vrijdag 1 juni 2012

Teacher Deely. An interview with Chuck Deely

An interview for WoNo Magazine and WoNoBloG by Wino Penris
Copyright WoNoMagazine 2012

Listen to Chuck Deely here.

On my way from the train to the WoNo Headquarters, every morning I meet Chuck. The most famous street musician of The Hague
In the beginning his being there every day, troubled me a little bit. I instantly realized he wasn’t there just for fun and that he really needed the money. I did not know how to deal with this. I had always thought the Netherlands was a country that took care of people and there he was, proving me wrong. Day in and day out. But that was not the only thing troubling me. I couldn’t say what it was. Yet. Although Chuck is a really good musician and his music is worth every penny, I did not manage to give him anything. It just didn’t happen. In my head I was thinking and thinking to find the right excuses, but I couldn’t find any convincing ones. This troubled me even more.
One day I shared my feelings with a very wise colleague at the office. She was silent for a while and then she said: “maybe he is there to teach you something. Maybe you should try and find out what it is?” That was it. No more and no less.
From that moment on, without knowing it, Chuck became my teacher. What would happen if I gave him some money? I tried it one day and what do you think? He didn’t react at all! He showed no gratitude, whatsoever! I had not expected this. I got irritated! Now I finally found the guts to give the guy some money and now he’s not even grateful for it! Where is the world coming to? But then I realized that getting his gratitude was probably not the right intention for giving. I started investigating this and gradually I found out that what worked for me was to give the money unconditionally. Then I found out that, every time I gave him some money, the aspects of myself I had kept in the dark all these years, came into the light. The hidden sides of myself Chuck had triggered from the beginning. And now, the more money I gave to Chuck, he cheerier I became.
Then came the day I dared to ask him how he was doing. Well, he wasn’t doing fine at all at that time, to say the least. And he was prepared to share this with me. All of it!
So! There I had it! And now what? I could not solve all his problems! I could not change his situation! I could not change Holland or the world! I could not give him enough money to live from! And now he wanted me to help him! My God, what had I started? But then I saw that Chuck was very relieved after this conversation. So this was all it took!
Since that time we meet every day. Sometimes I walk past him without a word. Often I give him some money and sometimes we talk. He shares some of his ups and downs or we discuss the weather or politics. For no more than a few minutes, because the money has to keep coming in.
And then came the day I dared to ask him for an interview. A short one, just to be safe…


Short interview with Chuck Deely

May 29, 2012

Hi Chuck, where are we now?
We’re just in front of Central Station in The Hague.

What do you do here?
Yeah, well I play here every morning since twelve years now, maybe fifteen years. This is how I pay my rent, eat and support myself. This is my job. Playing the guitar and singing on the streets.

Could you tell me a little bit about your life and how you got to be here every day?
Well, I’m from Detroit, Michigan. When I was seventeen or eighteen, I went travelling. I went across America a few times. In 1973 I got drafted into the army and instead of going to Vietnam, I got to go to Germany by good luck. I got married and I stayed there when I got out of the army. And then, I just stayed in Europe. I was in Germany for ten years, in Spain for ten years and now I’m here for, come to think of it,  close to 20 years. And yeah, I’ve always played music for my living. That’s what I do. I’ve played in bands for a long time and now since the last years I play alone on the streets because that way I can make the income that I need to make. And, yeah. That’s how I came to be here.

You’re very famous in The Hague. Aren’t you the most famous street musician of Holland?
Possibly, I don’t know. But no, there is somebody that’s much more famous. That’s Sea Sick Steve, right? But yeah, I was on radio and television many times, I played with the Residential Orchestra a couple of times, I make cds: I’ve made almost 20 cds now.

About the cds, do you write your own songs?
Yes I do! I write songs every day. I’m a songwriter more than anything. By the way, apart from the guitar, I play other instruments as well: I play piano, I play drums, I play the bass. At home I have a small studio, where I record all my own stuff now. I’ve been working on that for the last three, four years. I’ve been learning how to use a computer and to record music. Now It’s finally got to the stage where it’s starting to bear some fruit.

And how do you write your songs? Do you write them improvising while you’re here or…
... sometimes, yeah. I write them everywhere I can. Sometimes I have an idea and then I run home and judd it down, sometimes I have a pen and paper with me and I stop and do it there and sometimes when I’m here I can post things on the spot, using improvisation. It depends, you know.

Who are your musical idols?
Foto W. Penris
Ehm, that’s kind of difficult. I always liked Neil Young a lot, Frank Zappa…. Most of them are dead, it seems, ha-ha... Van Halen…Jimi Hendrix…God, I could name a hundred of them, so it’s kind of difficult. I don’t have any particular style or gender that I really like. I like Rock better than anything, but beyond that I like classical, I like jazz, I like everything, you know. Especially when it’s live. I like live music. It doesn’t matter what it is. They don’t have to be famous either, they can still be great! So…Yeah…I really don’t know!

What is your message to the world?
My message to the world? Well. Chill out and slow down a little bit! Take it easy! Don’t push ourselves into more crises, wars and all that stuff! Things will take care of themselves! More or less… I think.

And what would you like to say to the people walking up and down here every day, walking past you?
I would like to say: “Please help me out every morning, because I really need it, it’s my only income. Apart from that, enjoy the music! And thank you very much for the great bonus I got the week before last week, with the Residential Orchestra. It was really fantastic, what everybody did. It took care of a whole month of problems for me. Great!

Thank you very much.
Thank you! Bye.


You can buy Chuck Deely's music on weekday mornings opposite The Hague Central Station, in the afternoon in The Hague's Grote Marktstraat, weekend evenings, same address from him personally,

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