Tag Archives: musician
It wasn’t at all like I imagined it would be – it was so much better.
I met singer/songwriter Jackson Browne last night,
after seeing his concert in Montclair, NJ. The show on its own was amazing. Jackson did an acoustic set, his 17 guitars lined up behind him, a keyboard and a solo chair, all perfectly positioned on stage. He doesn’t use a play list for his acoustic shows – he simply picks out a guitar and plays the song that he associates with that particular instrument. It can get a bit rowdy with the audience shouting out titles for him to play, but Jackson is more free-form and picks up on the vibe of the audience. His performance last night was incredible – he sounded great and his audio mix was outstanding.
So, why am I writing about Jackson Browne and what does he have to do with Opening Our Eyes? Many of you know the answer to that question but for those who don’t, I’ll explain briefly. I’ve been a big fan of Jackson’s music for over 30 years. I also admire him for his social activism and his efforts (as well as his wife Dianna Cohen) in making a difference in the world. Jackson does countless benefit concerts for various causes and Dianna is founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, a movement to get people away from “one use” plastic products – water bottles, shopping bags etc. So, both Jackson and Dianna personified what this film is about.
When I was struggling to find a title for the film, I was listening to Jackson’s music one day while on the treadmill. One of his songs, Alive in the World really resonated with me – it was almost like it had been written for the film, but at that point in time, I was far from even envisioning this project as a film – I was still in the planning stages of the trip. There’s a stanza in the song that goes:
“To open my eyes
And wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes
And finally arrive in the world”
….and I thought – “yeah, that’s it – Opening Our Eyes.”
I started manifesting in my mind that if Jackson became aware of our project, he would give his permission to use his song in our film. Long story short, this project has had many “angels” behind it and one very dear angel, Angel Burns – made this happen. Angel got Jackson and Dianna to watch the trailer of the film and he granted us permission to use it in the film. We can’t release it (yet) on DVD with his music, but we do have permission for community screenings and film festivals with the option to “re-negotiate in good faith” if the film gets picked up for distribution. If that’s not motivation to find distribution – what is?
In communicating with Jackson’s assistant, I mentioned that my husband and I had tickets to his upcoming show in New Jersey in October. I relayed to her that I would love to personally thank Jackson and hand him a copy of the finished film. She wrote back saying that she would set up AS (After Show) passes for us to pick up at Will Call.
That was a couple of months ago and I’ve been thinking about what I would say to Jackson, ever since. I wanted to make sure I thanked him of course and I wanted to tell him how meaningful it was for me to have his beautiful song as part of our film. I also wanted to tell him that Dianna had totally changed my thinking as to how I packaged the DVD’s. Rather than use a conventional “plastic” DVD case, I decided to package the DVD in simple cardboard slip jackets. And lastly, I wanted to give him a copy of a DVD I had made over ten years ago, The Delta Blues Musicians. It was basic and pretty crude because it was the first video piece that I had ever created, but I somehow knew that Jackson would appreciate. It was the stories of seven Mississippi bluesmen – all gone now but one.
So, back to last night. I was on such a high after Jackson’s performance. I was feeling so full – full of life – full of love – full of everything good. We had been told at Will Call when we picked up our passes, to gather at the front of the theater and that someone would escort us backstage to meet Jackson. I saw a crowd of people gathered there, and I figured that we would be shuffled through a “meet and greet” type of thing. Then one staff guy spotted my pass and looked at me and said “Gail?” When I responded with a “yes” (after a bit of a delay – I was totally surprised that Jackson would be expecting “me”) he told me “I’m John – c’mon.” So, John, Tom and I and one other couple headed up the back stairs to Jackson’s dressing room. John left us outside a door marked “Jackson Browne” and told us to wait a bit and that Jackson would come out in a minute.
After a few minutes, Jackson walked out the door. I hesitated, waiting until the other couple said their hellos and left, and then I introduced myself. He said, (in the nicest possible way) “so, I can’t wait to see the rest of the movie” and right on cue I handed him a copy of the DVD in the awesome packaging that digital artist Allan Davey had created. Allan is another angel who has become part of our project and that in itself has made an extraordinary difference in how this film is being received. Jackson remarked on how beautiful the packaging design and artwork was – I thanked him and handed him another copy to give to Dianna. I told him that Dianna had totally changed my thinking in terms of the packaging and had influenced my decision NOT to use plastic DVD cases. Jackson looked at me and pointed to his arm and said “goose bumps”.
There was one last thing I wanted to do and that was to give Jackson that old copy of my “blues” DVD. I told him that I should be embarrassed to give him something that was so basic and a bit crude – and that it was the first video that I ever created. I’ve come a long way since then – and so has technology. But I told him that I thought he would appreciate it because of the interviews that I had captured of all those old blues cats. I told Jackson that my interest in making that video, wasn’t so much about the music as it was about that time and that place in America that gave birth to that music. Once again, he rubbed his arm and said “goose bumps”. I know that Jackson will enjoy that video for what it is and for the stories that I captured. I told him that I had hours of interview footage of those old blues artists – and he thanked me and remarked about the importance of documenting those stories and recordings. I don’t know why I thought to give Jackson that DVD, but at that moment in time, it seemed liked all the dots became connected – like everything I’ve been doing over the last ten years was somehow related.
I apologize for such a long post, in a way I write this for myself – so that I will remember every detail. In all the anticipation that led up to last night – I thought it would feel like the end of a chapter. But instead, all day yesterday, I had this feeling that it was really just the beginning.
Thank you Jackson and thanks to every one of our angels and supporters. We can all do this together. We can make this world what we want it to be.
This is out of the norm for this site, but I post this news to remind everyone to live their life each day as if it were their last. It’s a reminder to us all, to not put off those things you want to do or leave your words unsaid.
I write when I have something on my mind or feel that I have something to say and pass along. Today, I write because I’m heartbroken. I need to share some thoughts and then close out.
Willie “ Big Eyes” Smith – legendary blues musician, passed away – suddenly from a stroke. He was one of the seven Delta blues musicians that I interviewed for one of my first short documentaries back in 2002, The Delta Blues Musicians. They are all gone now – but one.
I’ll always remember the day I sat down to talk to Willie. It was relaxed and we had the most wonderful conversation, sitting on the porch of an old sharecropper shack at Hopson’s Plantation in Clarksdale, MS. I feel good that I captured his thoughts and words that day and preserved them for future generations. I feel that my purpose in life is to do just that – to document, record and capture the peoples and cultures of our times. I feel that is what I am here to do. When I stay on that course, I have peace inside. When I drift from that – I don’t feel right. I think I’ve always known that – but nowadays I try to stay focused on that path.
Willie’s passing reminds me yet again, how precious life is and to appreciate the now. For the most part, I do live in the now. I try to live my life as if this may be my last day on earth. It frees me from a lot of needless fears that stops lots of people from “doing”. It reminds me to tell my people that I love them because I may not get that chance again.
We all put things off or leave things left unsaid. Seven years ago, mom died suddenly, without warning. It seems like yesterday because the pain is still real and there is a hole left in my heart. I remember quite clearly the week before she died. It was a busy week and I had planned to give my mom a call because it had been awhile. I never did get that chance – and those words will go unsaid – forever.
We lost another blues legend earlier this year, Pinetop Perkins. Pinetop and Willie had just won a Grammy for the album “Joined at the Hip” that they worked on together. I had been meaning to head down to the Delta next month to the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival – I had missed the festival last year and I wanted to hear Pinetop and Willie play. Sadly, I won’t get that chance to see and hear them in concert again. But I do have their records and I’ll always have their words, both on tape and tucked away in the recesses of my mind.
We’ll miss you Willie.