STAN KENTON, EARL BOSTIC, SAM BUTERA, PAUL DESMOND, BOBBY DARIN, DONNY HATHAWAY, RAY CHARLES, CHICAGO.& THE BEATLES.
TOWER OF POWER, JOSH GROBIN, THE COORS, THE CATHEDRALS, FLIM & THE BB’S.
THE ART OF CREATING MUSIC IS AN ESCAPE FROM REALITY. IT’S GIVING BIRTH TO A NEW LIFE. WHEN I WAS EVER DOWN, I COULD GET LOST IN THE MUSIC THAT GAVE ME LIFE. THROUGH THE TOUGH TIMES & THE HIGH TIMES , IT’S BEEN THE ONE CONSTANT I COULD COUNT ON . MY MUSIC IS MY CLOSEST FRIEND.
LEE GREENWOOD couldn’t have chosen a more apropos title for his newest album. “Stronger Than Time”, his 24th major collection of music, is one more chapter in a career that has indeed become a shining example of the ultimate multi-platinum ‘American success story.’
No “overnight success” story here. Lee--one of the most acclaimed artists internationally—and often identified as virtually the ultimate name that comes to mind when patriotism is mentioned in the entertainment industry--gained his success the old fashioned way: He earned it, one rung up the ladder at a time. After years of struggling to gain recognition in the music industry, one song—“God Bless The USA”— in 1983 singularly transported Lee Greenwood far beyond the ranks of stardom to a niche in America’s pop culture that is seemingly reserved for he and he alone.
If any doubt existed of Greenwood’s “forever imprint” on America, it was dispelled in 2003—the 20 year anniversary of its release—when “God Bless The USA” was voted online by Americans as the “most recognizable patriotic song” in the nation. The song that Lee Greenwood wrote bested competition that included “God Bless America” and the “National Anthem” as a modern national anthem of the common man.
Like many great careers, Lee’s had humble beginnings on a farm near Sacramento, California. He began honing his musical abilities in Jr. High School, learning to play most of the instruments in the orchestra by age 14. Both of his parents were musicians, and Lee followed in their footsteps from an early age. He was quick to acquire the musical and business skills that would prove necessary for his life as an entertainer.
He formed his first band, the Moonbeams, while still in Jr. High School. By the time he had graduated high school, Lee was already a seasoned performer. His career became the focal point in his life, so much so, that he turned down a music scholarship to the College of the Pacific, abandoned a promising professional baseball career, and even skipped his own high school graduation because he was booked to perform a standing engagement at the Golden Hotel & Casino (now Harrahs) in Reno, Nevada.
For the next several years, Lee was faced with a series of near misses. At one point, Felix Cavaliere, a musician from New York City, approached him about forming a new group called the "Young Rascals" but Lee passed on the opportunity to stay in Las Vegas. The Young Rascals went on to record "Good Lovin" which became a major # 1 hit and a string of other hits.
Reaching out for his own recording opportunity, Lee moved to Los Angeles to record his first solo album on Paramount. This attempt was a successful project but was never released. After a two and half year struggle, Lee returned to Vegas to recover lost economy. Instead of allowing his trials to bring him down, Greenwood found inspiration in coming so close to success. In 1978 he found the courage to leave the security of the Vegas lounges and welcomed the opportunity to fly to Nashville to write and record a demo session with the help of the Mel Tillis Band. The results of this long-shot opportunity led to his contract with MCA and his producer Jerry Crutchfield, then head of MCA Publishing. Their first session together yielded hit songs like "It Turns Me Inside Out," "Ring On Her Finger, Time On Her Hand." "Ain't No Trick," and introduced this dynamic new recording artist to country music.
Greenwood found immediate acceptance with country music audiences who appreciated his powerful vocals and energetic show. His feel for country music, coupled with his electrifying performances, quickly established him as a major artist. Only two years after the release of his debut album, he won the coveted Country Music Association's Male Vocalist of the Year award. He won the same award again, as well as a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance the following year. Continuing his streak, Greenwood won the 1984 ACM Male Vocalist of the Year award. His first three albums achieved gold status, and his Greatest Hits quickly went platinum. In 1985, a less publicized facet of his talent was recognized when the CMA awarded him Song of the Year honors for penning both the words and music to "God Bless The USA."
After the Gulf War in 1991, Lee was one of the most in-demand performers. Because of his support for the military and veterans during that time, Lee would often play two and sometimes three shows per day, traveling to and from in private jets.
The staying power of this dynamic performer throughout twenty successful touring years remains evident in every Lee Greenwood show. Thirty albums, numerous TV appearances, and hundreds of radio interviews are all vehicles through which this tireless performer maintains his visibility with the public. His celebrity tours with the United Services Organization (USO), including his most recent USO tour in September of 2003, are one of the many high-profile charity organizations to which this humanitarian donates his time.
In 1995, Lee Greenwood decided to take a break from his rigorous tour schedule to start a family with his wife Kim. Their son Dalton was born in April 1995. In order to spend more time at home, Lee elected to build and perform in his own theater in the Smoky Mountains.
The April 1996 opening of the “Lee Greenwood Theater” nestled in a picturesque Tennessee mountain setting near Gatlinburg, provided the chance to continue performing, but without the rigors of being on the road constantly. The theater was heralded for its state-of-the-art sound and lighting, as well as one of the most entertaining shows around. With the help of dancers, musicians, intricate staging and numerous costume changes, Greenwood captivated audiences with a variety of musical styles, from movie themes to "God Bless The USA."
Lee and Kim's second son Parker Reid came along three years later in July 1998. Although he was not touring at the time with the exception of a few major appearances, Lee focused on his songwriting and being a father and husband. After five brilliant seasons at the “Lee Greenwood Theater,” life offered Lee the opportunity of being selective on his return commitments to work major concert appearances.
Since the tragedies of September 11, Lee has seen his signature hit "God Bless The U.S.A." take on yet another incarnation. Since the attack on America, airplay has increased ten fold, skyrocketing "God Bless The U.S.A." back into the top 20 of the Billboard country airplay chart, and sending Lee's 1992 album "American Patriot" to the top of the sales charts. The album was certified gold in October 2001 & platinum in December 2001. In January of 2002, Lee signed a long-term recording contract with Curb Records.
The past several years have proven the true impact Lee Greenwood’s “unofficial anthem” has on the American public. As 2003 marks the 20th Anniversary of the patriot hymn, its emotional impact was proven yet again, as American’s nationwide embraced it’s message in March 2003 when the United States engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Lee's performances continue to be as in-demand as his music. He has been called upon to perform at numerous events and on national television programs. Other stellar career highlights within recent memory include appearances at The Prayer service at Yankee Stadium, a moving a cappella performance for the rescue workers at Ground Zero, the nationally televised Thanksgiving Day parade in Detroit, Michigan, Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, Regis and Kelly, Entertainment Tonight, Good Morning America, Larry King Live, Fox & Friends, Hannity & Colmes, The Other Half, Movie Guide Awards, Access Hollywood, and many more. He continues to maintain a rigorous touring schedule, including visits to military bases and performances at government functions, including the Veteran's Day ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Noted Lee in a recent interview: “If you’re smart, you learn pretty quickly that life in the music industry is a journey that never really posts an ‘arrival time.’ I’ve loved the ride—the ups and even the downs—and it’s only thanks to God and a lot of good people around me that I’ve stayed pretty steady no matter how hard the ground shook. I think it’s a lesson we all collectively learned as a nation on 9-11. The ground shook, but when the dust cleared, we stood strong—prouder than ever to be Americans.”
And as Lee Greenwood’s latest CD aptly puts it… “Stronger Than Time.”
Your musical inspirations?
NAT KING COLE & ERROLL GARNER & DUKE ELLINGTON & BILLY STRAYHORN AND MANY COMPOSERS BOTH CLASSICAL AND POPULAR TOO MANY TO MENTION
CONCERT BY THE SEA-Erroll Garner, MILES DAVIS, CANNONBALL ADDERLY, "Misty" - "Too Young" (Nat King Cole), again, too many to mention
MUSIC IS MY LIFE -- IT's ALL OF THE GOOD AND THE BAD - IT"S EVERYTHING -- IT IS THE SPIRIT OF MUSIC THAT KEEPS ME THIRSTY TO MEET ALL THE CHALLENGES OF LIFE
MUSIC IS MEDICINE TO THE SOUL - THE SPIRIT - THE MIND AND IN THE FUTURE WILL BE LOOKED AT AND UNDERSTOOD TO BE AS MEDICINAL AS ANY PILL OR PERSCRIPTION THAT ANY MEDICAL PERSON OR PROFESSIONAL PERSON COULD PRESCRIBE -- IT CONSOLES AS WELL AS HEALS AND I'M PROUD TO BE ONE OF THE MESSENGERS.
* Favorite CD's, songs, or musicians
The Washington Post, writing from an advance CD of Copper Moon, wrote: “Freund clearly delights in enigma. His vocals could go from laconic to impassioned without such obvious trickery as cranking up the volume. His lyrics are full of curveballs.”
Freund is highly respected by his fellow musicians as well. Folk chanteuse Victoria Williams calls Freund’s 2000 disc L.A. Fundamental Music (a soundtrack-oriented EP) “a classic.”
Graham Parker added: “"Listening to Sympatico, Tom Freund's second solo release, I find myself just as impressed as I was after hearing North American Long Weekend, his solo debut. His songs fill me with an interesting mixture of yearning and melancholy that is somehow thoroughly uplifting at the same time. I get shivers down my spine on almost every tune. Along with Lucinda Williams, Freund is the best singer/songwriter operating today."
Your musical inspirations?
Early inspiration was waking up every morning to my Dad playing piano under my bedroom. He would play Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Granados, Bach, Chopin, Dave Brubeck, and Debussy for several hours before I went to school. It was a wonderful gift for my impressionable mind. As well, my parents endured countless repetitions of John Williams' Star Wars score on the long car trips we took from Pennsylvania to Florida every summer. The power of that music really spoke to my imagination, and inspired me to explore instrumental music.
* Favorite CD's, songs, or musicians?
My main influences that I am conscious of (I'm sure the really interesting ones are subconscious...) are in no particular order: Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Jonatha Brooke, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Steve Morse, Adrian Belew, Sir John Tavener, Joni Mitchell, Michael Hedges, Debussy, Bach, Concrete Blonde, and Tool.
* Has music helped you thru a difficult time in your life?
I believe that my love of music has insulated me from a lot of pain, and given me a constructive way to work through difficult times. My life has not been a hard one compared to what many people are forced to endure, and I've used most of my time to study music so that I could have the privilege of sharing that blissful experience with others who would listen. My music has no vocals or lyrics, nor is it angry or vindictive. Some would argue that without these dramatic elements, no story can be told which could hold anyone's attention. My work is a direct challenge to that opinion. I am relating to the deep veins of expression that lie underneath the first impression of feelings which arise in a person's heart; which are beyond the conventional depth of noting and labeling one's reality.
* Your thoughts on the connection between music and healing--
I've studied consciousness for nearly twenty years through yogic practices, Buddhist and Vedantic scripture, Gurdjieffian philosophy, Carlos Casteneda's dreaming techniques, Wiccan rites, various glorious hallucinogens, and a deep respect for Jesus as a thoroughly righteous character. The universal conclusion to all of these holy paths is that Sound is God. Everything that exists is vibration. Music is the most direct way of raising ones vibration to a state of communion with the All. There is no "best song" out there. It all is relative to who is listening, and so when they hear something that resonates with them, their heart does the magic.
Michael Hewett began his musical studies at age ten with clarinet and piano. Throughout his childhood, he awoke every day to the sounds of his father, Skip, playing Bach, Gershwin, Debussy, and Granados on the piano. His first exposure to rock music was listening to Jimi Hendrix, but it wasn't until he heard his sister's Van Halen records that he became inspired to play the guitar. With a $50 electric guitar from Sears, and an old radio receiver hooked up to a car stereo speaker, Michael eagerly learned all that Skip had to teach him. Within a year he had a formal guitar teacher, and was learning the repertoires of the virtuosos of the day--Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Steve Morse.
Michael graduated early from high school and entered Berklee College of Music on a scholarship as one of the school's youngest students. Upon graduating with a BA in Performance, he moved to New York City with his writing partner to start a band, and they played the rock circuit for a few years. It was on a fateful weekend in the Catskills that Michael heard the music of legendary guitarist Michael Hedges--he became inspired to start writing material for what would become his first self-produced CD.
"Hidden in Plain Sight," a collection of original compositions written for solo acoustic guitar was released in 2000. "Being in Dreaming," was released in 2002 on the Dharma Moon record label to international critical acclaim. Live performances from BID were recorded in 2003 on PRI's nationally syndicated show "Echoes," and at Sirius Satellite Radio studios in Manhattan.
In 2004 Michael was invited to perform as part of Muriel Anderson's "All Star Guitar Night" at the NAMM convention in Los Angeles, and at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (CAAS) festival in Nashville. He currently endorses Paul McGill guitars, Stonetree guitars, and the Sharktooth crossover pick.
Michael wrote, produced, performed, engineered, and mixed his third CD entitled "Ally," released in 2005 through The Orchard digital network. "Ally" is a showcase of diverse ensemble and solo compositions for electric, acoustic, bass, and flamenco guitar, and cello.
Currently  Michael can be heard playing lead guitar for the hit Broadway musical "Wicked." He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and five cats.
* Your musical inspirations?
In Japan, it is said that if children begin music lessons on June 1 following their fifth birthday, they will keep studying for a long time. Pianist Keiko Matsui was taken to her first piano lesson on that very day when she was five and she hasn’t looked back since.
Keiko Matsui is an icon of contemporary jazz. With nearly 1.2 million units sold in the U.S. alone and packed concert halls, she is one of the most recognized artists in the genre. Her elegant piano melodies and gentle jazz grooves have enormous appeal and never disappoint her loyal fanbase which she has cultivated with over a dozen albums and stunning live shows.
WALLS OF AKENDORA, Matsui’s latest recording of all new material, showcases her signature sophisticated jazz style on ten tunes that range from the classically-inspired to bold and brassy. "Akendora," she explains, "is a fictional place of my own device! It is a place that I go to to find peace and to spend contemplative moments." The ‘walls’ of the title do not refer to any barriers around this haven, but rather milestones. "It’s like marking your child’s height on the wall. It’s about seeing where you have been and where you can go," she explains.
Matsui has taken her music to extraordinary places since that fateful day of her first piano lesson. By the time she was in junior high school, she began composing and developing a taste for jazz, drawing inspiration from a variety of classical and contemporary composers ranging from Chopin, Mozart, and Rachmaninov to Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and Stevie Wonder. At the age of 17, Matsui was chosen to record for the Foundation, and that same year, she composed her first film score.
Matsui commenced her solo recording career with 1987’s A DROP OF WATER. The album (financed with funds she and her husband, shakuhachi flute player/producer Kazu Matsui, had planned to use for their honeymoon) established Matsui as a talent of note. Her subsequent albums, including NO BORDERS (1989), UNDER NORTHERN LIGHTS (1990), NIGHT WALTZ (1991), CHERRY BLOSSOM (1992), DOLL (1994), SAPPHIRE (1995), and DREAM WALK (1996) further cemented her reputation and increased her popularity. No stranger to the upper reaches of the contemporary jazz album and airplay charts, Matsui was named Top Indie Contemporary Jazz Artist Of The Year by Billboard magazine in 1996.
In 1997, The American Society of Young Musicians honored Matsui with its Essence Award, which recognizes artists whose vitality captures "the very spirit and soul of audiences worldwide." That same year, she launched a tour dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer, and released a four-song CD entitled A GIFT OF HOPE that benefited the Y-Me Breast Cancer Organization. Matsui’s music was prominently featured in Say It, Fight It, Cure It, a special profiling several courageous women who were battling breast cancer that aired on the Lifetime cable television network. In 1999, Matsui performed at "A Golden Moment," a skating concert featuring Olympic figure skaters Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, Ekaterina Gordeeva, and Katarina Witt that benefited the renowned breast cancer organization, the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
1998 saw the release of Matsui’s album FULL MOON AND THE SHRINE, which was accompanied by an acclaimed PBS-TV special entitled Keiko Matsui: Light Above The Trees. The special reflected the multicultural nature of Matsui’s life and music and was filmed, in part, at Japan’s breathtakingly beautiful 1,300-year-old Itsukushima Shrine and during a high-energy concert in San Francisco. The special earned Matsui a National Smooth Jazz Award for Best Long-Form Video Achievement in 2000. She was also honored as the Best Female Artist that year and again in 2001.
Matsui again turned her attention to charitable activities with the release of 2001’s DEEP BLUE. Raising awareness of the need for bone marrow donors, particularly in the Asian, African-American, and Hispanic communities, Matsui launched a nationwide concert tour and donated a portion of ticket proceeds to The National Marrow Donor Program and The Marrow Foundation. She also released a four-song CD entitled GIFT OF LIFE to raise funds for the two organizations.
2001 brought about a period of reflection for Matsui and a strong desire to create music that would help heal a world in turmoil. She began to contemplate, "Why am I creating music, and as a musician, what can we do?" Matsui also reflected on the futures of children growing up in a world devastated by violence and hatred. The result was THE RING — an album intended to communicate a message of peace, compassion, and humanity to listeners around the world. Her technical and compositional virtuosity that has become her hallmark, along with the symphonic grandeur of her sound, paired beautifully in this stirring and emotional album.
On 2004’s WILDFLOWER, Matsui once again used music as a platform for inspiring good. The album’s title track benefits the United Nations World Food Programme’s efforts in Africa. WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency which, in 2002, fed 72 million people in 82 countries including most of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people. "I decided I wanted to support the WFP after learning about the tremendous problems in Africa and how humanitarian assistance can change people’s lives for the better," Matsui said. "So much help is needed there, particularly for the children who have been orphaned or abandoned because of war and AIDS."
©Voices and Visions