Lee Fields: Bio sam tu kad je soul bio mlad

Jedan poseban dan u istoriji popularne muzike – komemoracija Majklu Džeksonu (dan je, naravno, sasvim slučajno izabran) – bio je idealan za razgovor sa Lijem Fildsom.

Četrdeset godina Li tvrdoglavo odbija da se preda, pravi muziku koji voli – često samo za svoju dušu, a u 2009. doživeo je da objavi svoj najbolji album u karijeri My World uz pomoć prijatelja iz izdavačke kuće i studija Truth & Soul.

Obiman i opširan transkript razgovora sa liderom the Expressionsa (razgovarala je Svetlana Đolović) je pred vama.

PD • Gospodine Filds, pre svega, želim da Vam čestitam na divnom albumu. My World je jedno od naših omiljenih izdanja ove godine.

Lee Fields • Hvala.

PD • Snimate muziku već četrdeset godina. Počeli ste sa sedamnaest, zar ne?
LF • Otprilike sa sedamnaest, osamnaest.

PD • Da li ste tada znali da ćete se četrdeset godina kasnije i dalje baviti muzikom? Kako su uopšte izgledali Vaši počeci?
LF • Kada sam počeo, odmah sam znao da ću se muzikom baviti do kraja – takav je moj odnos prema muzici. Osećao sam da će, dok god budem imao šta da kažem, biti onih koji će to umeti da čuju. Osećao sam da je to moja misija. Nisam imao pojma da će trajati ovako dugo, da ću opstati svih ovih godina iako nisam super poznat, ali dovoljno posvećenih fanova koji su pratili sve u šta sam se upuštao, učinili su da sve ovo ima smisla.

PD • Imate kultni status u soul muzici sa obe strane okeana. Ljudi u Evropi, naročito Britaniji i Francuskoj vrlo dobro poznaju Vaš rad, a evo čuli su za Vas čak i ovde u Srbiji. Ipak malo ljudi zna da ste svirali sa Kool and the Gang, ali da nikad sa njima ništa niste snimili. S tim u vezi, postoji li nešto za čim žalite u karijeri?
LF • U tom kratkom periodu sa Kool and the Gang naučio sam vrlo važnu životnu lekciju – oni su mi pokazali šta znači disciplina u kreativnom procesu, bilo na bini ili u studiju. Godinama sam se sa radošću sećao naših rasprava o tome kako da sledeću setlistu učinimo boljom. Iako zapravo nikada nisam imao priliku da bilo šta snimim s njima, pokojni Džini Red (Gene Redd) je, u stvari, bio čovek koji nas je okupio. A onda nas je povezao sa Tedijem Pauelom (Teddy Powell), koji je u to vreme bio jedan od najvećih promotera u Americi, naročito za Istočnu obalu i Srednji zapad. Svi veliki koncerti ugovarali su se preko Tedija Pauela. Ako si objavio album koji se dobro prodavao, obavezno si morao da radiš s njim. I tako, oni su imali neku viziju da ja nastupam sa Kool and the Gang. Ali kod mene su se u to vreme dešavale razne stvari, bio sam neobuzdan i pun sebe, a oni su bili tako fokusirani, zaista usredsređena grupa individualaca. Disciplina koju sam upoznao radeći s njima, ostala je do danas lekcija za mene, iako u to vreme nisam mogao da je prihvatim. Tada sam se tek doselio u Njujork, bio sam još klinac i nisam razumeo koliko je važno biti fokusiran. Neki ljudi se rode sa tom sposobnošću, neki je steknu relativno rano, a ja sam je učio sećajući se koliko su ti momci bili disciplinovani. Skidam kapu Kool & The Gang, živela njihova muzika! 

PD • Ove godine obeležavamo 50 godina od osnivanja Motauna (Motown), Vi ste na albumu snimili obradu jednog Motaun klasika, My World Is Empty Without You. Bili ste svedok mnogih faza u razvoju soul muzike kroz decenije, kako danas vidite istoriju soula od šezdesetih do danas?
LF • U vreme kada su ljudi počeli da upotrebljavaju izraz soul, to je bila muzika koja je samo na korak bila udaljena od gospela. Jedina razlika, u vreme kad sam ja počinjao, bila je ta što soul pevači, iako potekli iz crkve, nisu više pevali samo o tome kako je Bog veliki, već su počeli da pevaju i o stvarima koje su dešavale na planeti. Pevali su o stvarnim situacijama u kojima su se ljudi nalazili, i to na dirljiv način. I pored toga što neko može da bude religiozan, i to duboko religiozan, odnos prema Bogu nemaju svi ljudi, ali zato svakoga dotiče smrt ili gubitak voljene osobe, kriza, siromaštvo, neplaćeni računi, i to su teme kojima su se bavili soul pevači, pored onih veselih koje su slavile igru, zabavu, i razne druge stvari. Soul se uvek ticao trenutka u kome se nalazimo. Na početku, soul se manje-više bavio stvarnošću, zapravo, slavio je život. Kako se muzika menjala, odrednica soulje privremeno nestala. Mislim, nije baš nestala, nego se nije više tako često upotrebljavala, a zatim je prerasla u urbani R’n’B. Naravno, prvo je postojao ritam i bluz, koji se bavio turobnijom stranom života, bolom i čemerom. Ponekad su soul ploče bile jako blizu gospelu, kao u slučaju Staple Singers, da je bilo teško odrediti granicu. Kako je popularna muzika postajala psihodeličnija, kako su muzičari postajali sve veći majstori i virtuzi, kako su aranžmani bili sve složeniji, soul je počeo da se vraća, to se nastavilo i dolaskom elektronike, a odnedavno je ponovo ušao na velika vrata, jer je ljudima nedostajao u toj praznini. Dakle, u čemu je stvar? U soulu je ideja da se kroz pesmu prenese poruka, bilo da je ona ‘voli’, ‘pleši‘, ili ‘zabavljaj se’. Saopštavaš tu poruku kao da ti je sam tvorac stavio u usta, jer ona dolazi iz najintimnijih delova tvoje duše. Svodi se na to da pevaš o onome što ti je u duši. Za mene soul znači dobar provod, a ne popovanje. Ljudi uvek prepoznaju kad pogodiš pravi osećaj, jer se on prenese na njih.

PD • Vi ste savremenik nekoliko generacija značajnih ličnosti našeg vremena – videli ste jednog Džemsa Brauna, jednog Majkla Džeksona (Michael Jackson), čak i prvog Afro-američkog predsednika. Da asociramo sada na ime albuma, kakav je Vaš svet nakon svih tih iskustava i kako su ga ona menjala?
LF • Prisustvovao sam usponu Džejmsa Brauna (James Brown) i video sam zenit Otisa Redinga (Otis Redding). Moj otac je često slušao Džimija Rida (Jimmy Reed), Madija Votersa (Muddy Waters) i muzičare sličnog stila. Kao dete slušao sam puno kantri i vestern. U Južnoj Karolini u to vreme bilo je teško naći neku radio stanicu koja pušta soul – u najboljem slučaju ako se ponegde i puštao bilo bi to jedan sat i to vikendom. Za ljubitelje soula obavezne su bile emisije Džona Ričburga (John Richbourg), zvanog Džoni R, koji je bio jedan od najpoznatijih disk džokeja iz Nešvila. Kasnije sam snimio pesmu koju je on objavio na svojoj etiketi. Bilo je strašno uzbudljivo videti na vrhuncu karijere Džejmsa Brauna, Otisa Redinga, Sema Kuka (Sam Cooke), Džekija Vilsona (Jackie Wilson). Jednom prilikom saznao sam da Otis svira u našem kraju, u mesnoj zajednici, ali nisam imao dovoljno para da kupim kartu, a majka nikako nije smela da sazna gde i kako provodim vreme van kuće. Tako sam ja odslušao ceo koncert napolju. U to vreme bilo je baš nezgodno biti crno dete na Jugu. Kao mladić upoznao sam Solomona Burka koji mi je dao neke pametne savete u vezi sa finansijama, a svi znamo da je muzički biznis pun uspona i padova. Video sam veličinu Majkla Džeksona, i vrhunac Motauna, prosto je neverovatno što svega toga mogu da se setim a da ne pogledam nijednu ploču, jer sam bio tamo. Bio sam tu kad je soul bio mlad i skroz mi je neverovatno da sam i sam učestvovao u tome, a danas sam presrećan i zahvalan što se publika ponovo masovno vraća soulu. Iako se nisam obogatio, dobro sam prošao i ne bih promenio nijednu jedinu stvar. Zato što ono što sam proživeo ne može da se kupi novcem. Novac ne može da kupi razgovore sa Edijem Flojdom (Eddie Floyd) ili Persijem Sledžom (Percy Sledge) u njihovim zlatnim danima. Vreme koje sam proveo sa njima iza bine kao klinac ništa ne može da zameni. Čak i sećanja vezana za moju porodicu iz tog vremena su neprocenjiva. Veoma sam zahvalan svim pravim ljubiteljima muzike danas i nastaviću da se bavim ovim dok god ne budem nateran da prestanem.

PD • Pomenuli smo Motaun, a poznato je da je oduvek postojalo rivalstvo između Motauna i Staksa (Stax), pa me zanima, koji zvuk više odgovara Vašem senzibilitetu i da li više volite Memfis ili Detroit?

LF • Pažljivo ću da odgovorim na ovo pitanje kako nešto izvučeno iz konteksta ne bi ostavilo pogrešan utisak. Prvo da kažem da volim i jedne i druge. Ali, u Staks su muzičari dolazili onakvi kakvi jesu, sirovi i iskreni. U Motaunu muzičari su prolazili kroz proces poliranja. Nisam bio tamo, ali po onome što sam čuo čak ni velikog Marvina Geja (Marvin Gaye) nije zaobišlo to pickanje, ali on je bez obzira na to bio i ostao neponovljivi Marvin Gej. On je bio autentičan, ali mnogi muzičari su bili toliko ulickani da su delovali kao da dolaze iz neke druge zemlje, a ne iz Detroita. Pravili su fantastičnu muziku, bez obzira na to što je ona bilaispolirana. Takav utisak sam imao slušajući ih i gledajući ih na televiziji. Činilo mi se kao da ih neko savetuje kako da se ponašaju, jer su u to vreme, rasne razlike bile jako izražene. Meni su oni izgledali kao da ih neko podučava kako da budu prihvaćeni u društvu koje nije bilo gostoljubivo prema crncima. A ovoispolirani ne znači ništa negativno. Za razliku od Motauna, muzičari koji su objavljivali za Staks izgledali su prirodno. Kada vidite Vilsona Piketa (Wilson Pickett), to je prosto on, nema laži nema prevare. Motaunovi artisti su izgledali kao da ih neko ulepšava da bi se dopali tržištu. Ali, što se same muzike tiče, volim ih podjednako, zato što je, na kraju krajeva, talenat uvek uspevao da zablista čak i ispod te ispoliranosti. Nadam se da sam se dobro izrazio…

PD • Sa Motaunom, soul muzika je imala veliku šansu da postane mejnstrim u Americi šezdesetih.
LF • Apsolutno. Ta ispoliranost koju sam malopre pomenuo, počela je da se prenosi sa Motauna na druge diskografske kuće. To je kao kad mi sad razgovaramo – da živimo u istom gradu, ja bih se verovatno izražavao drugačije, kolokvijalnije, ali pošto treba da prenesem svoje misli slušaocima u nekoj drugoj zemlji, prilagodio sam svoj govor da biste bolje razumeli ono što želim da kažem. Da mi sad sedimo ovde kod mene i kuliramo, moj govor, izbor reči bi se potpuno razlikovali. Gledajući u TV emisijama kako sebe predstavljaju Motaunovi izvođači, naučio sam kako se treba truditi da budeš na visini zadatka kada je komunikacija u pitanju. To je bila značajna stvar. Motaun nas je naučio, i to ne samo nas ovde u Americi, već i širom sveta, kako jedan muzičar treba da se ponaša da bi stekao širu publiku.

PD • Vratimo se albumu My WorldTruth and Soul je kao bonus stavio Alou Blekov (Aloe Blacc) remiks naslovne pesme. Kako Vam se sviđa?
LF • Mislim da je Alou jedan od najtalentovanijih mladih muzičara koji se pojavio u poslednje vreme. Polaskan sam i počastvovan što je uzeo da remiksuje neku moju pesmu. Velika čast – jer zaista verujem u njegov talenat.

PD • Mi ovde s nestpljnjem iščekujemo njegov novi album.
LF • O da, verujem da će mnogi uživati u njegovom talentu kad se album pojavi na tržištu. Drago mi je što sam imao priliku i da ga upoznam. Mislim da će on biti značajan umetnik u današnjim muzičkim prilikama.

PD • Njegova verzija My World zvuči turobnije i ozbiljnije. Izgleda kao da mlađe generacije shvataju stvari previše ozbiljno. Meni se čini da nisu tako puni nade kao stariji koji su iskusili puno toga u istoriji soula. Kakve su mlađe generacije danas u Americi i u svetu uopšte, bilo da radite s njima ili da su publika? Postoji li izvesno očajanje u njihovom doživljaju soula danas?
LF • Prvo, što se tiče Alouove verzije pesme, ona iznosi izrazitije i oštrije političke stavove, to je razumljivo. Što se tiče mlađih generacija, zašto nisu optimistični kao što smo bili mi? Zato što su mladi u moje vreme mogli lakše da nađu posao i da prihvate sve one obaveze koje iz toga slede, i tako sve do penzije. Postojala je nekakva izvesnost, bez obzira na to što ništa na ovom svetu nije bilo niti će biti izvesno, a ona je dolazila od saznanja da kompanije imaju određenu dugovečnost, da će opstati duži vremenski period. Tako da je moja generacija bila optimističnija jer smo mogli da se školujemo, nađemo posao, zaradimo penziju, osnujemo porodicu i ostvarimo svoju verziju Američkog sna, ili bilo kog sna. Ali svet se promenio. Sada uglavnom očekujemo najgore, i niko se ne bi iznenadio da se to i desi. Propadaju poznate banke i firme. Očekujemo veliku bedu. Mladi su ogorčeni jer su im izneverena očekivanja pa nemaju razlog za optimizam. Zbog toga su njihovi tekstovi u pesmama danas dubokoumniji i provokativniji. Takva je i Alouova verzija – oštra. Ja gladam da izbegnem da pevam o politici. Pesmu My World nisam ja napisao. Dali su mi je u studiju i osetio sam da je značajna jer govori o stvarnosti. Ali ja načelno izbegavam politiku i religiju u muzici, trudim se da se držim pevanja jer verujem u to da pevači treba da pevaju, političari da vode politiku, propovednici da propovedaju – svako treba da radi ono što mu je posao. Nisam političar i bilo bi mi teško da se popnem na binu i pričam o politici. Ona mi prosto ne leži.

PD • U redu, ali ste zato ekspert u jednoj drugoj oblasti…. Naša omiljena pesma na albumu je Ladies, recite nam nešto o svojoj fascinaciji ženama.
LF • Žene su za mene velika inspiracija i nadam se da će kogod da bude slušao ovo što pričam, gde god da se nalazi, čuti moje reči. I nadam se da će se svi muškarci složiti sa mnom. Za mene, žene daju smisao muškarcu, da se razvije i da postane najbolji što može, u skladu sa svojim mogućnostima. Takođe mislim da je isto i za svaku ženu, muškarac daje smisao ili cilj njihovom životu. Znam da danas postoje različiti odnosi između ljudi i zaista ne želim ovde da popujem o bilo kojoj određenoj vrsti veze. a ja budem primer. Što se mene tiče, žene su dragulji ovog sveta i čini me srećnim da samo pričam o njima u superlativu. Sve što mogu da kažem o njima kroz moju muziku, je da im odam počast i da ih volim. Za mene je moja majka bila velika inspiracija, a takođe i moja žena, moja ćerka – ja zaista volim žene, sve žene. Ova pesma Ladies je od srca, vrlo je iskrena i svaka reč je istinita. Ja prosto volim žene, volim da ih činim srećnim… Žene nas rađaju, svi mi na svet dolazimo kroz žene i zar to već nije dovoljno da ih obožavam.

PD • Vaša diskografija je prilično neuhvatljiva, da li bi ste zbog toga mogli da izdvojite nekoliko najvažnijih momenata, za nekoga ko je sada prvi put čuo za Vas putem albuma My World.

LF • Uradio sam nekoliko pesama sa Martinom Solvegom (Martin Solveig) – JealousyI Want You iEverybody. Bilo je jako zabavno i prijatno raditi s njim tokom poslednjih pet godina, a uskoro ćemo ponovo sarađivati. Vrlo je talentovan, mislim da zaslužuje mnogo bolji status nego što ima, iako ni ovaj koji ima nije loš. Uradio sam nekoliko pesama za diskografsku kuću Soul Fire, a radujem se i ponovnoj saradnji sa Šeron Džouns (Sharon Jones) za etiketu Depton (Daptone).

PD • Recite nam nešto o njoj, kakva je privatno i poslovno?
LF • Šeron je veoma prijatna osoba, bilo da se družite, radite zajedno ili je gledate dok nastupa. Boraviti u njenom društvu je konstantna zabava. Ona život shvata ozbiljno i puna je radosti koja isijava iz nje. Kad ste u njenoj blizini znate da bi u bilo kom trenutku mogla da kaže nešto što će da razveseli celo društvo. Na bini je pravi dinamit, perfekcionista i stvarno sam uživao radeći s njom. Nadam se da ćemo zajedno snimiti još pesama.

PD • Radili ste sa mnogim pratećim bendovima tokom karijere, sada ste sa The Expressions. Kažite nam nešto o samom bendu, a i sa kim ste do sada najbolje sarađivali?
LF • Od živih ljudi s kojima sam radio, ono kratko vreme koje sam proveo sa Kool & The Gang ostavilo je najjači trag jer su ti momci bili takvi perfekcionisti. The Expressions čine mladi ljudi i uživam da radim s njima. Kad god se sastanemo ispadne da se slažemo o svim temama i svako je usredsređen na svoj zadatak. Voleo bih da odemo na turneju zajedno, to bi sigurno bilo divno iskustvo.

PD • Kako je izgledalo snimanje albuma, kako su bile podeljene dužnosti, ko je pisao pesme?
LF • Uglavnom smo koautori većine pesama. Osim kada je u pitanju naslovna pesma, ona je delo Liona i Džefa (Leon Michaels, Jeff Silverman), pravih muzičkih genija. My World je sjajna pesma, prezadovoljan sam kako je ispala. Prilično je neopisivo kako to izgleda kad smo svi zajedno u studiju, ideje nadolaze, stvari se dešavaju… divno iskustvo.

PD • Kako ste odlučili da ponovo snimite Vašu staru pesmu Honey Dove? Kakav je osećaj ponovo snimiti pesmu staru više od trideset godina?
LF • Smatrao sam da će joj novi snimak dati jedan novi tvist i da će tako privući neke nove slušaoce koji će umeti da prepoznaju njenu emociju. Kako čujem sa raznih strana, to se upravo i desilo.
PD • Neretko ste sami izdavali svoje albume i pesme, prošli ste kroz mnogo diskografskih kuća. Kako Vam izgleda sadašnja situacija u kojoj velike diskografske kuće propadaju dok male kuće postaju sve uticajnije?
LF • Oduvek sam mislio da će se muzička industrija vratiti običnom čoveku. Moje jedino iskustvo sa velikim izdavačem je bilo London Records sa Džonom R iz Nešvila, i posle toga nisam imao želju da tražim druge mejdžor izdavače. Ispalo je da muzikom barataju neki klinci koji su upravo izašli sa koledža i uskočili u direktorsku fotelju, bez ikakvog znanja o tome kako se snimaju pesme. Oni svakom albumu prilaze isto kao i prethodnom jer su ih tako naučili u školi. Tako su sve diskografske kuće počele da štancuju albume po jednom kalupu, i muzika je zbog toga već godinama u velikoj stagnaciji. Kuće su nastojale da se otarase svake kreativnosti, umesto da sve počiva na njoj. Ti direktori su se toliko plašili za svoje mesto u firmi, da su zbog toga kad god pronađu neku hit kombinaciju nastojali da je preslikaju na svako sledeće izdanje. Muzička industrija je postala prezasićena zbog direktora koji nisu smeli da rizikuju. Isto se desilo i sa bankama. Drugim rečima, ja verujem u obrazovanje, ali ako završiš koledž i hoćeš da budeš u muzičkoj industriji, moraš da naučiš i kako stvari stoje na terenu. Direktori su navikli samo da plaćaju. Čekovi samo pristižu, zarada je jedino o čemu razmišljaju. Dok za muzičare, s druge strane, nema zarade ako nema koncerata. To je ono što nedostaje. Direktori imaju samo školsko znanje a nedostaje im praktično iskustvo. Samo se brinu o zaradi i o tome da li će sebi nešto moći da priušte. A danas, i to ne samo zbog propasti banaka, nama ostaje samo da se krpimo od danas do sutra. Svet je danas mnogo realniji nego što je ikada bio. Tako da mislim da će prava muzika naći svoj put. Neka muzika je bolja, neka gora, ali ostaviće trag samo ona koja dotakne srce, koja se bavi stvarnim svetom i stvarnim problemima. Sva muzika, ne samo soul, će opstati, ali biće važna jedino ako duboko dotiče naša srca.

PD • Već dugo su hip-hop i rep dominantni muzički pravci u Americi. Možemo li da kažemo da su oni pravedni naslednici soul tradicije danas?
LF • Mislim da je hip-hop i dalje u osnovi ritam i bluz, imaju ritam i preko njega pričaju o svojim problemima, o onome što se dešava na ulici. Ali ja mislim da ta ista priča može da se ispriča bez toliko vulgarnosti. Volim hip-hop ali prostota me odbija. Puno mladih hip-hopera smatra da je vulgarnost ono što prodaje njihovu muziku. Možda i jeste tako, ne znam. Moj osećaj je da ako imaš dobru priču, ne moraš da budeš tako vulgaran.

PD • Šta bi mogla da bude univerzalna poruka soul muzike kroz vreme, naročito danas u ovom prilično sjebanom svetu?
LF • Mislim da je smisao soul muzike, u svetu u kojem živimo danas, da bude realna, da se bavi bitnim, životnim temama koje zaista utiču na ljude, bilo da je to ljubavni život, finansije, žudnja za stvarima ili ljudima, sve što je aktuelno i važno za savremenog čoveka. Bitno je da znamo šta se dešava, a da to ne postane politikantstvo. Moramo da budemo u toku i da pevamo o tome. Neka ljudi sami donose zaključke koji su im potrebni. Jedina politički angažovana pesma na albumu je naslovna, My World – iako je ja nisam napisao, jako je volim. Mislim da tu nismo ni sa čim preterali, a opet smo uspeli da napravimo pravu skicu života i sveta kakav je danas. To je ono što ja mislim da je misija soul muzike – da bude okrenuta stvarnosti, da bude iskrena i da pomaže ljudima da nađu svoje odgovore.

PD • Koja je to onda glavna emocija koju soul prenosi u ovom veku? Nada?
LF • Da se ljudi osećaju bolje. Ne mora u pesmi da se priča o nadi, već o bilo čemu, ali treba prosto da vas oraspoloži. To može čak da bude i satirični pogled na svet, ili gledanje na stvari iz duhovitog ugla, u stilu ‘nije sve tako strašno, ima i zabavnih delova’. Kada slušate dobar album, čini se da vreme prolazi prijatno i opušteno, a vi se samim tim osećate bolje. Nada je uvek tu, nekako je uključena u samo stvaranje muzike.

PD • Priželjkujete li da radite s nekim koga nikad niste upoznali, a cenite ga ili mu se divite?
LF • Da vidimo…iako danas više ne komponujem toliko, voleo bih (mada to nije moguće jer ta osoba više nije živa), da danas mogu da napišem pesmu sa Kurtisom Mejfildom (Curtis Mayfield). Od savremenih muzičara, voleo bih da sarađujem sa Kanjeom Vestom (Kanye West), koji je, naravno, na mnogo naprednijem autorskom nivou od mene, ali mislim da bih mogao da nabacim nekoliko zanimljivih stihova na koje bi on samo dodao ‘To je to, Li!’

LEE FIELDS : I WAS THERE FROM THE INFANCY OF SOUL MUSIC

One special day in the history of pop music – Michael Jackson’s Commemorative Service (although, the day was chosen randomly) – was the perfect setting for the interview with Lee Fields.

For forty years Lee stubbornly refuses to surrender, making music he likes – often just for his soul, and in 2009. he released his career masterpiece My World, with a little help from his friends from Truth & Soul.

Lee Fields interview for POPDepression by Svetlana Đolović

PD • First of all, I would like to congratulate you on a wonderful album that you made this year. My World is one of our favourite albums of 2009.
LEE FIELDS • Thank you.

PD • So, you’ve been recording music for forty years. You started when you were 17, correct?
LF • About 17-18 years old. 

PD • Did you know then that you’d be making music forty years after that and tell me something about your beginnings.
LF • My relationship with music, when I started, I knew I was gonna be in music until the end and I felt like as long as I have something to say that would be worth listening to. That’s what I felt like I was put here for. I had no idea that it would last this long, that I would be working over the years although without super success. Having enough devoted fans to just get into what I would go into, made it all very worthwhile. 

PD • You’re kind of a cult personality in soul music on both sides of the ocean. People in Europe also know you very well, in the UK and in France especially and even here in Serbia. I heard that you were once playing music with Kool And The Gang but you never actually recorded anything with them. Do you have any particular regrets in your career?
LF • When I was with Cool for that brief period, it really taught me something that will last a lifetime and what it taught me is that they showed such discipline in creating the music on stage and recording it. And that lasted through the years with me just remembering how happy we should be when we discuss how to make the next set better.

Although I never got the chance to record with them, the late Gene Redd, he was the guy that actually put everything together. He thought it would be a good idea (to hook us up with) the late Teddy Powell who was a huge promoter in the United States, on the East Coast and Midwest. All of the big shows went through Teddy Powell. If you had a big record out, you were going to be with Teddy Powell.. And they saw a vision. But at the time, I think, it was so many things happening and I was so rambunctious and Kool And The Gang was so focused, they were really a real focused group of individuals.

Now, the discipline I felt was in them at the time, lasted to this day with me, and I wasn’t that disciplined at the time. You know I just came to New York, I was a kid and I didn’t understand the importance of really focusing. Some people are born with that gift, and some get with it very early, but I was thought by just remembering how disciplined those guys were – so hats off to Kool And The Gang and long live their music! 

PD • You witnessed many stages of development of soul music through years and decades, so how do you see this history of soul? This year we are celebrating 50 years of Motown and you chose to cover My World Is Empty Without You on your record, so can you tell me something about the state of the soul since the late 60’s that you witnessed up to now? 

LF • Well, the early stages of soul, when people used the term soul music, it was just one step away from gospel. The only difference between soul music and gospel at that time, when I started, was instead of singing about how great God is, the Lord Christ, the soul singers, although they sprang from the church, were singing about some of the things that went on the planet. They sang about real situations that happened in people’s lives that were moving.

Although a person can be religious, deeply religious but when you watch someone pass away or you lose a loved one or you lost a love to another person or financially you’re just not able to make the payments and things of that nature – that’s what the soul singers would sing about, and they would also sing about dancing, and all kinds of things… That was more or less the moment that we have here. At the beginning of soul it was more or less about the reality of life, a celebration of life actually. As music changed the label ‘soul’ disappeared for a while. It didn’t actually disappear, became sort of like less talked about, and then they changed it to r’n’b which is rhythm and blues, and it is just a form of soul. At first it was rhythm and blues, focused on despairing things in life, the downward side, hurting things. But soul sings about celebration. Sometimes certain soul records were so close to gospel like the Staple Singers, you know, it was gospel and it was soul at the same time.

Through rhythms and blues than came soul and soul just became less talked about for a while. As the music transcended to psychodelic music and (became) more or less about the arrangement of songs and how great musicians were, soul’s feel kind of hung in there and as the music progressed even further into the electronic music that came along in other times, soul was still there, it just wasn’t talked about. So now it seems as if soul is emerging at a rapid pace because I think people missed that void. So what it’s about? It’s about singing it like you’re trying to deliver a message, depending on what the song is, it was a love message, a dance message, ‘just have fun’ message or whatever, singing it like the creator is putting the words in your mouth, because you’re singing it from your most inner portions of your psyche, so it goes down to where you’re actually singing what the spirit tells you to sing. That’s what soul is to me, not what preachers are in about it, but having a good time. People know when you hit that feeling, because they can feel it.

PD • Your album is called My World and in your world you witnessed the life and success of one James Brown, Michael Jackson, you even lived to see the first Afro-American president. Can you tell me something about the world that you’re seeing through these persons that epitomized the world around you and how it how it changed…

LF • I saw the emergence of James when he was at his peak, then I saw the emergence of Otis Redding at his peak and I was highly intrigued. My father used to play the songs of Jimmy Reed and Muddy Waters and people of that nature. And then I remember listening to a lot of country & western. In Carolinas at that time was very difficult to find soul stations, a place that played soul music, they would play on the weekend, maybe for an hour, and then if you wanted to listen to soul music you had to listen to some gentleman out of Nashville, Tennessee and his name was John Richbourg, they called him John R. and I later recorded a record that he put on his label. Watching these artists like James Brown, Otis Redding in their heyday and Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson, I had a chance to see James as a kid, I had a chance to actually listen to Otis as a kid. He was performing live but I didn’t have enough money to go in and see him and my mother didn’t know where I was hanging out at that time, but he was at a community center so I was there to hear him from the outside. Back in those days (the pressure) was just unheard of, especially in the South being a child of colour. It was very difficult, it was kind of rough as I watched the music from James to Otis, from Jackie Wilson to Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke.

I had a chance to meet Solomon Burke at an early age and he gave me some wise information, involving being business savvy, because in the music business there are a lot of ups and a lot of downs. Watching it all the way to the greatness of Michael and Motown it’s amazing for me just to be able to recall that and not to look at a record and say this is what they did in those days, but when I see those records I was there. I was there from the infancy of soul music and now to be in the game after all these years and to see the crowds that are coming out today it’s absolutely amazing and I’m very thankful.

Although I didn’t get rich I had a good time, I did well for myself, and I wouldn’t change a thing. The reason why I wouldn’t change is because what I experienced money can’t buy. Money can’t buy talking to Eddie Floyd in his heyday or Percy Sledge in his heyday, being in the dressing room with them as a kid. And then I have so many memories even of just my family, I wouldn’t change nothing for all of the money in the world. So, I’m very grateful to all of the people that enjoy my music today and I’m gonna continue making music until I’m given some sort of reason to stop.

PD • You mentioned Motown and there was always rivalry between Stax and Motown. What suits your musical sensibility more – the sound of Stax or Motown or with towns generally, do you prefer Memphis or Detroit? 

LF • I’ve gotta be very careful of how I word this so it won’t be misconstrued or misinterpreted. I love Motown and I love Stax both of them are very very dear. With Stax music it seems to me, the artists came to you as themselves, as truly themselves. With Motown, Motown was more, it seems to me, like they went through a polishing process. I wasn’t at Motown but from what I heard when I used to hear Motown music…

Marvin Gaye, man, Marvin Gaye, although he was polished but Marvin Gaye was still Marvin Gaye from the beginning to the end. He still had that – ‘I am what I was’ stamp on him, you know what I mean? But some of the acts were totally so polished that it seemed like they came from another country, although it was out of Detroit. They made the greatest music of our time but you could tell that they were polished. I can only interpret it the way it seemed to me when I used to hear Motown, when I used to see them on TV, that’s the impression that I got. I can’t say they were not, but it seemed to me they were told how to be better off, you know at that time we were going through racial turmoil in this country and it seemed to me they were taught how to be accepted in this world that wasn’t too inviting for blacks at that time.

It seemed to me they were too polished which is a good thing, I’m not saying that as a negative. There was a difference between Stax to me, when you saw somebody from Stax they just came the way they were, you know. Here it is man, you know. If you see Wilson Pickett, he’s just being himself. But Motown artists, it seemed to me they were like groomed or something, they came off as groomed to be more able to adjust to the market. But as far as music is concerned I love Motown and I love Stax, both of them the same because in the final analysis the talent shone through all of the polishing and everything. I hope I said that right.

PD • With Motown I think that soul music had the chance to be really mainstream music in the States in the 60’s.

LF • Absolutely. And I think that polishing that I mentioned that I felt came from those artists, I think everybody, whether they were Motown or not, began to polish themselves up. Like we are doing the interview now, although if we were in another city I might be talking this a bit different, I’d be like ‘what’s up man, you know’, I would probably use some terms and things that I wouldn’t use in regard to trying to convey my thoughts over through radio and trying to get people to understand exactly what I’m trying to say.

I wouldn’t use the terminology if you and I were just sitting and kicking back. Because I learned from Motown the way I felt the way they did with their artists, from what I felt from listening to the guys presenting themselves on talk shows or something, trying to be at your best in regard to communicating. That was a good thing. Motown had it going on and I think they taught not only us in the States but all over the world how artists should conduct themselves in regard to gaining a broader audience.

PD • Truth and Soul put Aloe Blacc’s remix of My World as a bonus to your record. Do you like it?

LF • I would like to say that I think Aloe Blacc is one of the most talented young artists to come along in quite a long time and I’m very flattered and I’m very honored that he decided to cover a track that I did. It’s an honor, because I truly believe in this man’s talent.

PD • We are looking forward to his album also coming out this year.

LF • Oh yeah, and I think once the album hits the market everybody’s gonna enjoy this young man. I had a chance to meet him and it was a great pleasure. I think he’s going to be a major force in this musical world.

PD • I wanted to ask you about this version that he made. It seems a little bit more grave, more serious. It seems like younger generations take things too seriously. They are not so hopeful as older people who witnessed some things in history of soul music. How do you feel about younger generations in the States and generally in the world that you’re working with, that you’re playing in front of? Do you see that there is a sort of desperation that soul would have to erase nowadays?

LF • First, Aloe, as far as his take on the song – it’s a little bit more harder hitting in regard to political views, which I can understand to a certain extent. Regarding the other part of the question in regard to younger artists, this younger generation (is not) being optimistic, as optimistic as my generation was. Because back in the day a young person could go and get a job and they felt that they could probably do what they’re supposed to do, they could last until retirement. In regard to certainty, cause there’s nothing sure on this planet, never has been, but we felt more optimistic in regard to companies being there for the longevity of a company.

So my generation was more optimistic, I could get an education, get a job and I could get a retirement and have a family and have some of the things that everybody dreams of making the American dream or the world dream possible. But the world has changed. In other words, we are expecting now the worst, it wouldn’t be no surprise to anybody… Any name bank or any name institution, they’re going under. So we are expecting calamity. So the young generation might have a harsher way of putting things in regard to their emotions and their feelings because they feel that their expectations are cut short, they have no reason to be as optimistic as the older generation was.

When we hear songs of young people today, the lyrics, lyrical content would be a little bit more deeper or it might be a little bit more edgy because of that particular reason. So Aloe’s take on the song’s a little bit more harsh. I try to bail on singing about politics. I didn’t write this song, it was given to me in the studio and I thought it was a great song because it had some reality there. But I tried to bail on in million cases – politics, religion and I try to stick with just singing because I believe in let the singers be singers, the politicians be politicians, preachers be preachers and let everybody do what they do. Cause I’m not a politician so it would be very difficult for me to get on stage and talk some politics, I believe politics is not my game. 

PD • Ok, but you seem to be an expert on another thing – Ladies, our favourite track on the album, so I just wanted to ask you something about the song because we really like Ladies over here…

LF • Women are a great inspiration for me and I’ m hoping that saying this whoever hears this from whatever media they hear it from, I’m hoping that every man will agree because the woman to me gives every purpose to a man to excel and gives every reason to a man to try and to make the world as great as he can. And I think for every woman a man would be a purpose for them as well.

Now I know that we have all kinds of relationships going on today and I’m not saying what one should be doing in regard to any particular relationship. But in my case, I can speak for me, women for me are the gems of this world and it makes me happy just speaking of a woman in high terms and quality terms and whatever I could say in my music to please them. Because my mother was very inspirational to me, and then my wife, my daughter – I just love women.

This song was meant, this song was very very heartfelt and every word is saying the truth. I just like women, I like pleasing women, you know women give birth and bring us into the world, everybody came through a woman and that’s plain worthy right there. 

PD • Mr. Fields, your discography is pretty much all over the place, so I’d like to ask you if you could for our listeners select a few milestones of your career, the songs that summon your career before My World.

LF • Well you know I did some tracks for Martin Solveig, I did ‘Jealousy’, ‘I Want You’ and ‘Everybody’ with which I had quite a bit of fun the last five years working with Martin. As a matter of fact I’ll be working with Martin next week and it’s indeed a pleasure working with him and I think he’s one of the most talented young men I’ve seen in quite some time, he’s a brilliant young man and I think the world would know him even on greater heights than he has achieved and he has achieved quite a bit of recognition in the music world. I also did some tracks for Soulfire label and then we did some tracks for Daptone and I’m looking forward to working with Sharon Jones again.

PD • That’s what I wanted to ask you about, working with her. She seems to have the kind of energy that you have and the late James Brown had, sometimes when I see her and when I listen to her. Can you tell me something about her, what is she like and how was working with her?

LF • Sharon Jones is a very very enjoyable person to be around, to work with, to watch perform, being around Sharon is like a continuous party. She takes life so serious and she has so much joy around her. When you’re around Sharon it’s like… you know, at any moment she’s gonna say something that’s gonna crack everybody up. When she hits the stage she’s pure dynamite, she’s a perfectionist and I really enjoyed working with Sharon and I’m hoping for new recordings with her in the near future.

PD • You worked with many bands during your career, now you are with The Expressions. Can you tell me something about the band itself and what group of people did you enjoy best during your career as a backing band?

LF • Out of all living people that I was with in regard to musicians, this thing with Kool And The Gang for that short period of time carries on to the day because these guys being such perfectionists. But The Expressions, I truly truly enjoy working with these young men. It seems that everytime we get together, everybody’s on the same page, everybody is focused on exactly what their achievements should be. I love recording with these guys and I love performing with these guys and I’m hoping that we do a tour in the near future and that would truly be most delightful.

PD • And how was the making of My World with them together and how are the duties in the band, I mean in the making of the songs, did they write the music?

LF • There was a lot of collaboration on most of the songs. We collaborated, but there was My World – I didn’t write that, I didn’t have anything to do with the writing, the only thing that I did was that I thought it was a great song with Leon and Jeff – these two guys are pure musical geniuses – they did write the song and I thought it was a great song. As I said, my political views are ‘let the singers be singers’ so I was a little bit reluctant and Leon and Jeff just said it was a thing to do, and they did it with a lot of confidence. But there was a lot of collaboration on the other songs and once The Expressions come together, it’s just a wonderful experience – it’s almost indescribable.

PD • How did you decide to re-record Honey Dove? What does it feel like to re-record a song that is almost 30 years old, more than 30 years, right?

LF • Yeah. I wanted to do Honey Dove again because I felt like (it needed) a new twist on it. We just recorded it again and put a new twist on it, and I felt very assured that the young music lover today would really feel the record. I’ve been told by many that that happened, that it’s happening so that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do Honey Dove again.

PD • And about the music industry, you used to put out your records by yourself, you changed so many labels. How do you feel about this situation right now when the majors are actually crashing down and everything seems to be in the hands of the small labels.

LF • Well I’ve always felt that eventually the music industry would return to the people. Once I signed in the back of the day with London Records and I was with John R out of Nashville, and that’s my stay with major labels, I had no desire to seek another major label. Because music I felt for a few years was manipulated by some guy that stepped out of college and he had an executive job and he’d know nothing about the real dynamics of recording, the only thing he knows is what he was taught in college and he’s gonna make every record from that point sound just like the last record.

And (if not) he would feel like he could be removed from his job himself. So the labels were always mimicking the last record, so music really stagnated for a long period, because all the way they try to get rid of the creativity but you have to allow it. They were so afraid of losing their positions, every record had to have a certain sound, had to sound like somebody else that was hot at the time. And you know for about 15 years music, modern day music it was getting redundant because of non-chance takers which were the executives. And then the same thing happened to the banks. In other words I do believe education is definitely the key but if you’re gonna be educated by college and (you are in) the music industry then you gotta go out there and pay some dues as well.

Then you have both ends – you have the educational end from the books and then you have the experience from paying the dues – but for a long period of time the executives didn’t pay the dues. The only thing the executives did was pay, they paid every week, their check was there. The musicians, if they didn’t gig they didn’t get paid. So that was what was missing, the executives had the book knowledge but they didn’t have the experience of – ‘Oh man, I didn’t get that check this week, oh and how am I gonna pay this, oh they’re coming to get my car, oh look they’re towing it away’!

So, but now with the big music companies, not only the banks, we got nothing but hand to mouth now. The world’s more real now then it’s been for a long time. So I think real music will surface, I mean all of us are real music is what I’m trying to say. Some music is better than another one but what is gonna touch the people’s hearts, that kind of music is gonna surface because we got to deal with real matters now, with real issues. So I think not only soul music, but all music is gonna survive and in the future is gonna touch people’s hearts very deeply.

PD • You are also witnessing this development of hip-hop and rap music in the States. Are they rightful successors of the soul tradition of the late 60s that started the whole thing?

LF • I think rap music it’s still rhythm and blues, they got the rhythm and they’d be talking about their thing. They’re talking about what’s happening in the streets, I think the same kind of story can be told without a lot of vulgarity though, I don’t think we need as much vulgarness in hip-hop. I like hip hop but the only thing I think it’s not necessary to have as much vulgarity, but a lot of young hip hop singers they come to me – they’re under the impression of vulgarness sells. And maybe it does, I don’t know. My personal feeling is if you got a good story you don’t have to be as vulgar. The story can be told without vulgarity.

PD • What would be the message of soul music through time, especially in this screwed up world that we’re living in now?

LF • I think the message of soul music and this world that we’re living in now would be being real, singing about issues that really affect people, less your love life, less finances, less craving things or people, it’s about whatever is current in the world today that everybody’s being as being important. Staying on top of the issues without becoming political, staying on top of the issues and singing about it. Let other people draw their conclusions. I got one song that’s kind of political, it’s My World’ and I just said I didn’t write that song but I love that song. We didn’t go out of the way with this, we’ve just drawn a sketch of what world really is. This is what I think soul music’s has to do for the future – stay real, stay right on the top of what is happening. And sing about it.

PD • And what would be the main feeling that soul music is transcending now in the new century – is it hope…

LF • Making people feel better. It could be a song that’s not even saying anything about hope, it could be a song that’s saying something and it just makes you feel better, it could be a song about looking at everything from satire view. It doesn’t have to be just hope, hope is included, it could be about looking at things humorously – like ‘it ain’t that bad, there’s funny part about it’… just to make us feel better. If you listen to a great album, it makes time flow by nice and smooth so the music should be something that makes people as they listen and pass their time in a very good way. 

PD • Do you have any wishful thinking for collaborating with someone you’ve never met or that you admire musically?
LF • Let me see. A person who I would really like to write a song with… I don’t do too much writing now, writing you have to dig so deep, writing is in the soul, but if I had the choice of writing, but that would be impossible ‘cause that person is no longer here – I would love to have written with Curtis Mayfield. As far as the artists now, I’d love to write with Kanye West. he would be so far advanced in writing than myself but I think I could come up with a couple of lyrics, he would say to me ‘Lee, that’s alright’.

(c) 2009 text Svetlana Đolović, pop depresija :: NIJE DOZVOLJENO KORIŠĆENJE TEKSTA BEZ DOZVOLE

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