat up old set of drums from a Legion auction sale. Oddly, an amazing young man, Eric Nikiforoff, lived in our neighbourhood and taught drum lessons and he didn’t see the ” cripple”, he saw a new drummer and he deserves huge credit for not only teaching me, but not patronizing me. Believe me when I tell you drumming is way harder than it looks and there is even a thing called “rudiments” which are the percussion equivalent to scales. They are really hard to master but since I had nothing else to do, I did just that. You must also understand something else. At ten years old, I wasn’t trying to make a “statement”! I wanted to play music and since I couldn’t play the piano, apparently, drums were my option.
Ironically, that same year, Yorkton Saskatchewan band director, Blaine McClary, would mount a trombone on the side of a wooden chair and that’s what I actually played in the school band. If you didn’t know the story (it’s in my book, “Alvin’s Laws of Life”), I not only played trombone very well, but in 1978, I was chosen as lead chair trombonist for Canada’s National All Star High School Jazz Band. I was literally one of the premier teenage trombone players in an entire country! Oh, and by the way, I achieved that not by getting it sent in the mail or a patronizing gesture, I practiced over 10,000 hours and I earned it! That’s another point of reference that is vital, but keep reading.
So I answered this person from Blink Productions after I checked out their website to see they were legit and told them I’d be interested in pursuing the offer, assuming they’d simply film me in my basement where my vintage 1968 Ludwig drum kit still sits! Well they answered saying the project would be filmed in London and it was part of a much bigger cause! Cool. I like ” causes”. So they sent me a video clip called “The True Superhumans” and it featured various athletes from Britain’s Paralympic Team who’d be competing in the 2012 London Paralympics whose broadcaster was Channel 4 London. The promo blew me away. And I loved the title…”The True Superhumans!” That’s really not how we typically see cripples, is it?
Did I just use that word? Cripple? I did. To prove a point. People with physical and mental challenges have been called a lot of things. What do you call them? Apparently, the latest politically correct version is people with special needs. You know what, you could call me a John Deere Tractor but I do not subscribe to labels. Never have. That “Is” my point.
On July 15th, if you go to Channel 4 London’s website, www.channel4.com, and look for the promo ad for the 2016 Paraympics called “We’re The Superhumans”, you’ll see why I am so incredibly excited. I was one of three drummers and fourteen other world class musicians who play various instruments and we provide the music for the soundtrack for the video. It was quite fascinating. In pre-production meetings, someone, with no intended offence, I’m sure, suggested they film the “handicapped” musicians playing their instruments but use a “real band” to record the background music. Well that conversation was a short one, but rather poignant. That idea didn’t last long just so you know, we are all playing for real and the music tracks were actually recorded at Abbey Road Studios! Abbey Road for goodness sake! Can you fricking believe that? There I was sitting in the studios playing the drums in the same room that the Beatles sat! Wow! But you need to know I’m not just “boasting”.
Please imagine how it felt to be a “Musician” playing your beloved instrument in one of the most famous recording studios on the planet where the icons of the music industry have done the same. Our music director whose first name was Guy, said it the best. ” World class musicians deserve a world class studio”. Please now imagine for those of us that have been fighting what sometimes felt like the entire world how that might have felt? But here is my major point…it hasn’t been a “fight”, it has been a “mission”.
For the last couple of weeks, I have gotten myself sucked into a verbal jousting match on Facebook about the Black Lives Matter movement. I have in my mind disagreed with the tactics and the anger and have even used what appears to be the derogatory term, “All Lives Matter”. I say “appears” derogatory because that was never my intention. Anyone who knows me knows that one of my heroes was Dr. Martin Luther King. I remember my Dad quoting him when I was a kid and the one that stuck with me and I am still inspired by, and I’m paraphrasing was…”Dreaming of the day when we are judged not by the color of our skin, but the content of our character”. Those are powerful words and an even more powerful sentiment.
What bothers me about all this tension regarding white cops shooting black people and a black man killing white cops in Dallas is the sheer anger shared by people who think if we get mad enough, scream and shout, and “fight” for equality, we will win! How long ago did Dr. King say those words? August 28, 1963! Over fifty years ago and some would say nothing has changed. Well, I’m sorry but I categorically disagree! I am almost 56 years old and the changes I have seen I have also played a role in and I am very proud of that. But here’s the deal.
When I went through my angry phase, my “Life’s Not Fair and I Am Pissed Right Off”, phase, my “Why Me” phase…nothing got better in my life. Every day was the same and I hated how I felt. When I made a concious choice to see the good in my life, the good in my world, everything shifted. It’s the exact reason I became a motivational speaker. Not to whine and complain and go to war with the entire planet, but to utilize the amazing transformational force behind positivity. I’m pretty sure some of you just rolled your eyes but I am also pretty sure most of you just nodded your heads or even got a tear in your eye! This is an emotional subject and for some, their only way of addressing it is through lashing out with violent language and violent acts. You do have that right. But it also have a right to state what I believe and although we may not all agree, we must absolutely respect people for what they do believe and the journey that has taken them to that belief. What I strongly believe is war begets more war, violence begets more violence, anger begets more anger but love…and John Lennon said this, “Love Is The Answer”!
We are all on this planet together so can we please start embracing our humanity, instead of fighting for who is right? I have indeed been very frustrated in my life, we all have. But seeing this video and being included in the label, “The Real Superhumans” is a compliment but more importantly a validation that I am not “A Freak, A Cripple, Disabled, Handicapped, or Physically Challenged”! I am not working for Barnum & Bailey, I own my own company. I am not sitting on a curb waiting for someone to take care of me (that is not judgmental by the way), I am completely self sufficient and independent. I am not blaming the world for my woes, I have taken them and turned them around and know those obstacles made me the incredibly strong and resilient person that I am to this day. I have not done it alone either. I have challenged my ego, seen my flaws, worked at improving them and never, ever been afraid to ask for help and guidance. I have also surrounded myself with people who build me up, not tear me down but they are not just “yes” people. They have pushed me to raise my own personal bar and as another great black man and inspiration to me, Nelson Mandela, said, “I am the captain of my soul”! Instead of mourning what I don’t have, I am grateful every day for what I do have and as another inspiration of mine, the great Zig Ziglar said, “I live with an attitude of gratitude!” I am far from perfect but considering where I started, I have proven that you can transform yourself and become the person only dreams can evoke and “Positive Attitude” is not just a cliche. One of my all time favourite quotes is from Mahatma Ghandi. ” Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviour. Keep your behaviour positive because your behaviour becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny!
I Am Alvin Law and I’ve never been more proud of that than I am today!