a person serving a life sentence in prison.
2. NORTH AMERICAN
a person who spends their life in a particular career, especially in one of the armed forces.
Lifer – what a word. I don’t remember where I first heard (possibly this?), but up until recently I thought of it as an entirely negative one. Perhaps something off-putting about the echo of “25 to life” or the idea of spending one’s life in prison. But that’s only one definition of it, as per Google. Definition #2 is far more interesting.
Notice how the definition #2 doesn’t say anything about money. Someone deliberately looking for a career in his/her field of choice is called a careerist – that could be used as a derisive term on occasion, but more often than not it isn’t. Thus even the second definition, on the surface, sounds like something overly negative, maybe a bit sinister, maybe a bit sad too. Why would someone put themselves in prison and shackle themselves, after all?
For the sake of brevity I want to limit this answer to artists/musicians only. At the end of the day there’s hardly any other field I can think of that brings out that many people willing to work for nothing but personal satisfaction, rather than fame or riches or anything materialistic and flashy. Upcoming changes to Spotify’s royalty system are likely to produce even more lifers. Bad news, right?
Well, yes and no. Spotify sucks as much as it ever did and it will remain that way, I’m convinced. My real hope, though, is that this development will produce a better appreciation for lifers creating music (and general art, for that matter). Even if it won’t work out that way culturally, the recent show I went to made me appreciate artistic lifers more than ever.
Talking about celebration of all things Kris Thompson, a tradition by now. While his name may not tell you anything, he’s been in a number of bands (most notably The Prefab Messiahs), some going back as far as the 80s. Somewhere during that show I found myself standing next to Damon Krukowski (Galaxie 500 / Damon and Naomi + excellent Dada Drummer Almanac) who, rather politely, refused my offer of a nice chair. I don’t want people to feel old, so understood! Anyhoo…
This was easily the most packed Lilypad show I’ve seen in years. Equally rare, in my view, it is to see a huge crowd coming out to support hometown/New England bands, unless we’re talking someone really hyped. While I couldn’t possibly ask people in the crowd if they were there for Daughter of the Vine, MM or Wet Tuna, the fact that the show was packed to the gills almost up until the very end is telling. I think it was as much about the acts as it was about supporting a good cause and hearing new music – and my pre-pandemic view was that both went the way of Dodo bird as far as Boston’s rock concerts go.
In a sense euphoria I experienced at that show reminded me of something else – Turkish Delight reunion at the Middle East. Way back when me and my associate Thor (aka Petridisch) took on a gargantuan and unpredictable task of reissuing both TD albums.
Little did either of us knew that it will result in both tapes/reissues sold out, numerous write-ups (including one by Mark Masters in Bandcamp Daily) and, most of all, almost at capacity final gig at ME. Post-reunion gig, I’m immensely proud that every member of TD is still involved in music in some capacity or another – there’s Darryl Blood’s and Leah Callahan’s solo work, Carl Thien’s band Gull Boy / Gulls Window Circus radio show he’s doing on WZBC etc etc etc
I could go on and on with names of lifers whose work I respect regardless of the number of copies their album sold or the amount of digital streams (even more useless metric) – Eric Boomhower (Dyr Faser), Thalia Zedek (Come), Dez DeCarlo (Violet Nox) and Rick “Skyjelly” Lescault (Skyjelly, Emetrex), to name a few. Moving forward, I’d love for culture at large to reconsider the notion that art is only as good as the financial value attached to it and if we’ll do that the music and the arts just might survive any attempt to commodify it – be it AI or digital streaming or anything else that techbros and techno-optimists will throw our way.