35 Years and 45 Artists Ago – We Are The World Revisited

january 28, 2985   hollywood, california, united states the king of pop, michael jackson, has died at the age of 50 jackson suffered a cardiac arrest on june 25, 2009 at his los angeles home  and paramedics were unable to revive him jackson had been due to start a series of comeback concerts in london on july 13 running until march 2010 sam emersonpolaris  quincy jones conducts michael jackson front r and ensemble for the recording of "we are the world" at am studios

Written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson 35 years ago, Esquire magazine has published a Ryan D’Agostino article recently: The Inside Story of We Are The World.

This is an interesting look into how the song came together at the close of the American Music Awards earlier that evening. Here’s a snippet with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones discussing the chorus lyrics:

And so with forty-five huge stars due to arrive in an hour to record the song, Jackson was there, laying down the chorus, doing his own backing vocals, and still trying to decide on the words.

“I like ‘you and me,’ ” Jones said.

“’Kay,” Michael said, shifting his weight. “It’s much more soul.”

“Yeah, it’s more soulful. Country.”

Jackson shifted his slight frame from foot to foot.

“Country,” he said in his high voice.

And he sang.

We are the world, we are the children. We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving . . .

harry benson

Sheet music signed by the artists

And on that better/brighter note:

The lyrics, as written, read, “We are the ones that make a better day, so let’s start giving . . .”

But a lot of people seemed to be saying brighter instead of better.

Someone asked, “Is it brighter or better?”

“Whichever one feels good,” Richie said. “Better or brighterBrighter’s the one everybody’s leaning to, right?”

Everyone looked at their sheet music. Paul Simon, wearing a blazer over a checkered shirt buttoned to the neck, conferred with Tina Turner and Billy Joel. “Seems like they’re making a change,” he said.

“I think it should be brighter, all the way,” Joel said.

“Me too. It felt like everyone was singing brighter.”

Springsteen was looking at his music. “This is brighter?”

Huey Lewis leaned over his shoulder. “No—better, yeah, that’s gonna be brighter now.”

Springsteen: “Do I ever sing this?”

“No,” Lewis said. “It’s gonna be brighter. [Singing to Springsteen] ‘It’s true, we make a brighter day.’ ”

Wonder seemed to be the lone holdout. “Better has more bite,” he said.

Ah, even the ‘best and brightest’ struggle with a word here or there :). May the Muse stay with them and with us all…

Tenille Townes – The Lemonade Stand

Tenille Townes

Nashville songwriter, and Canada’s own (Grand Prairie, Alberta), Tenille Townes has debuted her first full length album The Lemonade Stand.

Kudos to this fantastic postive, hopeful, inspiring songwriter – she’s conquered Nashville and our hearts with this fantastic, wonderful album. Jus the tonic we need in these times.

Catch her full Rolling Stone interview here (with some excerpts below):

Recorded with producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Ashley McBryde), The Lemonade Stand takes the keenly observational songwriting Townes displayed on her introductory EP The Living Room Worktapes and makes it into something cinematic and epic. “White Horse,” originally a strummy number with acoustic guitar and tambourine, sounds like shimmering indie rock with Joyce’s layered production and Townes’ distinctive voice.

“Every song was such a different adventure as we disappeared in there,” Townes says of the sessions with notorious experimenter Joyce. “It was like, ‘OK, this one needs a little bit of this and we’re going to bring in a band and jam on this song, catch the live vibe. This one, we’re just gonna sit down at the piano.’”

“My goal with this music is that people feel filled up by it,” she says. “I hope they have a little bit more hope in their tank when they finish listening to it.”

I just finished listening to it – it’s a tour de force and look for Tenille to garner some well-deserved awards for this fantastic debut. May the Muse continue to be with Tenille and us all… especially in these difficult times and keep the faith to get through this all. And The Most Beautiful Things that closes out the album follows (lovely piano ballad closer):

Sheryl Crow – A Karmic Truth

Sheryl Crow recently performed at a fantastic Tiny Desk concert and afterward participated in a wonderful interview by Ann Powers, music critic at NPR.  You can find that audio interview and article here.

Ms. Powers covers a particularly poignant part of the interview, in which Ms. Crow is discussing the craft of songwriting today, as follows:

Mentioning a report she’d heard on NPR about how social media has reduced the average attention span, she said “while the kids are all writing fast food — which is super cool ’cause it tastes great, super filling — we’re sort of still writing salmon. We’re the songwriters that are here to tax your attention span.”

I like that – let’s all tax our attention spans and listen to some substantial songs out there (including Sheryl’s new album Threads).

May the Muse continue to be with Sheryl…

Juno 2012 Songwriter’s Circle

From the Juno Awards site:
JUNO Songwriters’ Circle brings together some of today’s most talented Canadian singer/songwriters, sharing songs and stories on stage. Host Dan Mangan hosted the discussion, perform some of his hit songs and got up-close with audiences in this truly unique setting and not-to-be-missed event.Participating Artists: Host Dan Mangan will be joined on stage by fellow 2012 JUNO Award nominees David Francey, Kiran Ahluwalia, Lindi Ortega, Max Kerman (Arkells) and Terri Clark.CBC has a great podcast of the circle and here’s part 1…

May the Muse be with you as you listen and enjoy great Canadian (unsung) songsters!

What A Tale My Thoughts Could Tell

Press Release:

On Thursday, October 21, 2010, two of Canada’s most celebrated songwriters, Ian Tyson and Jim Cuddy, will be live in performance and in conversation for the second episode of the innovative new master series, “If You Could Read My Mind” created by the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Through conversation and music “If You Could Read My Mind” contemplates the continuation of the Lightfoot lyric, “what a tale my thoughts could tell” and digs deep to unearth why Canada is such a hot bed for songwriting talent. The series got off to a phenomenal start this past February with its inaugural sold-out show, featuring the Canadian legends Gordon Lightfoot and Gord Downie.

Hosted by CBC Radio’s Laurie Brown, the October 21st event will also feature emerging Canadian artist Wayne Petti from Cuff The Duke, who will bring his unique blend of alt-country singing-songwriting to the stage for a special performance.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to see Jim Cuddy and Ian Tyson in an intimate setting at the world class, acoustically spectacular George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. Contact TicketMaster today!

If You Could Read My Mind” featuring Ian Tyson & Jim Cuddy
Thursday, October 21, 2010 – Showtime 8:00 p.m.
The George Weston Recital Hall, Toronto Centre of the Arts, 5040 Yonge Street
Tickets: $30, $40, $50 – On Sale Now
Available on TicketMaster.com or by calling 416-872-1111.
www.cansong.ca

Acoustic Guitar: Jakob Dylan

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I really enjoyed the article in the latest edition of Acoustic Guitar magazine that featured Jakob Dylan.  He discusses his latest, Women and Country, and waxes poetic on songwriting in general.  Here’s a little snippet, but check out the whole article:

When you’re working on a song, do you feel as if you understand what you’re writing about, or do you even want to understand?
DYLAN No. I think the people who are really good can’t explain how they do it or why, and you should be very suspicious of people who can. Truthfully, when I am asked to explain a song, I always find it an awkward question because I think the song is the explanation. But that’s just the kind of songs I write. If you were able to ask Phil Ochs what his songs were about, he could probably tell you because they are very specific.

Some people aim for a kind of writing where words fall out that on some level make no sense.
DYLAN But what’s unique about that is he or she is the only one who had that idea drop out. You know, a lot of times you let that happen, and you look at the page and you wonder, “I don’t know, is that right or not? Does that make perfect sense?” But if you question it too much and try to use too much logic, it’ll slip away.

Do you ever share songs in progress with your father (Bob Dylan)?
DYLAN No, I never have, and really for no other reason than that I was always confident, especially when I came up in groups—we were chasing our own ideas. I don’t know that somebody like him could truthfully give anybody . . . I think if you’re that good, it’s very difficult to put into a dialogue how [someone else] can also do it. It’s very hard to point somebody in that direction.

I don’t mean necessarily that you’d ask him to explain or teach, but just simply to be an audience.
DYLAN No, I honestly don’t do that with anybody. Also, I really like writing a song and keeping it until the very last moment of playing it for who is going to be playing it with you, because there’s a snapshot that happens one time. There’s an exciting moment when you first record a song; that’s probably the most lasting impression anyone will have of a song, but really it’s just the way you wanted to record it one day, one afternoon, and who knows why.

And now for a treat… a Tiny Desk Concert put on by Mr. Dylan and his cohorts in the NPR offices…

Subdivisions – Rush As Songwriters – Jacob Moon Tribute

Well Rush was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on Saturday, March 28, 2010.  From an article in Monday’s Toronto Sun, Neil Peart discusses the song Subdivisions:

“It’s a very unusual song construction lyrically and musically that we managed to make work,” [Peart] said. “It was written at a time when we weren’t working, so to speak. We were mixing a live album and we just started playing around and wrote a song for fun. Although it’s very serious in it’s musical structure, one of the most complicated actually that we’ve had in terms of arrangement drum part alone, it’s a really intricate drum part to play and consequently I still love playing it almost 30 years later and that’s a good testament.”

Peart is also stoked that YouTube sensation Jacob Moon, who plays Subdivisions entirely by himself on a Hamilton building rooftop, is among three artists paying tribute to Rush Sunday night.

“We all shared Jacob Moon’s performance of Subdivisions quite a long time ago and sent it to each other, ‘Hey have you seen this?’ because it’s such a beautiful cover. The imaginative way that he uses the little cassette player to get my voice in there. It’s superb. And it is that kind of song. It’s a singer-songwriter’s song. I loved to see his version of it and I loved the idea that song has endured to his generation.”

And here is the YouTube video… May the Muse be with you Neil, Rush and Jacob:

Jay-Z on Songwriting

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Absolut Vodka’s Facebook Page is promoting the premiere of NY-Z, a concert plus documentary from Madison Square Garden with Jay-Z.  It will premiere online on Monday, March 22.

In September 2009, Absolut and Madison Square Garden announced the Absolut Concert Series, a three year partnership between the two iconic brands, dedicated to giving music fans the ultimate concert experience through a series of high-profile performances.

Here’s a short documentary of Jay-Z from his NY-Z gig that includes a discussion on his songwriting process: