Back in the mid-80’s when Mr. Mister wrote and recorded what would be their 2nd massive #1 hit, Kyrie, new innovations in keyboard technology allowed musicians to use sequential synthesizers to program things that were virtually impossible to actually play. This fascination can be heard in the staccato bass line which plays throughout the song. It wasn’t until the song had been mixed and released that the boys realized they had a problem; how to perform it live.
Since the song relies on this ‘trickery’, the question becomes, can a stripped-down version work? Here Richard tests that theory with an acoustic guitar only.
As a songwriter, Richard has had great success over his long career. Writing with or for artists like Kenny Loggins, Pointer Sisters, Celine Dion, Josh Groban, Dionne Warwick, Chaka Khan to name just a few. In 1994, while recording the album “Meanwhile” with 3rd Matinee collaborator Patrick Leonard, Warner Bros asked them to write a song for a film called With Honors. Patrick and Richard came up with the melody and basic structure of the song very quickly and on the hour-long drive home Richard conceived the title and part of the lyric. Warner Bros was looking for an artist to sing it and Madonna was the obvious choice since she was signed to WB and she had previous success with Patrick as her producer on many of her biggest hits. The three spent several days in the studio where Madonna contributed much of the lyric and the song went on to become a #1 hit. Here Richard performs his scaled-down interpretation.
From the Shelter Me album, here is one of Richard’s favorite songs, Even the Pain. Inspired by paternal concern for his own children, the song imagines the struggles of a child or young adult out in the world alone cut off from family and coming to terms with the pain of what they’ve left behind and the uncertainty of where they’re going. “We all take what we’re given…….even the pain”.
Written in Nashville with standout songwriters Melissa Pierce and busbee, this song was included in the Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band set when Richard was a member. Audience reaction was consistently positive to this song, which unlike the others in the set, wasn’t a classic hit song. Here Richard performs it on acoustic guitar.
The title track of Richard’s 2nd solo album, Peculiar Life, explores the idea of how one feels watching everything changing around them, but unable or perhaps unwilling to ‘keep up’ with the pace of change. Like having one foot in the spiritual world and one in the material world and the conflict is ever present. Using an open tuning on acoustic guitar, Richard draws on the folk/rock/blues influences that inspired him growing up for this unique song.
Written with Richard Marx, RP’s long time friend, No Tomorrow, ruminates on the idea of impermanence and why, if we know life is so fragile, don’t we love each other everyday with all we’ve got. Also from the album Peculiar Life, this song originally was demo’d with a pop rock feel. Here Richard uses a 12 string acoustic guitar and a subtle reggae groove to support this song.
This song was originally written for a film with Richard Gere and Wynona Ryder called Autumn in New York which was an unlikely romance in the Big Apple between a womanizing playboy and a significantly younger sweet-natured woman who's suffering from a terminal illness. The song didn’t make it into the film but Richard was happy to have been inspired by the story to write it. Again, using impermanence as the theme, Richard writes in the chorus, “We are here and then gone with not much to lean upon and love’s like a kiss on the wind”. A fitting sentiment for Richard Gere’s character who, for the first time, fell deeply in love with a woman who wouldn’t live much longer.
Songwriters cannot live on brooding introspection alone. Sometimes you just have to say, “Its all gonna be ok!” Off of Songs From the Sketchbook and originally written and pitched as a song for any number of solo pop artists, Richard decided to do another take on it for ‘Sketchbook’. The recording session here features some of Richard’s favorite musicians, including Vinnie Colaiuta on drums (Sting, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock) James Harrah (Madonna, Jewel, Elton John) on guitar, Kevin McCormick, bass (Jackson Browne) and Luis Conte, percussion (Dave Matthews, Phil Collins, James Taylor). The album was produced by neighbor and good friend, Richard Gibbs (Oingo Boingo).
The George Harrison song Within You Without You from The Beatles St. Pepper’s has always been one of Richard’s favorites. It was the first time he realized that a spiritual message could be used in popular music without sounding preachy or didactic. Keeping with that theme, When You Come Around talks about the longing for guidance from someone who truly embodies wisdom and compassion. Using traditional Indian instruments; tabla, tambura and Indian violin (Played by virtuoso Shankar), When You Come Around is a fascinating departure for Richard as a songwriter.
Before she decided to get her Bachelor's Degree in Childhood Education, Richard’s daughter, Aja, played with the idea of following in her father’s footsteps and pursue a career as a singer.
Her brother, Tai, had written a few songs with some friends on the beach for fun and one of them caught Richard’s ear. Firefly had such a great feel, and everyone liked it so much, he asked if they would like dad to get involved. Richard’s producer friend and occasional songwriting partner, busbee, became interested as well and the two of them produced a few songs for Aja with the idea of pitching her as a new artist. Long story short, Aja went off to college and didn’t look back. The song remains a favorite for a lot of people and keeps the door open for her to come back to singing whenever she’s ready.
Richard has written songs with quite a few talented writers over the years, but one person he always wanted to write with was Walter Afanasieff, who cowrote and produced most of Mariah Carey’s albums among many others. The two finally got together and over the course of a few hours came up with the basic structure of this song. Again, on the drive home, Richard found himself overwhelmed by the idea of ‘tears of joy’ relating to the harshness of life juxtaposed against the redeeming quality of the Christmas story. He nearly got in an accident trying to write down his ideas in the car as they poured out. Filmed at Richard Gibbs Woodshed Record Studio, Richard and Walter perform their classic song with just voice and piano.