When I was a kid, my father (who had turned pro at the age of four, and literally grew up in show business) used to tell me that the biggest stars (or at least the ones who’d been in the business the longest) were the nicest people. He attributed this to the fact that “you meet the same people on the way down as you do going up,” and therefore the successful artists were the ones who were nice to everybody, and made few enemies on the way up. I’ve seen that hold true in my own experience. I’m not talking about the “overnight success” types – poptarts like Britney Spears. I’m referring to people that start in the business when they’re young, usually with either a parent (or two) in the business, or a mentor that has years of show business experience. These are the people that, regardless of their fame or fortune, remain “real” – genuinely nice people, who treat everyone well, without regard to who they are or how they can benefit from a kindness. I recently had the privilege to exchange a couple of emails with one such person, and I’d like to tell you about it.
Lorraine Feather is a name you’re likely familiar with, if you’re a jazz fan. Her father, Leonard Feather, was without a doubt, the best-known jazz critic in the world. He authored close to a dozen books on the subject, and was no mean jazz pianist, himself. Her mom, Dinah, was a jazz singer. Her godmother was Billie Holiday. You could say that Lorraine grew up surrounded by pros, in the very center of the business of jazz.
In her own right, she’s had a comfortable career, both on Broadway (Jesus Christ Superstar), and as a performer/recording artist. She’s also an award-winning (seven – count ’em – Emmy nominations) lyricist. To say she’s “talented” is a gross understatement.
Every so often, I get some tune rattling ’round my brain, and it just won’t go gently into that good night. Dunno why. Recently, a song called Local Hero has taken it’s turn to haunt me. It’s a fairly obscure tune, and because of it’s history, not that easy to track down. Here’s why. Originally, it was penned by the jazz/fusion group the Yellowjackets as an instrumental. A few years later, a group called Full Swing (a jazz trio, featuring Lorraine’s vocal and lyricist talents) covered it, but this time as an instrumental. But that wasn’t the end of the story. The Yellowjackets recorded it one more time, this time with a new title (“The Dream”) with lyrics by singer/songwriter Michael Franks. I’ve heard all three recordings. I like the one Lorraine wrote and recorded the best.
When I lived in Dallas, there was a then-new radio station called “The Oasis” that featured “smooth jazz.” Local Hero was featured prominently on their rotation for the better part of a year. Unfortunately, The Oasis’ format didn’t allow for a lot of DJ announcements regarding the name of the artists or albums they played. As a result, until today, I had no idea who’d recorded the song, or the name of the album that included the track. I love a good mystery, and in my book, this qualified. I started doing some research, and turned up the name of the group, and Lorraine’s name. After a quick search (thanks, Google!) I turned up her website. No email address, but I did find a way to sign up for her newsletter. I sent in a question, presumably to some anonymous web admin, hoping I could find the name of the album, a lead sheet, or some lyrics.
Within a few minutes, I receive a reply. From Lorraine herself. I quickly discovered that she is an absolutely genuine, charming woman, who is as nice as she is talented. Here’s a successful recording artist, busy with a successful career, performing and writing, and she takes the time to answer a website inquiry personally. Now THAT’S impressive.
So, aside from wanting to share a story about a positive experience with a star who’s also a really nice person, I’d like to introduce you to her music. If you like jazz with lyrics that will appeal to your intellectual side (based on her lyrics, I’d say she has a wickedly funny sense of humor), check out her website: www.lorrainefeather.com. You can also find some of her work available on iTunes and amazon.com. Her site offers snippets of her songs on several albums. Take a listen. If you like what you hear, buy an album. Or two. Or three. Then sit back, relax, and take a listen to a real pro at work.