Category Archives: Music

How Huey Lewis wrote his biggest hit The Power of Love for Back to the Future

In 1985, Steven Speilberg and Bob Zemeckis asked for a meeting with Huey Lewis. They wanted him to write a song for their upcoming movie Back to the Future. Zemeckis said, “the character Marty McFly’s favorite band would be Huey Lewis and the News. How about writing a song for the film?”  “Wow, I’m flattered,” he said, “but I don’t know how to write for film and I don’t fancy much writing a song called Back to the Future.” They told him they didn’t need that, they just wanted one of his songs. He said, “great, I’ll send you the next song that we write.” “Chris Hayes (the News guitarist) wrote the music initially, the chord progression, and I strapped on that Sony Walkman and went for a little jog. And I wrote the song on that jog and I sent it to Zemeckis.” Of all their hits – I remember being thoroughly sick of hearing Huey Lewis in high school with all those hits – the Power of Love was their biggest. Here’s the video. All from a request and a jog! It helps to have someone tangibly need what you have to offer. That focuses you.  And when you’re stuck and unable to progress on something that matters, get your Sony Walkman (or your equivalent) and go for a jog (or your equivalent). 

Also posted in Purpose, Resiliency | Comments closed

Huey Lewis has lost his hearing, now what?

Huey Lewis was in Dallas January 2018, heading to the stage with his long-time band the News when he says, “I heard this huge noise. It sounded like warfare was going on in the other room. I yelled, ‘What is that?’ They said, ‘It’s just Pat, the opening act.’ I put in my in-ear [monitors] in and couldn’t hear anything.” Once the opening song began, “I thought the bass amp had blown a speaker,” he says. “I just heard this horrible noise and I couldn’t find pitch or even hear myself. It was an absolute nightmare. The worst thing. Just horrible.” This was not new for Lewis. In 1987, at the height of his Top 40 success, something happened in his right ear. “I felt like I had been in a swimming pool and my ear was full,” he says. “I couldn’t shake it out or pop my ears. I went to all kinds of doctors and an EMT finally said to me, ‘Get used to it.’ I said, ‘Get used to it? I’m a musician!’” He got used to it. Now, thirty years later, this – the other ear. “I was suicidal,” he says. “There was literally a roaring tinnitus in my head. I just laid in bed. There was nothing I could do. I’d just lay in bed and contemplate my demise.” Would you rather win the lottery or go for a walk every day for a year? Everybody says the lottery, right? It’s smarter to take the walk. It turns out that we adjust as humans relatively quickly to really good things (winning the lottery) and really bad things (losing your hearing). It’s called hedonic adaptation. Blips up, blips down, for the most part (not with extreme things like abuse or PTSD) after something happens we return to near our original level of everyday happiness. We’re resilient. “It turns out you can get used to almost anything,” Lewis says. “I told myself things like, ‘At least I don’t have pancreatic cancer …’”  His hearing varies daily now. “Ten is what it was before this happened,” he says. “I’m at a five now right now, which means I can hear speech fine with hearing aids in. Under a three, I can’t even hear the phone ring.” But music is of course harder. “Music is much harder to listen to than speech because even one note occurs in all frequencies with harmonics and overtones and undertones,” he says. “I call it distortion. When I hear a bass part that goes ‘bump, bump, bump,’ I just hear [imitates the sound of loud, crunchy static]. I fight for pitch and I can’t find it. If I can’t find pitch, I can’t sing. It’s horrible.” He hasn’t done a full gig since that night in Dallas over two years ago.  Now Lewis is focused on his health. “The inner ear is one of the things that medical science knows the least about,” he says. “It’s cased in bone and there’s no surgery. But I’m taking stem-cell stuff and trying everything. With my hearing always fluctuating, my body is doing something itself. What I have to do is stay healthy, exercise, and hope my body will slowly take care of itself.” I’ve noticed this from tearing my PCL in my right knee while skiing just over a year ago. It’s never going to get better, and that continues to be hard to fully let in. And yet…I’m at probably a similar level of happiness than I was then. And I’m about as active – just now I wear a brace and choose activities that won’t trigger too much pain. I’ve adjusted, and will continue to adjust. So when you lose something you care deeply about – and you have, and you will, we all will – there will be a time for a descent. Like Lewis lying in bed contemplating his demise.  And then there’ll be a time when your resiliency kicks in and like Lewis says, “it turns out you can get used to almost anything.” And lastly, if you’re willing to do the work, you’ll return to the level of happiness where you usually live. Like Lewis, clearly a naturally ebullient person.  “I have a great life,” he says. “I’m a lucky guy. No matter what happens, I’m a lucky guy. Sometimes I have to remind myself of that. But I am.”

Also posted in Persistence, Resiliency | Comments closed

How Lizzo learned to be vulnerable

Pop phenomenon Lizzo had a nervous breakdown in 2018 and started seeing a therapist. “That was really scary,” Lizzo said in this Rolling Stone article. “But being vulnerable with someone I didn’t know, then learning how to be vulnerable with people that I do know, gave me the courage to be vulnerable as a vocalist.” Patrick Lencioni says trust is the foundation for a team to be high-functioning. And the mainline to get to trust is vulnerability.  But how to get there? Conventional wisdom would say to start with the closest people you trust already and work out from there. But as we can see from Lizzo’s example, sometimes it’s easier to work from the outer to the inner. She started with a stranger. That gave her the courage to widen her vulnerability circle to include people she did know. That led to the most personal of all – her voice. We start the vulnerability journey in the place that’s the least terrifying, whether outside-in or inside-out. Then, as Rilke said, we live our life in growing orbits. Each vulnerability success – and the success is in the attempt, not the reception by the other person – opens the door to the next possibility. If you wanted to take a step towards trust who might you start being vulnerable with today? PS – Team Collaboration Quest is now completely revamped and updated with the latest research! Teams complete a customized series of challenges through collaboration and communication.  Click here to start transforming your team.

Also posted in Play, Team Building | Comments closed

How much money have Jimmy Cobb, John Coltrane and the other musicians made from Kind of Blue?

Kind of Blue is the best-selling jazz album of all time. It is also the most heralded, and most influential. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, Cannonball Adderley, Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb – these are all titans of the jazz world that came together for one perfect album. Even if you’re completely unaware of jazz, or thought you hated jazz, if you listen to this album, you’ll probably really like it. So what (play on words intended for those of you who know the name of the first track) kind of riches have the musicians who helped Miles create this masterpiece made financially over the years? Here’s a photo of the payments from the first of two sessions for the album. Each performer made $64.67. Chambers and Jimmy Cobb had to bring more gear so they got an extra two dollars each for ‘cartage’.  That’s it. No royalties, no more money. $64.47. This was just one day in thousands of sessions and gigs for these great men. And the pay from each session and each gig all added up (hopefully) to enough money to live a life doing what they loved. (Stay tuned for more on that at the end of this article.) Contrast this with CEO pay – $7.4 million a year average in 2018. (Median worker pay was $77,000.)  It doesn’t seem fair, does it?  Do you do good work, have you helped, have you been of use? Do other people seem more successful, have more money, people you don’t think deserve it…not like you? What if the mark of success isn’t money at all? What if it’s what intangible gift you give others, what lives you change by being you? What if a life live quixotically guided by your inner muse that looks downright weird to others is success? What if we’ve been looking for success in the wrong place this whole time? PS: Jimmy Cobb is the last man standing from the Kind of Blue recording, still drumming at 92. He says of the Kind of Blue session, “It must have been made in heaven.”  He, however, is in poor health and could use your help. Here’s a GoFundMe campaign started by his daughter to help pay for his health expenses.  I’m skeptical of many GoFundMe campaigns (those ‘pay for my trip to -fill in the blank- ones especially).  This is not one of them – it’s the perfect use of this tool. Let’s help Jimmy as thanks for helping us. 

Also posted in Passion | Comments closed

This isn’t music

“This isn’t music!” I said to myself in frustration. Clearing out file after file of song charts and show notes, I thought, “what a waste!”  All that time over the last decades I thought I was working on music. I wasn’t. I was ‘preparing to work on music’. Preparing for a future that is never going to come. Bag after bag into the recycling bin. I had to go through that process – preparing instead of doing, then finally purging. It’s what brought me here to this moment. And it’s no big deal in the grand scheme of things. But when a core realization – “this isn’t music, actually playing music is music!” – lands it’s vital to pay attention.  We can prepare for something until the end of our days, but the next, scary step is what actually makes our dreams come true – actually doing it. Time to make music.

Also posted in Play | Comments closed

Six Things to Say No That Will Make Your Next Meeting The Best One Yet

“I remember there were a couple of calls, but I ripped the phone out of the wall and threw it in the ravine.” – Daniel Lanois, producer of Peter Gabriel’s album So.  In both our Influencing Without Authority training and Speaking & Presentation Skills training teams learn how important focus is to get someone to be moved enough to change their mind.   Distractions need to be removed and ‘thrown in the ravine’.   In the next meeting you’re running make any of the following a rule. Each rule will help focus.  No phones No laptopsNo PowerpointNo handoutsNo chairsNo table Now try any of the above on your own. If some part of your day requires you to actually get something done, you need to focus. That means you rip out the distractions and throw them in the ravine.  PS: Influence Without Authority team development training is completely revamped. It’s shown proven results that lead to more effective influencing. Who do you want to influence? 

Also posted in Play, Purpose, Influence | Comments closed

“No phone calls” How Daniel Lanois produced Peter Gabriel’s masterpiece So

“Phone calls in the studio are the enemy of making good records. If you’re taking calls and trying to line up your next project, your mind isn’t going to be on the matter at hand. If I can give one piece of advice to anybody making music in the studio, it’s get rid of the phones. “ How did that play out in recording So? “We just kept going in the same location, in an old farmhouse that had a studio set up in a cattle barn. It was nice and private, and I liked that. It’s in the west country of England, a little village called Ashton, so there weren’t too many distractions. When I work, I don’t do anything else, so the less distractions the better.” “As I said earlier, I don’t take a bunch of phone calls or try to line up the next big thing. This was the opposite of cellphone times because we didn’t have cellphones then; you couldn’t even make a phone call out of the west country of England, so that was a plus. I remember there were a couple of calls, but I ripped the phone out of the wall and threw it in the ravine. [Laughs]” According to others in the studio, he actually did. Contrast that with what you see around you every day. The whole world is looking down. And think of all the great, lasting works of art created and deep thinking done lately. Just kidding! If you’re looking down, you can’t look up at the same time. Distraction is the enemy of focus. Distraction is also the enemy of boredom, something we have a collective phobia of.  Rip out your phone from your pocket or from in front of your eyeballs. Place it gently in the ravine. Now you can look up and get the work you want done…done. PS: Influence Without Authority team development training is completely revamped. It’s shown proven results that lead to more effective influencing. Who do you want to influence?

Also posted in Purpose, Influence | Comments closed

“All the children on the record” Daniel Lanois on U2’s Unforgottable Fire

Producer Daniel Lanois first worked with U2 in 1984 for The Unforgettable Fire.  “It was a lot of traveling for me, and I got to work in a location outside of the average studio. We were in a castle, so I had to make that work. For me, it was the beginning of mobile recording and flying equipment around in cases. On a sheer physical level, it was a very new experience, doing something outside of a conventional studio.” “The band wanted to be in a location that had some life in it, a place that had a sense of history. We were treating it like a show, really. We set the whole studio up around the band rather than bringing the band to the studio. It’s a more renegade way of working, but I see it as bowing down to the music as opposed to bowing down to the studio. I think it was a milestone in that way.” This type of orientation shift is what is called for when we want to influence someone. We leave our comfort zone. We meet them where they live. That is what empathy is. We walk in their shoes. We put ‘the band’ in the center. Not the tools. Intuitive apps are like that. And lots of things – forms that need to be filled out for example – aren’t. If we’re asked to do something more mechanistically so a computer or a Simpsons-esque ‘drone in sector C’ unskilled worker can have an easier time of it, that isn’t an attempt to positively influence you.  And what about the title of this post? “I treated the song Pride just like all the other children on the record.” Each song a child, a living, breathing vulnerable thing that needs tending or care. Not a product. What if we looked at our work, no matter how mechanistic it appears, as our children? That email, that meeting. It may be maddening, and it may bring enough passion into something so dry that you could actually influence someone for the better today. Bonus: You can check out the video for the song here. PS: Influence Without Authority team development training is completely revamped. It’s shown proven results that lead to more effective influencing. Who do you want to influence?

Also posted in Purpose, Influence | Comments closed

“If you can breathe you can play harmonica”

Lou and I combined have led over a hundred Play the Blues harmonica team building activities for corporate groups. In 2017 and 2018 we tried something different. We’ve been teaching open classes at our local libraries. It’s been great – a win/win. We give something back both to our communities we live in and the libraries we both love so much. And being with really young kids, their Moms and Dads, seniors and everyone in-between really fills the heart. It puts a spotlight on how hard it is in the corporate world for everyone involved. In contrast general anxiety, overwhelm, suspicion, and entitlement is magically erased with kids and adults together. Shared, genuine appreciation feeds a deep spring inside. Scott Calzolaio from the Milford Daily News stopped by and wrote a story about it. Here it is below (or you can read it at their site here): Blues, country, rock ‘n’ roll, and others, the harmonica is found most everywhere in the music spectrum. With a few breaths of air, musician Lou Manzi pushed some twangy blues out of his harmonica at the Medway Library on Wednesday afternoon. He was showing off techniques like bending notes, and using his hand to make what he called a “wah-wah” sound, during their bi-weekly lesson. Manzi led this lesson, filling in for regular teacher Rob Fletcher. Manzi recapped the basics before getting into the blues and rock ‘n’ roll techniques that create a great harmonica player. He has been a musician since the 1970s, playing in bands, teaching guitar, and doing other projects. Now retired, he plays with a swing and blues band called The Howling Hound Dogs, and teaches lessons. He said the best way to improve while learning the harmonica, like anything else, is practice. “It’s kind of a wacky instrument because in some ways it’s very easy just to make a sound. If you can breathe, you can play the harmonica,” he laughed. “But can you really play the harmonica really good? Probably not.” The challenge, he said, is getting to know the instrument more intimately by practicing each note one at a time, and mastering it. He said it isn’t as easy as it looks, but he can make a good harmonica player out of anyone. After about 40 years of playing, Manzi said he’s still not the harmonica master he wants to be, but there’s always room for improvement with any instrument, and he’s still learning. “I like Little Walter the most,” he said. “I like the early players the most, like Sonny Boy Williamson.” A group of budding blues players of all ages on Wednesday learned songs such as Billy Joel’s Piano Man to Beethoven’s Ode To Joy. “We’re very interested in music, and I just love exploring new options,” said Holliston resident Nicole McWilliams, explaining why she joined the class. Her son Andrew McWilliams, 11, took the lesson with her. Andrew brought along his own harmonica collection to flaunt during hour–long session. “We’re just a musical family, I’ve been into music for awhile,” he said, explaining that he plays guitar and trumpet. “I already play harmonica, but I wanted to get more involved.” Some had more personal reasons for wanting to learn. Medway resident Pat Mailman said she’s following the legacy of her father. “In fact, my dad was pretty good at it,” she said. “I lost him about a year ago, so I figured I’d give it a shot.” When it comes to the instrument, Manzi said there is a lot that sets it apart from others. Being able to manipulate one sound in a variety of ways is what makes the harmonica so versatile among music genres. “There’s a lot unique about harmonica. For one, you can put it in your shirt pocket,” he said. “It’s very expressive in the fact that you can imitate a singer or a human voice with it.”

Also posted in Quest Stories | Comments closed

Quix Tip: Top Ten Songs You Can Play Along With on Your C Harmonica

If you have a harmonica in the key of C you can play along with recordings of these songs. Pick your spot on the harmonica and try drawing air in, or blowing air out. It’s fun and easy too! Piano Man by Billy Joel – Play out more than in, melody is in the middle, starting on Hole Six, Blow out. Love Me Do by the Beatles – Draw in first on the bottom three holes and then when the chord changes, blow out on the bottom three holes. Repeat. Or try playing the single note melody on the middle of the harmonica. The first note is Hole Five, draw in. Come Together by the Beatles – This very easy melody can be played almost entirely on Holes Four and Five, drawing in. Start on Hole Five, drawing in. Early in the Morning by Louis Jordan – Draw in first on the bottom three holes and then when the chord changes, blow out on the bottom three holes to play this blues rumba. Repeat. In the one spot of the song that sounds different, draw in on Hole One only. Ode to Joy by Pete Seeger (This lovely version of Beethoven’s melody from the Ninth Symphony is on Pete’s album simply titled Pete) Play out more than in. Melody is in the middle. Start on Hole Five – blow out. Rawhide by Frankie Laine (yes, this is the same classic Rawhide that the Blues Brothers did) – Play the melody only. The first phrase moves back and forth on Hole Two, blow out and then Hole Three, blow out, starting on Hole Two. The second phrase moves back and forth on Hole Two, draw in and then Hole Three, draw in and moves up from there. Can’t Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley (His version on Aloha From Hawaii begins in the key of C) – Play the melody, the first three notes are Hole Four, blow out; Hole Six, blow out; Hole Four, blow out. These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ by Nancy Sinatra – Play the melody starting (and staying on for a while) Hole Five, Blow out. We Shall Overcome, Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, and Swing Low Sweet Chariot (all recordings by Charlie Haden and Hank Jones on their beautiful album of spirituals Steal Away) – Try playing the melodies on the middle of the harmonica. Batman (the original wacky 60s TV show theme) – Draw in first on the bottom three holes and then when the chord changes blow out on the bottom three holes. Then repeat. In the one spot of the song that sounds different, draw in on Hole One only. Don’t forget to also add the ‘Bat-man’ vocal part! *The melodies of any simple folk songs, most Americana songs (Shenandoah, Amazing Grace, etc.) can be played, also spirituals and nursery rhymes. You don’t need a recording, just try to find the melody in the middle of the harmonica. Where to get a C harmonica – If you’re a graduate of our Play the Blues program you are already the owner of a C harmonica. If you’re not, it’s time to get your team in tune and give us a call! If you want to try these songs on your own before then, go to a music store and ask for a harmonica in the key of C. Or here on Amazon. Where to get recordings of these songs – The iTunes store, the library or your favorite local music store. Learn more: Play the Blues – Learn to play the blues harmonica in just two hours! Each team member will receive their own harmonica, a copy of Blues Harmonica for Beginners book and play-a-long CD. Within minutes you will be playing a real blues song together. The grand finale features your team as the stars performing an original blues song that you have created together!

Also posted in Play | Comments closed