Here’s what famed New York newspaperman Jimmy Breslin once said…
“Pick up any newspaper in the morning. Count the words in the lead sentence. There will be at least twenty-five in all of them: Guaranteed. The writers just want to tell you how many degrees they have from this college or that university.”
He was the king of simplicity. Beautiful, succinct, telling words that could cut through you and cut through to the heart of the story. Try this on for size, a column he wrote about the gravedigger for a fallen leader…
“…he hung up the phone, finished breakfast, and left his apartment o he could spend Sunday digging a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.”
While every other reporter covered the main story of the funeral for JFK, Breslin stepped away from the pack and wrote the best, truest story of them all. Simple and unforgettable.
Breslin died at the age of 88. A long life of telling great…simple…stories.
And on the day before his death, another great left us. Chuck Berry. He was 90.
Here’s what John Lennon said about Berry…
“One of the all-time great poets, a rock poet.”
And what was Berry’s approach? Simplicity.
Yes, he taught every guitarist how to plant their feet in the middle of rock-n-roll, but his lyrics were groundbreaking. Not in the Dylanesque way, but think about it…before Berry who ever wrote a song about the agony of paying bills? Simple; to the point.
Runnin’ to-and-fro, hard workin’ at the mill
Never fail, in the mail, comes a rotten bill
Too much monkey business
Too much much business for me to be involved in.
Hemingway is always touted as the one to emulate when it comes to simple prose. But truth is, Breslin and Berry may have collectively touched more people with their clean style and observant eyes. Breslin was likely the greatest newspaperman of all time. Berry was likely the greatest rock-n-roller of all time. Both laid foundations. Both told it like it is. Both knew how to touch the Everyman. Both were heart, guts, and soul.
And they did it with simplicity.