Steven Tyler went to high school with my mother. (Literally – they went to the the same high school, at the same time.) And yet here he still is, a relevant, contemporary rock icon.
Is it the lips?
Well, partly. But there has to be a bigger explanation for why Steven Tyler, or any other enduring celebrity, has been so successful for so long.
Much it has to do with charisma. More than talent or beauty even, it’s the je-ne-sais-quoi, as they say, the I-don’t-know-what, that separates the flash-in-the-pan from the legend. You can’t put your finger on it, can’t quite define it, but when you’ve got it, you’ve got it. And it makes fame endure, keeps fans loyal, draws them in over and over. It’s also why some people are popular throughout their lives without really trying. You just want to be around them.
Charisma is a little like pornography. It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.
The pure passion for doing what you do is certainly part of it. Charismatic people tend to be high-energy in general and full of enthusiasm for their chosen path in particular. People Magazine recently released a flashback clip of a 1991 interview with Steven Tyler, which concludes with Tyler pronouncing definitively, “I’m gonna rock until I drop.” And here he is 20 years later, still rocking. (Again, see: Commitment. It’s all related.)
In a beautiful musing on the subject, music critic Zachary Woolfe wrote recently:
Charismatic performers are those whom you simply can’t look away from. Their charisma is an almost physical presence, a spark that powers even the most unassuming musical passage… To experience a charismatic performance is to feel elevated, simultaneously dazed and focused, galvanized and enlarged. It is to surrender to something raw and elemental, to feel happy but also unsatisfied. Charisma calls forth a melancholy, a vaguely unrequited feeling.
Happy but unsatisfied. Sounds a bit like love.
Charisma is, in fact, love’s cousin. The word charisma has greek roots: Charis, whose name meant beauty and kindness, was an attendant to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The word also appears throughout the New Testament, most often translated as “grace.”
Like grace, and love, charisma keeps us coming back for more.