Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Success as a Happy Guy

Happy and success are two words that go together, but often aren’t realized together. Pharrell Williams is the exception to the rule.

rs_560x415-140128111552-1024.pharrell-beatles-grammy-tribute-hat-012814The song “Happy” has made the man in the hat famous on YouTube, iTunes, Ellen and street corners. And unlike vain celebrities with hit movies and records who believe in their own super-stardom, Williams gives all the credit for his success to his high school band teachers.

“Well, what am I without them?” Williams said in a CBS Sunday Morning interview. “Just try that for a second. Take all of my band teachers out of this. Where am I? I’m back in Virginia, doing something completely different.”

Are you listening, Justin Bieber?

Williams isn’t an overweening teenager. At 41, he has been around, including around a lot of success. He is a successful singer-songwriter, record producer, musician, business owner and fashion designer. He has a Grammy and two apparel lines to his name. He has produced major hits by Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke, Jay-Z and Draft Punk.  Esquire called him the best dressed man in the world.

Somehow, he has remained humble. Williams attributes much of his success to the alignment of stars. Lots of people are talented, he says, but not everyone with talent is lucky, like him.

“When you start trying to figure out, like, what you’re the best at, that’s when you become delusional, ’cause you start to believe that. I’d rather just continue to ride that mule than to bet on a cocky horse.” Williams said.

“Are you afraid if you give yourself too much credit, it would all go away?” asked Anthony Mason of CBS.

“For sure,” said Williams. “You see people spin out of control like that all the time. I mean, those are the most tragic stories, the most gifted people who start to believe it’s really all them. It’s not all you. It can’t be all you. Just like you need air to fly a kite, it’s not the kite. It’s the air.”

“Happy” didn’t enjoy immediate success. It debuted in the movie Despicable Me 2, where it earned relatively little attention. Its radio debut didn’t fare much better. “Happy” went viral last November when it was released as a video. After millions of views on YouTube, it became the top hit in 24 countries. People had trouble getting the song out of their mind. They still do.

The song made Pharrell an instant sensation, but hardly any more of a success than he already was. He oozes talent and success follows him like a puppy trailing a bacon treat.

Williams admits to the failure of a 2006 solo album. Instead of blaming someone else, he blamed himself. He said his songs lacked purpose. Now, Williams says, he writes songs to lift people up.

“Are you okay with being the ‘Happy’ man?” Mason asked.

“I’m grateful,” said Williams.

So are we.



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