Lonnie Gibbs knows what strangers say about him. He knows that they laugh at him behind his back, that they take college courses on how not to be him, and that they think he’s nothing more than a one hit wonder. Lonnie sees things differently, though. He views himself as the most successful person on the planet.
Back in 1989, when Lonnie Gibbs was only twenty-three years old, he released the album, Liars, Everyone of Us; a record that to this day is lauded by critics, music lovers and musicians as the all time greatest collection of songs. Its twelve songs spoke to everyone – blacks, whites, Christians, atheists, the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, and fans from all genres of music. Each track told a different tale about the lies we tell each other, and ourselves, to get through life. Other singers may have been able to technically sing the songs on the album better, but none sounded as honest as Lonnie did over the course of those fifty-eight minutes.
Liars, Everyone of Us led insecure songwriters to give up their craft out of fear they would never be able to write anything that came close to its brilliance. It drove those with ambition and huge egos to try to beat it, but no one has ever come close. The album remained on the Billboard Top 100 for fifteen years, earned Lonnie eight Grammy Awards, and spawned the highest grossing tour of its era.
People couldn’t wait for his second album. Would it be as dark, they all wondered. What will it say about society? Will it give us hope for the future, or make us afraid?
Lonnie never answered those questions because Lonnie never recorded another song. Without any further releases, he was relegated to the ‘One Hit Wonder’ category. “He used up his talent all at once,” people said. “He couldn’t handle the pressure of trying to top his masterpiece,” they said. “I guess he wasn’t that good after all,” others said.
Lonnie didn’t care then and he doesn’t care now what people say because he never had any desire to make a career out of music. In fact, he didn’t want to make a career out of anything. Growing up, Lonnie watched his parents go off each day to jobs they hated and then listened to them complain when they got home about how they barely made enough money to cover the bills. He watched his uncle drop dead from a heart attack that was brought on by the stress of trying to keep up with the Joneses. He heard ‘One Day’ stories time after time from friends. “One day I’m going to do this,” and “One day I’m going to do that.”
Lonnie, though; he did go out and do it. He went out and did something that made him rich enough to retire at twenty-three years of age. No, he doesn’t live in a mansion by the lake and he doesn’t drive a fancy vehicle, but he’s known right from the start that those things aren’t important. Being free to do what you want when you want, and with those you love – that’s what matters. Right now, all Lonnie wants to do is make his kids pancakes before they leave for school.
So as you head out the door to do that thing that is killing you inside, think about the One Hit Wonder, standing in his kitchen flipping pancakes, and having the last laugh.