Long time readers from this site’s previous incarnation might remember us asking questions about whether Derrick May can play the piano. It seemed an interesting and important question, especially given May has portrayed himself as some kind of musical maestro for decades in various interviews.
So how would Derrick May respond to the question of how he’d created “Strings Of Life”, one of his more well-known records? How much of it did he create? Where did he get the idea from? Well, Ears To The House couldn’t help but notice a recent exchange on his Facebook page which gave us a tiny bit of insight into the answer to these queries.
Sadly, that’s all it was – a tiny bit of insight. Here’s the full exchange, where May’s sole contributions are a YouTube link and an emoji…
The video May links to is a clip where he speaks about how he created “Strings Of Life” – and his story about effectively sampling the chord progression from Michael James is correct, even if the mental image of him walking around his house listening to the song in his birthday suit is one which we’d rather scrub out of our heads.
Now, Ears To The House doesn’t have a problem with sampling when it adds something new to the original song. But the thing that’s off here is Derrick May apparently declining the challenge where he posts a video of himself “playing that iconic melody”. Why is that?
It’s simple. Derrick May cannot play. Those clips of him with Dzijan Emin and the orchestra? It turns out he just plays gibberish. Or that clip of him with a very young Carl Craig filmed in 1989 on a trip to London? Even someone with minimal knowledge of music can work out he isn’t playing any chords from the song.
Is this Facebook exchange an admission from May that he cannot play without admitting he cannot play? It’s as close as we’ll ever get to one…