I have heard a story, likely apocryphal, that the great guitar heroes of the time once attended a Hendrix concert, moved up tight against the stage and when Jimmy walked off to the cheers of adoring fans, there were puddles of water on the floor where his peers had stood.
Word has it that they were all crying, smacked with the hard to swallow realization that they could never be in the same class as the master.
No doubt, Hendrix was a genius, a prodigy, a tour de force, a magic act of epic shooting star dimensions. But was he really a league apart from the other legends who allegedly broke down in the face of his superiority?
Can anything really be better than Clapton’s vurtuoso, Layla? Don’t you want to cry or wax poetic when you are succumbed by Harrison’s “Gently Weeps?”
All of the true greatness in the world fits into a relatively small space, a Pantheon, where there is no need and no valid reason to rank them against each other. They were giants, that’s all that has to be said because it says it all.
Sometimes, we are too fast to admit a contender into this rarified place. This is where the baseball Hall Of Fame’s rule, that a player’s name cannot be submitted for consideration until five years after his retirement, comes into play. In his rookie year, Dwight Godden appeared to be a sure thing for Cooperstown–I recall a NY Times Sunday magazine cover asking, after only months in the majors, if he was the greatest player who has ever lived. Today, Gooden is a messy footnote absolutely undeserving of a place near Koufax, Ford, Feller. Sometimes, what appears to be greatness is but a mid-summer’s mirage.
A similar hype (although we’re yet to see the end game) is the one that holds Mark Zuckerberg as boy genius CEO and one of the greatest to ever hold that title. Five years from now, much less on the fifth anniversary of his retirement, will he still rank high? In the Pantheon? With Jobs, Grove, Gates, Watson? And if he does, if he manages to embue Facebook with an Act II and III and beyond, will we need to compare him to the Hendrix, Claptons and Harrisons of his world?
Absolutely not. One of the rich rewards of true greatness is that those who achieve it never have to or should be ranked again. They all have a place in The Hall Of Fame.Email This Post