The music industry is a tightly knit community. When you spend a great deal of time working with others on a project- and it’s not just limited to the music industry, it can be any project- you tend to develop unique relationships with those that you are working with. Music, though, tends to be more personal. You’ll have the writers spilling their guts through a pen onto a pad; you’ll have the artists pulling from their souls the emotions they need to express the meaning of those written words whether through voices or instruments; you’ll have the producers and mixers slaving away at the sound boards trying to ensure that the “sound” is just right to convey that message. The people who often go unnoticed though, are the people who work behind the scenes: Managers, attorneys, etc. Often times they work just as hard, if not harder, to make sure whatever project that is being worked on goes off without a hitch.
A few months ago, a dear friend of mine, a phenomenal recording artist and all-around good person, Susie Suh, told me of a benefit concert she was organizing to help out a friend in need. Her friend’s name is Jolie Levine, and she had been a music coordinator for over 30 years before she was diagnosed in 2008 with Lupus.
In case you don’t know what Lupus is, it is an autoimmune disorder that affects 5 million people worldwide. It has no cure, but can be managed with proper medical care. Without proper medical care, its effects can be quite debilitating. She told me about how Jolie’s deteriorating health had prevented her from working, and that she had been battling the disease without health insurance. She was previously under AFTRA’s health plan, until she was cut-off when she could no longer work due to health problems.
Susie told me that Jolie was waiting to see if she would be granted Federal Disability in early 2014, but that funds needed to be raised in the meantime to make sure that she could at least care for herself. Susie told me that she was going to spearhead a benefit concert to raise not only money, but also awareness, of the disease. Susie and Jolie had worked together in the past, and worked with some amazing players in the music industry, so Susie pulled out her rolodex and with the help of friends, family, Lupus LA and the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, put together an amazing line-up of music all-stars to support the cause.
The Henson Recording Studios, formerly the legendary A&M Studios, was the venue. It was my first time at the famed location, and I was already getting anxious as I pulled my car into the parking lot. As I walked by the various building on the studio towards the patio where everyone was congregating, I made it a point to first find Susie.
Susie was admirably performing hosting duties near the photo staging area. I approached her and as I was saying hello, my eyes glanced over to a man that most anybody in the music industry would recognize: Glen Ballard. I started to immediately geek out. One of my favorite songs of all-time (and I’m sure it’s the favorite song of millions of others) is Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror”. He co-wrote that song and worked on the recording. The first “big” rock concert I went to was at the Irvine Amphitheater where Alanis Morissette was supporting her album “Jagged Little Pill”. He produced and co-wrote that entire album. Needless to say, I was a bit distracted….
I think Susie noticed I was distracted, and she immediately introduced me to Mr. Ballard. I told him what kind of impact his music had on my life, and he seemed very appreciative. I snapped a quick picture with him. Click.
Seriously, my night could have ended there, but the music hadn’t even started yet! As soon as Mr. Ballard went to say hello to others, I noticed Dave Grusin standing a few feet away! Holy cow. This man put together the music of so many films that I admired (and won a TON of Academy and Grammy Awards). I’m not sure if he won a Grammy or Academy award for it, but “The Goonies” was a favorite movie of mine growing up, and yes, I knew that he scored that motion picture. Click.
Even though I knew that they were performing that evening, I saw Carnie and Wendy Wilson talking with Susie. I slyly made my way over to Susie and somehow got the Wilson sisters to snap this quick photo with me. Carnie told me I smelled really good. It was a combination of Obsession and Nat Shermans… lol. This was by far my favorite picture of the evening. Click.
The lights dimmed and everybody started to head into the studio to catch the start of the music for the evening. The first band was group called Pedestrian. If I recall correctly they only played one song, but it was solid. The lead guitar solo in their song was sublime. After their song, I realized that I had to “excuse myself”. Ten minutes later, I came back into the studio when I saw someone who looked very familiar. I wasn’t wearing my glasses … I never really do … so I had to squint since she was across the room.
I attended the first weekend of Coachella (which you can read about by clicking here) and the highlight of the Saturday was a band that I was recently introduced to called Puscifer. The woman I was staring at looked like the female lead vocalist in Puscifer. I nonchalantly went up to her and, without thinking, asked her, “Hi, are you are singer?” to which she replied, “Yes”. “Do you perform with Puscifer?” I asked. She again replied, “Yes”. Then I went on for about a minute gushing about how I loved their set at Coachella and how I thought their set was worthy of an evening time slot. I then asked her what her name was. “Carina Round,” she said.
I immediately wanted to put my shoe in my mouth. The name was familiar, because she was the artist I missed when I had to excuse myself. I only hope I didn’t come off as a douchebag. I felt bad enough that I had missed her performance. I got a picture with her anyways… Click.
During my personally embarrassing moment with the divine Ms. Round, David Stewart was setting up for his set. He invited his daughter, Kaya, up to the stage and they performed a three-song set. They covered some big hits: “No One” by Alicia Keys, “Valerie”, and the apropos Eurhythmics’ classic “Missionary Man”. Kaya is only 13, but she absolutely impressed me with her energy and vocals on “Missionary Man”. In fact, it actually sounded more rock and roll with her singing the verses and belting the hooks.
After her set I went to the silent auction table and perused the offerings. Since I’m not a big baller, shot-caller, yet, I refrained from placing any bids on the larger priced items. Thank god there wasn’t a cruise to bid one (an inside joke for those who know me and the drunk debacle of an experience I had winning a Caribbean cruise …). There was, however, something within my price range: An autographed copy of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes latest album “Here”. I started with the $30 bid.
Carnie and Wendy Wilson then took that stage and did a simple acoustic set the highlights of which included their signature “Hold On”, which they said they usually never perform with Chynna Phillips, but they made the exception this night, and the classic Beach Boy’s song co-written by their dad, “God Only Knows”. Swoon.
Kelly Martin then spoke on behalf of Lupus LA sharing her family’s experience with the disease, and then introduced my boss’s daughter, Cori B to the stage to perform a song about love. It was the first time I had ever seen her perform live, and I was impressed. What’s even more impressive is that Cori, too, is living with Lupus, so her performance had a significant poignancy to it.
After her song, I went back to check on my $30 bid. Apparently, someone wanted to start a bidding war. It was up to $35. I upped the ante to $40, and went back inside the studio.
Susie then did a short set, and let’s put it this way, if you aren’t familiar with her music, you should be. Heck, if it’s good enough for Glen Ballard (who produced an album of hers), it should be good enough for you, right? Check out the clip below. Nuff’ said.
After Susie’s set, I went back to check on my $40 bid. It was now $45. This was it. $50. My final bid. I went back inside the studio, and crossed my fingers.
When I got back into the room, Donna Washington was absolutely killing a funkedified version of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love”. She only performed one song, but I would not have stopped her if she wanted to keep singing.
David Pack and his backing band started setting up and before starting his set, had some kind words for Jolie. He prefaced his performance by stating (and I’m paraphrasing), “It’s really something to get love back, especially when you’ve been giving it for so long … Tonight’s all about love.” Clearly, he knew a little about the hardships that Jolie was going through as he also had to overcome serious medical issues in his own personal fight to battle cancer.
He said, “If this doesn’t raise enough money, we’ll have another concert,” then dedicated the first song, “You’re The Only Woman,” to Jolie. He then performed “How Much I feel” and another song I didn’t know. When it seemed that he would finish his set, he said that some more more. For the heck of it, I subtly mumbled out loud, “Biggest Part Of Me”: I’m pretty sure he could here me cause I was a little fan boy standing up front. Lo and Behold, he performed it. David Pack’s voice has still got it. I’d take a date to a concert of his.
Before vacating the stage, he called Glen up to the stage and told a story of one of the first times he worked with Jolie. Apparently, it was a song written for an actor of General Hospital who was signed to Quincy Jones’ label at the time. It was fun watching the two music savants share a little history. When Dave finished up his set, I accosted him for a quick picture. Click.
Before I forget, I’d be remiss not to mention the stellar backing band of the evening. Players whose musicality is good enough for our POTUS. Greg Phillinganes on the keys, Neil Stubenhaus on the bass and Ricky Lawrence on Drums. Now, THAT is a house band.
I quickly went back to the auction table, and saw that my $50 bid was the last bid standing. As I was settling my auction bid, Ms. Siedah Garrett then took the stage and started performing. I went back into the performance room studio right when she had concluded her first song, and she called Glen up to the stage.
I knew what was coming. After all, Glen and Siedah wrote one of the greatest songs in pop music history: “Man In The Mirror” . But before starting the music, Glen took the mic in his hands and thanked those who had both attended and donated. He looked around the fabled A&M (now Henson) studio, and proclaimed, “We’re on sacred ground in here. In here, Jolie was the connector […] Thanks for taking care of us. It’s time for us to take care of you.” With Siedah taking the leads, her strong, impassioned voice carried the song wonderfully, instilling in everybody with the essence of the song that everybody can make the world a better place in their own way.
It was an evening of music, the likes of which, I’ll most likely never experience again. It was a Night for Jolie, and it was a night to remember.
Jolie was such an important part of the music of my, and probably your, youth. If you don’t believe me, you can check out a partial discography of the albums that she helped “put together” on her discogs.com profile. You probably have owned at least one of those albums. Donations are still being accepted for Jolie. A donation in even the smallest amounts help. As they say, what goes around, comes around. Make sure you have something good coming your way.
To make a donation, and learn more about lupus, please click on the following links: