offers world hope in his music
When Jackson Browne was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen praised him as “simply one of the best songwriters of all time, each song is like a diamond.”
This revered artist’s most memorable songs include “These Days,” “The Pretender,” “Running on Empty, “Doctor My Eyes” and “Take It Easy.”
“I’ve got a lot of real positive feedback for the songs I’ve written,” Browne reported in a previous Maui Beat interview. “It’s very gratifying to know that the songs work for them the way they work for me, which is to address issues that matter and operate a sort of dialogue with yourself about what’s going on.”
Born in Germany in 1948 and raised from an early age in Los Angeles, Browne grew up absorbing the pop music of the day.
“I didn’t really get into playing until I got into folk music,” he recalled. “I was inspired to play guitar. I could take it to the beach and pull it out at parties.”
Raised by liberal parents, at an early age his father sat him down to explain how some people were prejudiced.
“He knew I was going to encounter it. Then in the early ’60s, he persuaded me to canvas for Lyndon Johnson. My mother was politically liberal and her church was the Unitarian Church, which was very involved in political and social issues. The ’60s was [sic] the great crucible for social change — a very instructional time. (Bob) Dylan’s music was the first and longest influence I had of any music. He was a potent force who spoke with this ‘everyman voice’ and talked about what was really going on.”
After a period in New York where he backed Nico of the Velvet Underground, Browne headed back to the West Coast in the late ’60s and briefly joined the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Hanging out in L.A. with musician friends like Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat’s Lowell George, Tom Rush and Linda Ronstadt, Browne enjoyed the support of this creative environment.
Before the release of his first album, artists who covered his songs included the Byrds and the Eagles. The brilliant debut album glowed with gems such as “Doctor My Eyes,” “Jamaica, Say You Will” and “Rock Me On The Water,” and established him as a major force in popular music.
Surprised by his rapid ascendancy, Browne recalled: “I went out to do some gigs, and when I got back a friend picked me up at the airport. He turned on the radio and my song came on almost right away. It blew my mind. It was more than I expected — I kind of thought I was a stowaway. I didn’t think I was making songs that would get played on the radio. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that (David) Crosby and (Graham) Nash sang on it. They were at the height of their popularity. It was years before I could listen to that first record and think it was pretty good.”
From the late ’70s on, he passionately pursued social and political causes beginning with the struggle against the proliferation of nuclear power. A co-founder of Musicians United For Safe Energy, he helped organize the No Nukes concerts at Madison Square Garden in 1979.
A committed environmentalist, Browne was arrested for civil disobedience, which combined with the uncovering of covert U.S. actions in Central America led to his overtly political album “Lives in the Balance.” In 2008, he contributed to the album “Songs for Tibet” publicizing human rights abuses in Tibet, and he performed at Occupy Wall Street in 2011.
On his most recent album, “Standing in the Breach,” he addressed gun violence.
“It’s never been that hard to buy a gun, now they’ll sell a Glock 19 to just about anyone,” he sang on “The Long Way Around.”
While addressing some of our social ills in song, Browne feels it’s important to offer hope.
“I don’t know if it’s my duty or anything, but I have that inner compulsion to find the hope in a situation,” he said. “At the same time, I’m willing to take an unflinching look at what may be wrong, or what I might consider to be the problem. It’s important to me to take the opportunity to find the hope and the positive path to take.”
Virtuoso African guitarist Vieux Farka Toure will make his Maui debut at 7:30 p.m. April 12 in the MACC’s Castle Theater. The son of legendary Malian guitar player Ali Farka Toure, who was known as “godfather of desert blues,” Toure infuses elements of rock, funk, Latin, reggae and blues into his hypnotic, traditional music.
Acclaimed as the “Hendrix of the Sahara,” the Malian-born musician reports his musical influences include, “naturally my father, the great American blues masters like B.B. King and John Lee Hooker and, finally, the great Jimi Hendrix, who was a big hero for me my whole life.”
Born near Timbuktu in Mali’s northern desert region, Toure grew up playing the calabash gourd drum and other percussion. Playing along with his father’s recordings, he transformed his dad’s haunting Saharan blues style by focusing on electric guitar and adding bass and drums.
Released in 2007, his critically-acclaimed debut album was a brilliant fusion of traditional Malian music and contemporary influences heightened by a number of tracks featuring his Grammy-winning father and world-renowned kora player Toumani Diabate.
Mali is considered the cradle of the blues. Toure’s father once affirmed that the genre is “nothing but African.”
“For the people in Mali who grew up with our traditional music, and more particularly musicians like me, this is very clear,” says the son. “It is a direct descendent of the music from the north of Mali. You can hear this the same way someone would listen to the rock from the 1950s and 1960s in the U.S. and the rock music today and go, ‘Ah yes, one clearly laid the foundation for the other.’ “
By his third studio recording “The Secret” released in 2011, Toure attracted Dave Matthews, slide wizard Derek Trucks, Ivan Neville, Soulive’s Eric Krasno and jazz guitar legend John Scofield to collaborate with him. The result, one reviewer praised, was “original guitar music of such fluidity, technique, rhythmic invention and passion, that it is virtually unequaled.”
“It was a great honor and a very cool experience to work with these great musicians on ‘The Secret,’ “ he says. “All the guys contributed in phenomenal ways to the album. I am very grateful to them. The intention of the album was exactly this — to bring me together with Western guitar players to show this connection between their music and mine.”
Heading to Maui with his “power trio” of Mamadou Kone on drums and calabash, and Marshall Henry on bass, Toure says, “If I am home in Mali, I consider myself like a journalist or a public personality responsible for telling the people what’s happening in the world and also lifting their spirits. If I am abroad, I am like an ambassador for Mali. I wish to show the people outside of Africa that Mali is a very rich country when it comes to culture, to tradition, to the beauty of humanity.”
* Vieux Farka Toure performs at 7:30 p.m. April 12 in the MACC’s Castle Theater. The show will have a dance floor. Tickets are $35 in advance, and $40 day of show. For information or tickets, go to the box office, call 242-7469 or visit www.mauiarts.org.
One of the pioneers of the Jawaiian movement, best known for local classics like “Coconut Girl,” “Are You Native” and “Pua Lane,” Brother Noland and his five-piece band will make a rare Maui appearance at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater.
A member of the Rough Riders with Henry Kapono and John Cruz, Noland just released the album, “His Songs His Stories His Style,” which captures his electric style across genres.
The funky opening “Signs,” reflects the influence of Earth, Wind & Fire, while “Us Solution” verges into country territory. “I Love My Baby” could be a Meatloaf rocker, and the jazzy “Pua Lane”-style “Hokulea Hikianalia,” co-written with Chucky Boy Chock, pays tribute to Hawaii’s voyaging canoes.
Noland’s versatility is also amply showcased on his 2012 release, “Greatest Hits 2.” Opening with the breezy lilt of “Feel Like You Free,” it ranges from the catchy reggae of “Sweet Lovin’ Sounds” and the jazz groove of “Tropical Baby,” to the fervent folk balladry of “The Many Things” and the lovely slack key instrumental “Rainbow Maker.”
In 2014, Noland was honored by the state of Hawaii with a Lifetime Achievement in Music award.
“Through the years, my musical passion and focus has always been about elevating the contemporary imagery of Hawaii’s multi-cultural music,” he says.
* Brother Noland’s “His Songs His Stories His Style” is presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the MACC’s McCoy Studio Theater. Tickets are $35, $45 and $65 (plus applicable fees). For information or tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or go to www.mauiarts.org.