Almost since time began, there have been arguments about what makes "greatness". Is it inborn? Is it a lifelong pursuit? Is it just luck? Or, is it a combination of all of those?
As I listen to my rather ecclectic collection of music, I have come to the conclusion that it is all four of those, plus, a healthy dose of "flash in the pan". I'm not trying to be vague, or, even wishy-washy. I'm just telling y'all what I have noticed about "greatness".
F'rinstance, Gordon Lightfoot's song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is an absolutely great song. Argue with me on that. I dare you. Please. Pretty please? No? Fine. We're in agreement. It's a great song. Now, what is amazing about it is that it isn't even his best song. BUT, it is his greatest. It was written and produced at the right time, in the right way, by the right person. A person whose body of work increased the likelihood that he would create a song of the caliber of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. So, Gordon wrote and sang a great song with a combination of lifelong pursuit, luck, and a bit of timing.
Another example is American Pie, by Don McLean. Quick, name me two other songs he's written or performed. Go ahead. I'll give you some time to even Google it. But, when you come back with three or four other song titles that he's written or performed, you and I will both know that you had to hunt them down, which is kind of my point. American Pie is a great song. It's one of the greatest "rock" songs ever written (I disagree with just about every modern music writer about whether Thunder Road, by Bruce Springsteen, really is the greatest rock song ever done). Now, Don wrote and performed a great song. BUT, he's done nothing before or since. Not one thing that would have ever led one to believe he could even produce a song at half the quality of American Pie. So, Don became great by "right place, right time", and a bit of luck, and not much more.
Jim Croce, on the other hand, wrote many great songs, in only a few years. If he hadn't died, tragically, too early, he would probably written at least five more songs that would still be ear-worms for people who currently don't even know who he is. So, Jim became great through a total body of work, without much luck.
What's the point of this rambling? I'm not really sure. But, I think it has something to do with one common feature of all three writers. They were all willing to take the chance to fail, in order to be in the position to be great. Their greatness is, frankly, the result of them all willing to fail. Greatness is sometimes acheived, sometimes thrust upon someone, and sometimes, just lands on someone lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. But, what I have noticed is that, overwhelmingly, the great people in history spent unbelievable time and effort getting to where greatness could be thrust upon them.
I'll spare y'all the historical examples of this that I can think of, just off the top of my head. I've rambled enough as it is.