Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Birthday Sophie (B Hawkins)!

Ms. Sophie

"Trains?! I don't care about no stinking trains!"

Milking the Cows. Oops!

Doing It

This morning it's my great pleasure to help celebrate the birthday of my favorite contemporary singer and songwriter, Ms. Sophie B. Hawkins!
Sophie Ballantine Hawkins was born in Manhattan, New York, and used that background in some of the songs on her first album, "Tongues and Tails." She has since moved to Los Angeles, Venice, specifically, right next door to where my lovely case manager, Erin resides in Santa Monica, although she spends a great deal of time touring around the country (but not very much in L.A., damn it!).
This is going to be a rather easy birthday tribute for me as I'm going to let Sophie herself tell of her life in her own poetic words in this account she provided on the occasion of the release of "Timbre," her third album:
"My childhood was Huckleberry Finn in Manhattan. My Mississippi was Central Park. My raft was my skateboard. And my Jim was the songs in my soul that I was someday going to write. The Tom Sawyers came and went, eventually, to Princeton, Harvard or Yale.
At 14, I met an African drummer who taught me all sorts of African and Brazilian instruments, songs and dances. He took me to Black Orpheus and the National Dance Ballet of Senegal. He took me uptown to Mickels to hear Art Blakey and Max Roach, and downtown to Tramps at four
in the morning to hear Big Joe Turner sing the way-blue blues.
My sister wanted to kill me because when I was home I was practicing drums, drums and more drums, and when I wasn't home--during the overlapping wee hours--I was experiencing the
mystic bliss of love, life, music and tequila sunrise.
I never saw my friends again. I began to find a new family in the sensual world of cocoa butter, lanolin and goat skins soaking in the bathtub. I only wanted to play music, which began to branch out into jazz, vibraphone and classical marimba. Milt Jackson became my hero.
I showed up for one class during my junior and half a senior year at Trinity High School and that was English Literature with Miss France. Mr. Herland, my history teacher, said I could make it into Harvard and should, but I wanted to go to the Manhattan School of Music. So I did.
I stayed a year at the Manhattan School of Music and absolutely loved it. I majored, of course, in percussion. I was also playing drums in a couple of bands, one of which I particularly dug called the "Pink Men," and I finally began to write those songs I had always meant to.
I sung them from behind the drum set in bars like the Blue Hose Cafe, Kenny's Castaways and all those other dives, until one night a guy came up to me and asked if I wanted to record them in his home studio on Seventh Street and Avenue D. And I did. He gave me the keys to his house, a brief technical lesson, and let me work alone in his studio while he drove his cab on the graveyard shift. I showed up after midnight and left before six a.m., our gossamer paths never crossing, until I had completed a 50 song demo tape. Somewhere in all of this I had loved, lost
and left music school.
Many bands and instruments later, I found myself acting in off-off Broadway plays, writing and performing music for established artists on the raw, exotic irreverent downtown scene, playing drums for dance classes at NYU and working as a coat check at Orso on 46th Street. I was very happy.
One night a guy waltzes in and I check his coat. He likes my voice. He asks if I can sing and I say 'yes,' pulling out my tattered demo tape. He takes it, sincerely, and tells me his name is Marc Cohn.
Next thing, I get a call to come down and sing a jingle for Nestle White Chocolate-it's called appropriately "Sweet Dreams." I get a hunger check in the mail than I ever knew existed, I get residuals, I get in the union, and I get another call.
It's Bryan Ferry from London. I had never been further away from NYC then Cape Cod. He wants me to audition for his upcoming tour, and my demo tape is playing in the background of his limousine. It's a song called "Meet Me On The Rooftop." What does he want me to play on this damn tour? Maybe percussion, some drums, how about singing a few backgrounds?
I run out and get all of his other albums--I only had Avalon--and arrange vibraphone and marimba parts for all of his songs, figuring that's going to be my most original contribution. I spend 12 hours a day practicing for this gig. I show up in a Laura Ashley dress with my hair up
and he tells Andy Newmark that I remind him of Maggie Thatcher.
He keeps me on for two months, gives me a bonus, then politely fires me. I get another call.
It's Ralph, he grabbed my tape from the jingle house and heard "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover" on his Walkman while riding the F train to Brooklyn. He thinks I should get a record deal. He thinks he can help. He does.
I sign to Columbia and make a record, and then another, and now this one, Timbre, which I produced as well as the usual written-and-performed by. I'm proud of this record, very proud. I fought hard and long to be able to express my musical vision this clearly and purely, and I'm more excited than ever about my path as a musician, writer, visual artist and force of nature.
I'm learning to play the cello now and working on a novel. I moved to California. My friend Gigi made a documentary about me which is doing very well. We're working on another movie (Beyond City Limits). I'm also studying Hebrew, but I'm not part of the Kabala clique in this
town-I'd rather read it own my own.
This album is dedicated to a social cause (environmental groups around the world), and that makes me happy to promote it. A percentage of sales is going to this cause. YAY!

Sophie B. Hawkins"

I first became aware of Sophie when watching her perform on the "Tonight Show," with Jay Leno, way back in the early 90s, in my little room on the second floor of the Pasadena Adult Rehabilitation Center of the Salvation Army. She sang two songs from her first album, her first major hit, and probably her signature song, "Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover," and her cover of Bob Dylan's "I Want You." I loved the songs, I loved her voice, she was certainly quite beautiful... for a girl. She seemed rather brash, sitting talking to Jay (apparently she had been on the show once before, and had received a great deal of success since the first time), wearing a short skirt, legs spread in a decidedly un-ladylike fashion. Who is this woman, I asked myself. And the very next day I bought "Tongues and Tails," from the same Music Plus store where we got our Saturday and Sunday night VCR movies. I've been a fan ever since.
I have all of her CDs except the "Best Of" album (I still refer to musical releases as albums. I don't know why), which I don't need since I have all of the others. I fondly remember listening to her music while driving the long miles between L.A. and Bullhead City, AZ, where my mom and sister lived.
That first album of hers got her nominated for the Best New Artist at the Grammys in 1993. Her second album contained the hits, "As I Lay Me Down," and "Right Beside You" (check it out: ).
She left Sony Music over artist differences, when the suits who worked there wanted to change her arrangements on her third album, and began her own label, Trumpet Swan Productions, where she released an expanded version.
In 1998 "The Cream Will Rise," was released, a documentary by Gigi Gaston, Sophie's long time partner and manager, was released, which documented Sophie's tours and her struggles with past problems concerning her mother and brother. Family... what can you do? Sophie provides the music for the film. A link to her web site can be found to the right.
Her first independently recorded and distributed album, "Wilderness," was released in 2004.
She is a vegan and a long-time supporter of animal rights, and last May affiliated herself with Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect over 100,000 miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.
On November 18, 2008, she gave birth to a son, Dashiell Gaston Hawkins.
Sophie is an original "free spirit," and all of us here at Joyce's Take love her, wish her and her son, and anybody else she cares about or happens to meet, continued good fortune, much health, and peace. And of course... a very happy birthday!
Happy Birthday Sophie!

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