I am unabashedly a woman in a man's world. I've never tried to play it like a man. And I've steered clear of being "femme" to get what I want. So maybe, on second thought, what I am is a bohemian who is comfortable interacting in a man's world. The world I'm referring to is the music business. There have always been a few women who have somehow survived on talent and pluck or talent and destiny. To me, talent is a way of thinking... a way of looking at life. A woman needs to find her best talent and work it.
I had written hundreds, maybe thousands of songs already when I was invited to participate in Music Speaks Louder Than Words. It was the first-ever arts exchange between Soviet and American artists, and it wasn't ballet or Beethoven. It was American songwriters going to Russia to co-write and collaborate with our Soviet counterparts. It was during glasnost and Gorbachev, and it was a magical experience. Along on the trip were some great women songwriters like Brenda Russell ("Piano in the Dark"), Franne Golde ("Night Shift"), Holly Knight ("Love is a Battlefield"), and Diane Warren (every other song on the radio!). I had no illusions about why I was invited with all these divas. It was because I was a competent lyricist who could sit in a room with almost anyone and write a good song. I'd written for Frank Sinatra ("Monday Morning Quarterback"), Whitney Houston ("Nobody Loves Me Like You Do"), and I at the time I had a single out with Aretha Franklin & The Four Tops ("If Ever A Love There Was"). These were Russians we'd be writing with, so bringing along at least one English-speaking lyricist was sine qua non, indispensable.
We flew into Helsinki, Finland, gave a seminar to Finnish writers, and then we took a ferry to Tallin, Estonia. There, we had a decadent feast and a show reminiscent of living the movie Cabaret. A night like this had only happened once before in Estonia —when President Reagan was being feted by them. What a night! What food! What delicacies! Caviar! A smoky room and a semi-nude show! I thought at the time that the country had spent their gross national product for the day just on entertaining us, and I felt uncomfortable about that as it was a very poor country still pre-revolution.
In Moscow, we were introduced to the most wonderful array of songwriters, and I found myself in my suite at the ancient communist hotel Hotel Rossya with two talented Estonians — Mikk Targo and Sergey Manoukyan — and the Oscar-winning American songwriter Franke Previte who had written "(I've Had) The Time Of My Life" for the film Dirty Dancing. Where to begin? With a title — I always think of a title as a roadmap for a song. Otherwise, it's like getting in a car with no destination in mind. The idea we agreed on was "One World," and we spent a few very special hours writing it. Now and again, I had the impish impulse to lift the lampshade and ask the KGB (I was sure they were listening in) "Did you like that line?" which got giggles from my new friends. Two film crews, from Finland and from the US, came and filmed us in progress.
Once we returned to the US, the song was recorded by Earth, Wind & Fire. And after that, it sat idle until Franke approached me during the first month of COVID-19 and said, "We have to help the musicians. Nobody is earning a living."
I thought, "How do they eat, how do they pay their rent?" Music had come to a grinding halt. No movies were being made, so none were being scored. No artists could be touring. Recording studios shut down. So we rewrote "One World," not for Russians and Americans meeting at last, but to reflect the whole world, our times and hardships, and all our dreams now put on hold.
I asked Jon Gilutin, and he stepped up to produce the record. The writer of "New Attitude" and the occasional musical director for artists such as Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor, Jon is top of the heap when it comes to talent. He brought in a mind-blowing roster of A+ musicians and singers who have all appeared on Grammy-, Emmy-, Oscar-, and every other kind of award-winning projects, all of whom donated their time and talents.
And Franke went out and negotiated with four charities: Musicians Foundation, Actors Fund, First Responders Children's Foundation, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Our idea was to give everyone who donated to these charities a free download of our song "One World" as a thank you for being generous. All of the money that we make on this goes directly to these charity partners. Helping people out is a great feeling, and, by the way, I'm very proud to be the only woman on this creative team — as usual! Please watch the music video and donate here.
WRITTEN BYPamela Phillips Oland