I love the way the digital age allows you to find marvelous things. I was half-listening to NPR yesterday evening, struggling with a blog post I have since discarded and thinking about feeding the dogs. A song came on that instantly caught my attention. I walked to the radio in hopes of hearing the singer’s name, but when the announcer said it, I couldn’t quite make it out. He was interviewing a youngish woman with a hint of an accent about her recently published book. I caught the title, and quick trips to Amazon and youTube turned up an Indie rock singer with a haunting sound and a collection of vibrant essays that had me up reading way too late last night.
Born in the Ukraine in 1974, Alina Simone came to the US as an infant when her father, a scientist, refused to join the KGB. She grew up in Boston and Sinead O’Connor’s music changed her life. You Must Go and Win recounts some of her misadventures on the trail of success, which her father had said was “only a matter of statistics…failure only means you haven’t thrown yourself, face-first, against the brick wall of probability enough times.”
But as she approached her 30th birthday, working a day job that had “something to do with Powerpoint,” and a career that seemed to be dying along with her cat, Simone considered letting it go. As she wrote in the title essay, “You Must Go and Win,”
The problem was how to quit. After all, America does not like a quitter. In a broader sense, I knew that my exit from the music scene would cause not a ripple. At worst, my core fan base of depressed Jews might find themselves a little more depressed. But in this, I felt like I was practically doing them a favor. No, for my own sake I needed a way to explain the sudden change of heart, a beautiful, glass-half-full way to spin this, like, “Don’t think of me as a failed musician when really I’m a successful cat nurse!” After all, Etsa had turned a corner, hadn’t he? The closets were once again redolent of cat pee, and lately he’d begun standing outside our bedroom door in the mornings again, serenading us with his bloodless screams.
Lucky for us, Alina Simone did not quit. Instead, she still lives in Brookln with her husband, a Yale professor. 2011 has brought Simone a new daughter, Zoe, and has brought us a new album, “Make Your Own Danger,” in addition to her book.
Take a listen to her music on youTube and sample You Must Go and Win on Amazon. It will not be for every taste, but I am personally looking forward to listening to and reading from an exciting artist I found just “by accident.”