Songmasters’ unprecedented Listen To Me multi-media campaign officially got underway last week, celebrating Buddy Holly’s brief but brilliant life and career through an astonishing array of concerts, recordings, and charitable programs.  The campaign began with the Verve Forecast release of “LISTEN TO ME: BUDDY HOLLY,” a star-studded new collection featuring contemporary takes on the pioneering rock ‘n’ roller’s immortal songs, performed by such era-spanning artists as Jackson Browne, Cobra Starship, Zooey Deschanel, The Fray, Eric Idle, Chris Isaak, Lyle Lovett, Jeff Lynne, Imelda May, Natalie Merchant, Pat Monahan (of Train), Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt, Patrick Stump, Ringo Starr and Brian Wilson.  Proceeds from the groundbreaking multi-media campaign will benefit a range of music charity programs  that provide unique opportunities for the next generation of music’s great artists and innovators.

The Listen To Me: Buddy Holly campaign kicked into high gear with Songmasters’ “Ultimate Buddy Party,” an extraordinary concert event held at The Music Box in Hollywood on what would have been Buddy’s 75th birthday, September 7th.  The all-star tribute proved an historic rock ‘n’ roll moment all its own, with an incredible line-up of performers supporting  Songmasters’ goal of raising monies and awareness for a new wave of musical artists.  Many of the stars featured on “LISTEN TO ME: BUDDY HOLLY” – including Stevie Nicks, Patrick Stump, Chris Isaak, Lyle Lovett, and Cobra Starship’s Gabe Saporta and Victoria Asher – rocked the house in the company of a host of superstar guests.  Among them were such avowed Holly fans as Graham Nash, Boz Scaggs, Raul Malo, Michelle Branch, Shawn Colvin, Paul Anka, and famed guitar slingers James Burton and Albert Lee. 

As if all that weren’t enough, a series of video tributes were featured throughout the show, including homages to Holly from Keith Richards, Ringo Starr, Natalie Merchant, Jackson Browne, Brian Wilson, Pat Monahan (of Train), Imelda May, and the one and only  Eric Idle, of Monty Python’s Flying Circus fame.

“Buddy Holly saved our lives at boarding school when we were 13, 14, 15,” noted Idle, whose wonderfully fun interpretation of “Raining In My Heart” closes “LISTEN TO ME: BUDDY HOLLY.”  “We were in black-and-white England of the 50s and there was this great musical revolution that happened.  It was Buddy Holly, Elvis, and the Everly Brothers, and we were completely hooked.”The three artists Idle mentioned – each of whom created the foundations of rock ‘n’ roll – were duly represented at the concert event.  In addition to Holly’s widow, Maria Elena, attendees included Priscilla Presley and Holly’s dear friend, Phil Everly, who took to the stage in what may well be his last public appearance to add his distinctive harmonies on the evening’s grand finale of “That’ll Be The Day”. “We used to double date, the four of us,” said Everly.  “This is like a lifetime reunion.” 

“LISTEN TO ME: BUDDY HOLLY” Album Executive Producer Peter Asher – a multiple Grammy Award-winning producer/artist/manager/executive whose own personal connection to Holly’s music goes back to 1965, when Peter & Gordon’s enduring cover of “True Love Ways” proved a massive hit both here and in the UK – served as the concert’s musical supervisor, with the performers backed by a stellar house band led by renowned session guitarist Waddy Wachtel.  The Listen To Me: Buddy Holly concert event was shot live in HD for broadcast on PBS, starting with the December 2011 pledge drive, followed by a deluxe DVD/CD release – further details will be announced shortly.

“It was a great night for a great cause,” said Songmasters Managing Partner and Ultimate Buddy PartyExecutive Producer Jennifer S. Cohen following the ovation-generating show. “Never before or again will this amazing collection of performers be together, and the music they made together will stand the test of time.  What a gift to all of us here and to all who get to hear it!” Boasting a line-up hailed as “fantastic” by no less an authority than Maria Elena Holly,  the 16-track collection“LISTEN TO ME: BUDDY HOLLY” album stands tall among the many tribute albums devoted to Holly’s original songs.  These exceptional interpretations, performed by artists whose own noteworthy careers span three generations of post-Buddy rock ‘n’ roll, form an authentic yet innovative collection that showcases the versatility, range, and across-the-board appeal of a pioneering artist many consider to be the first true “singer/songwriter” of the rock ‘n’ roll era. “I love that this project really encourages the generation coming up to dig into the roots of music that they listen to now, “ says “LISTEN TO ME: BUDDY HOLLY” contributor Isaac Slade of The Fray, “where it came from, and who influenced who, all the way back to people like Buddy Holly.”

Both the “LISTEN TO ME: BUDDY HOLLY” album and the “Ultimate Buddy Party” event have received a plethora of critical praise, with Rolling Stone hailing the concert’s “several standout performances, including Raul Malo’s gorgeous vocals on both ‘Listen To Me’ and ‘True Love Ways’; Boz Scaggs, Nash, and Peter Asher kicking out some bluesy jams on ‘Rave On”; Cobra Starship and Stump proving the new generation can groove Holly’s music on ‘Think It Over’; Lyle Lovett playing with Elvis Presley’s guitarist, James Burton, on ‘I’m Lookin’ For Someone To Love’; and Nash’s sweet ‘Take Your Time.’”

“Singer-songwriter Michelle Branch and alt-rocker Patrick Stump and two members of Cobra Starship, including Asher’s daughter Victoria, helped pick up the torch for a new generation of musicians from the veterans surrounding them,” affirmed the Los Angeles Times, while the Hollywood Reporter applauded the event’s remarkable musical range, noting that “the flavors varied but the emotion was the same: Holly is missed.”

The ecstatic response to the concert follows the bountiful accolades that also greeted “LISTEN TO ME: BUDDY HOLLY”  album. “The contributors succeed by honoring Holly’s no-frills greatness,” declared Rolling Stone, singling out Brian Wilson’s “Listen To Me” as the album’s “loveliest moment” and Ringo Starr’s “Think It Over” as “the most spirited.”  USA Today hailed the album as “loving and lively,” noting that its “fresh interpretations and mix of young’uns and vets…reflects the rock pioneer’s broad influence and enduring appeal.” “Jackson Browne was born to sing the ballad ‘True Love Ways,’” noted The Wrap’s Chris Willman, “and British rockabilly queen Imelda May finds the fire in ‘I’m Looking for Someone to Love.’”  The San Antonio Current commended that “Brian Wilson drapes on harmonies and lush sonics worthy of ‘PET SOUNDS,’” further declaring Jeff Lynne’s “breezy” “Words of Love” and Zooey Deschanel’s “surprisingly affecting” rendition of “It’s So Easy” to be among the collection’s “biggest triumphs.”

 About the album, “’LISTEN TO ME’ opens with Stevie Nicks happily rocking atop the Bo Diddley beat of ‘Not Fade Away,’” pronounced the Los Angeles Times, “and includes the Fray handling ‘Take Your Time,’ Ringo Starr shuffling through ‘Think It Over,’ Chris Isaak crooning ‘Crying Waiting Hoping’ and Cobra Starship reimagining ‘Peggy Sue.’  Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson, who said ‘Buddy Holly’s sweet voice and his trademark hiccup always intrigued me,’ layers his signature harmonies into the title track.”  In its highest ranking four-star rave, theNew York Post summed it all up:  “It’s so easy to like this album.”

Songmasters’, which produced both the album and the event,  has made support for up-and-coming talent integral to their work, and carries on Holly’s legacy of boosting and enabling new artists.  Listen To Me: Buddy Hollybenefits numerous music-related organizations – including The Grammy Foundation’s ‘Grammy Camps,’ Artists’ House Music, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame  – each of which support the artistic growth and professional development of exceptionally talented young musicians and industry innovators “Songmasters is proud that we have created a platform for great music performed by outstanding artists who share Buddy’s dream of supporting up and coming talent,” noted Songmasters’ Senior Partner and  Co-Executive Producer,  Regan McCarthy.  

“Buddy did everything he could to make sure that talented young musicians and songwriters got a real chance,” explains Maria Elena Holly.  “He even started his own label – he called it ‘Prism’ – to make this possible.  He would be especially thrilled, as I am, that so many outstanding artists are part of this effort to honor his personal commitment to recognize and help great young musical talent.”

Buddy Holly is, of course, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s true pioneers, the original “all-in-one songwriter.”  In an era when most artists performed songs penned by leading songwriters of the day, Holly wrote and recorded his own uniquely personal material, establishing the creatively independent tradition that defines the genre.  What’s more, as leader of his own band, The Crickets, Holly set the template for one of rock’s ultimate archetypes, the singing, guitar-playing frontman of a two-guitars-bass-and-drums combo.  As if all that weren’t enough to confirm Holly’s lasting influence, he was also a forward-thinking businessman who had started his own artist-run independent label at the time of his tragic death, anticipating by a half-century the need for artists to both control their creative expression and the commercial value of their work.  In both his music and career innovations, Buddy Holly has become more than just a legend or an icon – his influence can be seen and heard in most every aspect of modern popular music.

The Listen To Me: Buddy Holly celebration continues a year-long celebration that began on Buddy Holly’s 75thbirthday, September 7th, and will continue his legacy for generations to come.

  • carol

    So HOW does one purchase the “Ultimate Buddy Holly Party” DVD?

    PBS does not sell it, after all. My own PBS station, which I have supported, aired the concert in November (!) and the Amazon offering with a disc 2 does not sound like the “Ultimate” party, referring only to “behind the scenes” and “bonus clips.”