One song can change everything
by Marc Platt
“But we keep a’comin’. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out; they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever, Pa, ’cause we’re the people.”
– From the movie, “The Grapes of Wrath,” 1940
I have been writing songs since I graduated high school in the late 1970s. I wrote lots of bad ones at first and even a few good ones. Songwriters all share one thing in common – we never know if and when we will write that next great one, or where the inspiration will come from.
When I played in my bands in the 1980’s (The Real Impossibles) and 1990’s (Stringtown), I wrote the usual songs about love and family relationships. The kinds of songs many writers write when they are in their 20’s. Now I’m at a stage in my life where I feel the need to write material with a little more depth. “Best in America” is about having pride in America, even when terror strikes.
Songwriters in Los Angeles are a lot like actors, in that there are many. Most of them come from other cities and states, coming to Hollywood to stake their claim on greatness. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and have been exposed to the entertainment industry since day one.
Over the past several years I have taught other performers, writers and recording artists a lot of the lessons I learned from great experiences and from mentors throughout my career. I have also been fortunate to get songs placed in film and on television.
What makes someone put their emotions on paper, record it and actually play it for people? Singer-songwriters look within their souls, as well as the world around them for inspiration. Even in a tough town like Hollywood.
Some songs write themselves and my latest song, “Best in America,” about the Boston Marathon victims was one of them.
Watching American citizens carrying other citizens to safety all bloodied and in shock makes it easy to write a song about pride in people and pride in my country. I just wrote the emotions of the moment, picked up the guitar and the rest was easy.
In Los Angeles, open mics are the way singer-songwriters test out their material. So I played the song out at a few different open mics in the following days and started to get some encouraging feedback from my fellow writers around town. I reached out to two very talented young singer-songwriters Matt Kabus (who produced the track) and Kevin Laurence to sing and record it with me as K.L.P., our last initials. The chemistry was so powerful when we practiced it at Matt’s house we decided to record it for charity (KLP Best in America) exclusively.
My old pal Don Teschner played the fiddle. He played in my band Stringtown, and left after a year to join Rod Stewart’s band. I hadn’t seen Don in many years, but he was eager to play on the track when he knew why we were doing it. He said yes without even hearing the song. Everyone has had the same reaction when asked to help out on the project (including a nice shout out in the Huffington Post).
It reminds me of the spirit in Los Angeles in the late 1980’s and 90’s when I spearheaded several benefits to raise money for Aids Project Los Angeles (APLA). This was before the Internet and the 24-hour-news-cycle. I called up fellow musicians like the Stray Cats, Replacements and a bevy of then-popular singer-songwriters and we packed Club Lingerie in Hollywood a few times and got great coverage from the Times and Herald Examiner. Those were the only two major publications in Los Angeles back then. Times may have changed, but not the willingness to lend support when it is needed.
I continue to learn every day. I do not know it all, but I know enough to keep me interested and I am always looking for that next good or great song. Sometimes one song can start you off in a direction that will carry you on a path for a long time. This one has re-energized me to the point that I want to go out and play more songs that matter in people’s lives.
That is how one song, “Best in America,” can change even a jaded veteran like me and add (hopefully) many more years to my creative life.Tags: APLA, Best in America, Boston Marathon tragedy, Creativity, Don Teschner, Entertainment industry, Helping others in need, Hollywood, Inspiration, Kevin Laurence, KLP Best in America, Making a difference, Marc Platt, Matt Kabus, Music, Singer songwriter, Stringtown, The Grapes of Wrath, The Real Impossibles