I’ve been pretty lucky over these last almost thirty years. I’ve made a decent living writing music-for-hire (or “music-for-whoring”) on TV shows. But back in the early ‘90s, I found myself singing on a Spanish Pop record in Miami at Criteria Studios. One of the singers on the gig was my friend Dan Navarro who, besides being a session guy like myself, was also a very successful songwriter. He and his partner (the late and beloved Eric Lowen), wrote “We Belong,” which was a hit for Pat Benatar. We had some down-time since the producer who had hired us and flew us down to Miami was – in a word – nuts, and had abruptly cancelled the session. So, over drinks and other vices, Dan put the wacky thought in my head that traveling around, playing and singing songs might be a hell of a lovely way to spend one’s musical time and talents.
Then, some years later, when it seemed the business was changing (it has), and when it seemed that the economy was tanking (it did), I decided it was time to stop trying to write what other people wanted me to write, – recording countless demos for no money that went into the trash, and endlessly schmoozing for more work – and go back and/or forward to being a singer-songwriter (hereinafter abbreviated to s/s).
As I become a part of that world again, I’m seeing who the bright lights of the s/s world are. And two of them that have begun to really mean something to me are Severin Browne and Dave Morrison. For decades they have put their lives and their thoughts into perfect little four-and-a-half-minute novels, full of demons and saints and villains and victims, spilling their guts in chords and time and rhyme.
Severin’s life has had its successes and its disappointments, from doing two albums as the first white folk artist on Motown Records, to vowing he’d never make a record again: a vow he kept until the mid-90’s when he began recording again. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Severin. He’s kind of a benevolent avatar for the wide and diverse community of s/s talent in this town. And that brings me to Dave Morrison.
Dave’s history is murkier than Severin’s. I couldn’t find too many facts about his life except for the fact that he’s recently shed some of his more difficult demons and has put out a couple of really lovely and moving collections of songs. There’s so much forgettable and disposable music out there, so when you hear the kind of work Dave does – and you realize he ain’t getting’ rich doing it – well, you kind of wonder where’s the justice in this world.
And the saving grace is that there IS an audience – and a growing one – for people who sing about the laughter, the pain and the sweet delights of being human, and for that audience, it isn’t about hits, or hipness, or cute young faces. It’s more about truth than it is about being cool. Or famous. Or rich.
Who knows, maybe telling the truth IS the new cool.
Cinema Bar “Sweet Songs of April” with Captain Danger, and Helper: https://www.facebook.com/events/366289393422285/
“Hellstock 3” with Skip Heller Band, Rafa’s Lounge Art Gallery: https://www.facebook.com/events/335463513184064/