richard sales history of music
in his own words
Old men are inclined to fairy tales – to embellish the past, to polish it with the fog of memory – like hot breath breathed on grimy eyeglasses. But my past never died. Like all of us, I experienced multiple crucifixions and resurrections in my life, but the goals, beliefs and dreams of my youth never died. People say it’s weird, but I had no choice. I was driven here – like tissue paper in a windstorm. The fairy tale began in high school, 1964. Up to that point, I was a regular wild one – more familiar with the back door than the front door of school. I cared passionately about hot rods, music, winning fistfights and, in hindsight, freedom. I can’t remember who asked me if I’d like to play at the Sophomore Showoff – where we could spread our peacock feathers in front of a thousand of our fellow tenth graders. I played my Wurlitzer electric piano and sang Barrett Strong’s “Money” the way only a fifteen year old could – with no concept of money – but the “I want” part of the lyric rang a deep bell in me. It was a hit. When it was over, I walked to the lobby and there was the – and I’m not exaggerating – most beautiful girl in the world looking at me in a wonderful way. Later that day we announced to our astonished classmates that we were going to get married. All were blown away because she was in the top ten of the class, I was at or near the bottom. She was a gorgeous honor student. I was Huck Finn.
It was that same year that I found a copy of Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning” on the school hall floor while skipping class. It transformed me. The combination of the mission-critical importance of meaning, the brilliance of my wife to be, my very bright, avant garde friends (The Blue Mob) and the beatniks on the cover of Life Magazine created the path that I’m still walking down. Regardless of the demands of ‘reality’ and the Judas Iscariot demands/betrayals of growing up, I never once surrendered the bohemian ideals of my youth.
Beatniks? Going back farther in the fairy tale, in 1956 (3rd grade) I met my first beatnik. It was Halloween and we were supposed to come to school in our costume. I decided to go dressed as a beatnik – pencilled in goatee and boat necked shirt. I was on the playground singing the song “Hey Bo Diddley” and a crowd of kids were singing along. Something drew my attention outside the crowd singing and I saw another beatnik! Same fake goatee, tennis shoes and shirt. That was Jay Yarnall – who I soon learned was a brilliant prophet. The story of Jay and me is a whole ‘nuther story, but Jay, the most beautiful woman in the world and I created this fairy tale I live in. Jay slipped though the veil in 2015.
I’m still married to the most beautiful woman in the world. She’s more beautiful now than she was at fifteen. We, our kids, their kids live on our fairy tale farm here on the outskirts of heaven. We graduated in ’66, on the verge of the Summer of Love, and got hitched in 69. We raise organic blueberries on our island farm.
I always lived for music, but fame never registered for me. Or maybe it felt sacrilegious – like it tarnished the holy beauty of music and meaning – the same way money does. I think caring passionately about my wife and family – and the quest for finding (and hopefully giving) meaning might have been my fountain of youth. Since 1968, music has been nothing but a labor of love for me. When we had kids, I opened a studio on the outskirts of Washington DC to support us and continue the habit. We moved to Portland Oregon in 1990. I wrote music for film/video and video games there – and did well with it. We emigrated to Canada / Vancouver Island in 2003 (during the reign of King Dubya) to become organic blueberry farmers.
Looking back, it seems my life has been all about spirit – and stepping around other people’s definitions of ‘success’. I always measured my achievements in music by how it felt to me, how it felt to the most beautiful woman in the world and what Jay thought. And of course what the incredible musicians I worked with – and learned from – thought.
I don’t now and have never really been in business. Everything I’ve done was because I loved it. At 73, I guess my non-business is finishing the fairy tale and preparing for heaven – where I will become another form of a tissue in a whole new windstorm.