You might say my idea of a hero has been on a downwardly mobile spiral over the course of my life. My first heroes were famous baseball players, and when I was nine years old I could tell you why—like Mickey Mantle, because he could bat both righty and lefty, hit for both power and average, and run and field, too. Most guys could only do one or two of those things at the highest level, but he could do them all. That was enough to make him a hero for me.
In college, my heroes were famous jazz musicians, and I could tell you why—like John Coltrane for creating “sheets of sound” that aimed for spiritual transcendence. I wished he was still alive so I could see him perform. And Miles Davis for fusing jazz and rock—with virtuoso instrument playing by people like Chick Corea and John McLaughlin, who married the older genre of jazz improv to the electric sounds that expressed more of what I felt. And Joni Mitchell, for fusing that electric jazz with folk music and poetry. They weren’t as famous in America as Mickey Mantle, but they were, of course, giants, and deeper inspirations to the people who knew their work.