A new year always begins with promise, hope and opportunity. It’s a fresh start, but that optimism is hard to imagine for a lot of people.

Like the homeless guy named Larry who lives a block from my office near the Cherry Creek bike path downtown. He’s a self-sufficient guy who keeps all his belongings in a little cart he hitches up to his bike and covers with plastic bags. I see him there when I walk my dogs by the creek. He was always with his companion, a big furry husky. My dogs like to greet his dog and that gives me a chance to slip Larry a $10.

Just before the holidays, Larry said the police had taken his dog away and euthanized him. It may be a new year but things are not really looking up for Larry. They are also not looking up for the woman who called my office last week looking for the Homeless Prevention Fund, which is part of Checkoff Colorado. She was desperate for rental assistance and you could hear the fear in her voice. Heartbreaking. 

These kinds of stories really get to me. Like Woody Allen said in Annie Hall, " I can't enjoy anything unless everybody is. If one guy is starving someplace, that puts a crimp in my evening."

Which leads me to the point of this article.  For a change, this article is not about public relations. It’s about inspiration. When I need something to believe in, when I hope for a fresh start, I think of the talented, creative, almost famous troubadours who make music because the music is reward enough. They are the lifers.

Toward the end of The Last Waltz, Robbie Robertson explains why The Band is breaking up. He says the road eventually catches up with everyone and he does not want to keep testing the odds. He says the road caught up with Hendrix, Joplin, Hank Williams, Elvis, and so many others, and he does not want to join that list. At some point in my life I completely understood what Robbie meant. I lost my endurance and got off the road too. Every musician I know understands this, but the special ones have the passion to be undaunted and unafraid.  

That’s why the lifers are my heroes. Ramblin’ Jack. Tim O’Brien. Mark Diamond. Mary Flower, Pete Wernick, Barry Mitterhof, Harry Tuft, and so many others I’m lucky to call friends. They inspire me to believe that anything is possible.

So to all the cats who ever played bad gigs in crummy bars for loud drunks who never listen, here’s lookin’ at you, kids. Best wishes for a happy, healthy, safe and prosperous 2012.