Fan - what is in a word?

What is a ‘fan’? 

I have spent a fair bit of time debating the word “fan” and trying to understand my relationship with this word.  I think the first time I considered myself a ‘fan’ was with the musician Ozzy Osbourne.  I was in grade 7 and myself Rick Rouah and Steve Hussey were all incredibly into Ozzy.  Other friends in our school social circle were into AC/DC and RUSH but the three of us were All Ozzy All The Time.  Over the next few years I discovered other music that I liked but did not again become a fan until I discovered punk rock music.  Bands like Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys, Husker Du and Motorhead became the bands whose shirts I would wear, whose stickers I would buy to put on everything I owned, whose music I listened to and played with my bands.  These were bands that I was a fan of.  I loved the music, I loved the attitude, I loved the designs and the culture that surrounded their music.  Eventually I moved into other styles of music including Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, The Smiths, Ron Hynes.  Once again these artists had something to say which inspired me or helped me through tough times. Again I was a fan. 

In the early years of the Watchmen I discovered what it was like to have ‘fans’.  I would always shy away from the term when addressing these folks.  I would always remind people (and myself) that I was no different that any other worker in the world.  I was just doing a job.  I was simply doing what I do.  And it was that simple.  We were all equal.  People going through this world doing what they do. 

These days I am not sure of the use of the word ‘fan’ and as well am not sure how to address folks who have liked, been inspired by, or helped by any of the music I have been a part of creating.  I understand what it is to be a fan.  I also understand that I have been extremely lucky to have created art that has been exposed to enough of the masses to have build a career upon.  But still I am coming to terms with the word fan. 

A few years back I was at a show with a very good old friend.  There was another person at the show who I had known from years of coming to gigs.  I introduced him and my friend later said to me “so whats up with super fan?”  I replied that we were friends from years of meets.  She asked what I knew about his life and I admitted nothing really.  She then pointed out that this person had, in the short time she was in his proximity, mentioned many events and personal details from my life and family.  She corrected me and told me that this person was indeed a ‘fan’ and not a “friend.” 

I have wanted to be a musician since as long as I can remember.  I have left a restless trail of sacrifices to achieve every single element of what is considered a success.  I have fought and loved every phase of my musical existence.  No matter if it was The Watchmen, Ron Hynes, WAFUT, Thornley, Audio Playground or my solo tunes - none of it exists outside of my vacuum without “fans.”  Without folks who enjoy the music, support the tours and purchase memorabilia - who knows what I would be doing? 

We are all damaged in some way.  Perhaps deep down it is some sort of twisted self-image that I don’t feel I am worthy of having “fans.”  Perhaps it is a negative association with terms like “fan-girl/boy” which demeans the fan to it’s more base version of “fanatic.”  I guess for now I will stick with “folks.”  I like the sound of the word, the softness and comfort that it evokes when you speak the word. 

To all my ‘folks’ 

Thanks 

The dictionary terms it this way… 

Fan: 

1: an enthusiastic devotee (as of a sport or a performing art) usually as a spectator 

2: an ardent admirer or enthusiast (as of a celebrity or a pursuit) 

- shortened form of the word fanatic, meaning “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.” 

- “fan” is a shortened version of the word fanatic. Fanatic itself, introduced into English around 1550, means "marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion". 

pic by Erin O’Mara

1 comment

  • Sandra
    Sandra Ottawa
    Intersting piece. I only learned now that fan comes from the word, "fanatic." I always wondered what it is like to be someone with fans. As an introvert, I think I would find it weird and overwhelming. I always feel a bit creeped out at people who seem a little obsessive about a person, because they are a fan of them. I also roll my eyes (hopefully just inside my thoughts!) when I hear people refer to a performer as their "good friend" - when in fact they may have only met once or twice or follow them on social media. It takes months or years of intimate mutual sharing, I feel, to refer to someone as a good friend. That said - I do consider you as someone who is a friend. (I can understand if it's not reciprocated as you don't know as much about me as I do, you.) I had the good fortune to meet you before it became apparent how famous you were through The Watchman. I just know I met someone in a tiny little music cafe who was very friendly and opened up with stories and songs that were relatable. The second time I met you, you demonstrated further kindness and generosity - traits I connect to in a friend. I guess the fact that I have a collection of CDs and almost never miss an online Whiskey Wednesday makes me a fan. However, your character, your kindness and sensitivity are traits you possess that people in your personal life are lucky to enjoy in you as a friend.

    Intersting piece. I only learned now that fan comes from the word, "fanatic."
    I always wondered what it is like to be someone with fans. As an introvert, I think I would find it weird and overwhelming. I always feel a bit creeped out at people who seem a little obsessive about a person, because they are a fan of them. I also roll my eyes (hopefully just inside my thoughts!) when I hear people refer to a performer as their "good friend" - when in fact they may have only met once or twice or follow them on social media. It takes months or years of intimate mutual sharing, I feel, to refer to someone as a good friend.
    That said - I do consider you as someone who is a friend. (I can understand if it's not reciprocated as you don't know as much about me as I do, you.) I had the good fortune to meet you before it became apparent how famous you were through The Watchman. I just know I met someone in a tiny little music cafe who was very friendly and opened up with stories and songs that were relatable. The second time I met you, you demonstrated further kindness and generosity - traits I connect to in a friend.
    I guess the fact that I have a collection of CDs and almost never miss an online Whiskey Wednesday makes me a fan.
    However, your character, your kindness and sensitivity are traits you possess that people in your personal life are lucky to enjoy in you as a friend.

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