Composer/Senator Orrin Hatch (R, UT) sits down with Composer/Former Mayor (Springdale UT) Phillip K. Bimstein

Composer/Senator Orrin Hatch (R, UT) sits down with Composer/Former Mayor (Springdale UT) Phillip K. Bimstein

Washington DC, August 14, 2003

Videotaped by Steve Black
Transcribed by Jonathan Murphy

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Thank you Senator Hatch for taking this time to talk with us and with the 2,500 members of the American Music Center, and about 20,000 readers of NewMusicBox magazine online each month…

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, glad to be with you.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: It’s our pleasure and honor and it’s an honor to be speaking with you, Senator Hatch. You’re a five-term senator, chairman of the Judiciary committee and a senior member of the Finance committee and have been for nearly thirty years a leading thinker and policy maker and spokesperson for issues in Washington DC. But, we’re actually here to talk today to this other Orrin Hatch who we’re glad to be learning more and more about as time goes on; who is a musician and a songwriter and a producer—a member of ASCAP—and whose works have been recorded by Gladys Knight, Donny Osmond, Brooks and Dunn

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, Jaci Velasquez, Steve Holding, Natalie Grant, there are quite a few.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: And you told me that you may be up for a gold record?

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: I think I may get my first gold record this year. At least, we’re hoping so; we’re crossing our fingers, but…

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Well, that’s fantastic. Would you be the first Senator to win a gold record?

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: I think so; I don’t know of any others but if we do it, it would sure feel good. It’d be an honor to be able to do that. Jaci Velasquez is one of the great young Hispanic inspirational singers and she usually goes gold, and the record that she has, the title song, is one of the songs that I wrote with two others, Madeline Stone, and Toby Gad. No, let’s see, was it Madeline Stone and Toby Gad? Yeah, Madeline Stone and Toby Gad, and it is the title song. It’s called “Unspoken.”

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: So you have a lot of collaborators. You know a lot about collaboration…

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Yeah, my first collaborator was Janice Kapp Perry, who’s one of Utah‘s greatest composers… We did most of our CDs with her, in fact most of these are Orrin Hatch / Janice Kapp Perry CDs, and then Peter McCann came to me. Peter McCann wrote “It’s a Right Time of the Night,” “Do You Wanna Make Love,” “Take Good Care of My Heart,” things like that. He’s a very, very good composer out of Nashville and he said, “Hey, Senator.” he said, “I’m a Republican,” he said, “I hear you write music,” he said, “How about writing some with me,” you know? [laughs] And I said, “Well, O.K.!” So we did, and we wrote some… I think some really nice songs, and then Madeline Stone. I met her down in Nashville and she works out of both Nashville and New York. She was working for Sony at the time—Sony ATV Tree in Nashville—and we’ve written probably thirty songs together. In fact, the “Unspoken” song that Jaci Velasquez is currently singing was written with her.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Well, you mentioned that he was a Republican, the other fellow, but I know with your friendships with Senators Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin and others, you must have written with some Democrats as well…

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, Sam Lorber is a Democrat, and there are two others. Sam has written a song with Madeline and me that Steve Holy is going to put on his next CD. Steve’s an upcoming young country singer. Last but not least, we’re in the studio right now with a Christmas CD; written seven Christmas songs with Lowell Alexander, and Phil Naish out of Nashville, two of Nashville’s really great writers, both of whom have a number of gold and platinum records; and this Christmas CD’s gonna be a good one.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Excellent. Well, this is really fascinating to me because you’ve got sort of a double life going there [laughs], maybe triple, and I’ve had a similar double life; it’s not on the same scale, but, being an elected mayor and a composer and songwriter I’ve been intrigued in my own life how the two parts of my personality interweave and affect each other. I’d like to find out how that’s happened in your life, and explore and discuss that. We can go different directions, but I want to start off in your book, Square Peg, and I’ve read this in other places as well. I know that your mom sent you to violin and piano lessons, even though you would have rather been playing basketball. And I know that you had to learn to be a fighter as a result of that as well. But what was particularly interesting to me is that they bought you season tickets to Peanut Heaven up there in the Pittsburgh Symphony; and you talked in your book, I think very movingly, about how this experience really gave you a wider perspective on the world, and you learned to be tolerant for other views and you learned to cherish the human spirit. So, I’d like to ask how this music framework that was begun with your mother and your musical training, and then your exposure to the Pittsburgh Symphony and concert works… How did this mold you as a person, and how do you feel this may have developed your mind and character?

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, I was kinda born on the wrong side of the tracks. When I was born—it was during the Depression—my folks lost their little bandbox home, and my dad borrowed 100 dollars from a friend and they bought an acre of ground in the hills of Pittsburgh, and then he tore down a burned-out building and built us a home that did not have any indoor facilities. We had to use an outhouse approximately a hundred yards away; and we were poor during that period of time, but working hard to try and become something… When I was six years old my mother had me take about six months of piano, so I learned all the hymns; I became the ole pump organist in our little branch of the church, and later when they got an electronic organ I was able to play that. I even could play, at that time; I could play the foot pedals… I don’t think I could do that today. But, in junior high school and high school my mother had an old violin, and she asked me if I would learn how to play the violin, so I played the violin, became a concertmaster in the high school orchestra; I think, went to all-state orchestra, but the minute I finished high school I quit the violin and haven’t played it since, even though I’ve always like the instrument. But, my folks used to pull together 18 dollars and 75 cents every year for season passes—season tickets—to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which at that time was one of the top five in the world. Vladimir Bakaleinikoff was the conductor – later, Fritz Reiner. There were some great conductors of the Pittsburgh Symphony, but I saw the great artists: Fritz Kreisler, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, Arthur Rubinstein, you know, you name it… Vladimir Horowitz, you name it, I saw them all; and I have to admit I was more interested in athletics, but I was absolutely fascinated by music, and having been raised on the wrong side of the tracks, you know I could very easily have gone into a mode where I wasn’t as sensitive as I’ve audibly become and I think it was the music part of my life during those years and my mother’s kind care and treatment that caused me to realize that there’s a very soft, sensitive, wonderful, sophisticated part of life that is equally as wonderful as sports. I have to say sports were the greatest interest at the time, but I’ve never forgotten the music and I remember, in fact, one of the Christmas songs we’ve recently written was called “The Old Upright Piano,” because we had an old battered upright piano in our home, and I had a lot of sisters and my brother had been killed in the Second World War, and we would gather around the piano—we all played the piano—and we’d all sing and play the piano; and especially during the holidays and especially Christmas time. That old upright piano… So, I’d wrote this song, “The Old Upright Piano,” and my two colleagues down in Nashville, Lowell Alexander and Phil Naish, just fell in love with the song. Phil is a great producer, and writer as well, and he was out in Hollywood and one night they were online, I believe, and they played “The Old Upright Piano” for him—just what he knew at the time—and they all said they fell in love with it. It was a kid’s song, but a lot of it has… Without the music part of my life I don’t think I would have nearly the sensitivity that I have, because: The one side was tough, it was mean; I had to stand up for myself in every way. I loved it, because it was filled with athletics and sometimes fights. But, you know you have a tendency to be more crude that way, and maybe less sensitive to other people’s feelings, but I think the music softened me and gave another dimension to my life that helped me to gain much wider perspective to what’s good and what’s bad in this world. I will forever be grateful that my mother cared enough for me to prod me and push me to be interested in music, and I have always been that way. When I went to college, I had a little 45 rpm thing about this big, and I would listen to Rachmaninoff, Beethoven, you know, Mozart, you name it, Schumann… Just name it, I would listen to those when I studied, and I’ve always been able to study better with Classical music. But, in the meantime, I’ve gotten stuff in almost every genre of music.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Well, if it is a 45, you’ve got to change those discs often; like each movement.

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Ahh, you did; they were little discs, but that little machine was a good little machine. It gave me a lot of joy, and I think helped me to study better and to concentrate better.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Well, let’s talk a little about your songwriting and how you do that. I know in Chicago when I used to go to work at a job there and I rode the El train and I always took a pad of paper. The job was in the book business, it had nothing to do with music, but I took a pad of paper with me and I’d read Time magazine or the newspaper, and I’d get a thought and I’d take out this pad and I’d write down some ideas for a song. Sometimes I’d take it out of my drawer in the middle of the workday and write a few things more, and I couldn’t wait to get home to sit with my guitar and my piano and start putting it to music. And I read that you take yours out on the plane home, and I wondered if you might also sometimes sneak it out sometimes on the senate floor. [laughs] And jot a little something down. But, again, in your book, Square Peg, you wrote about that trip on the plane home; that four hour ride home from Salt Lake, or from Washington to Salt Lake, was a time of reflection and introspection. And you said that songwriting gives you the opportunity to look at people and problems in a different light, to discuss themes that may be inappropriate in political discourse, to work through ideas and feelings free of the restraints that often limit honest reflection for those in public office. And it also was a change to restore balance and joy in your life. So I wondered if you can tell us more about that, because I think that’s fascinating.

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, I didn’t realize I could write music. It was only about eight years ago when Janice Kapp Perry caught me at a funeral and she said that… introduced herself and she said, “I heard you write poetry,” and I said, “Well…” [laughs] I said, “For my own consumption,” and she said, “Well, how about writing some songs with me?” and I said, “Gee, I’d kinda like to do that,” so I sat down that weekend and wrote ten songs, and that basically became our first CD, My God is Love.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: In one weekend, you wrote ten songs?

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, I think it was longer than that, but basically I started most of those songs in one weekend and a lot of them I did write in that one weekend. Now, of course, they had to be modified to fit her syncopation beat and the music, but those basically became the songs that… One of these I wrote fifteen times: “At the Foot of the Cross.” I wrote over fifteen versions, then she took the various parts of those fifteen versions and then we both agreed on what should be the final version. She would write the music, I would write the words, and sometimes she would participate in both. I was afraid to try writing the music but on a CD called I Love America—this is the one with the Osmonds, the second generation; these are Alan’s five sons—I wrote two songs on here and had a lot of fun in doing it. You know, one of them was “We are Free,” and the other one was, “Let this Faith Sustain Us,” and I wrote both the words and the music… And that’s the only one I ever wrote both the words and the music on. These other musicians are so great that I really don’t see my doing that that much, but it was fun to do it, to do that. But, gradually, we wrote this “My God is Love,” and the first three songs we wrote, I got a call from Marilyn Bergman, who of course is… She and her husband Alan are Academy Award-winning songwriters: “The Way We Were,” “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Any More”… As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I handle all the intellectual property issues including patent copyrights and trademarks so naturally I got acquainted with them and many, many authors and composers and movie stars and so forth through the years. Marilyn called me and said, “Senator,” she said, “I understand you’re writing music.” I said, “Well, yes.” She said, “Well, will you share it with me?” Well, we had three songs done in score form: “My God is Love,” “My Dearest Savior,” and “Sweet Gentleness.” So she said, “Would you share those with me?” I said, “Gee, I’d be honored.” So, I sent them to her. She called me back and she said, “I’ve listened to these songs,” she said, “They are very good. I like them, but I’m not sure I’m an authority on inspirational music.” She said, “Can I send them to Donna Hilley in Nashville?”—who runs Sony ATV Tree and who is on the board of directors of ASCAP—”I think she would understand more about this,” and I said, “Gee, I’d be honored,” so she did. About two weeks later Donna Hilley called me and she has that southern twang; she said, “Hey, Senator,” she said, “You know in any given day here in Nashville, we get 200 good songs.” She said, “What we’re interested in are great songs,” and I thought, “Well, that’s a nice way to let me down,” [laughs] and finally she said, “We think two of these three songs are great songs. We think they’ll be around for a hundred years.” That was “My God is Love” and “My Dearest Savior.” She didn’t think “Sweet Gentleness,” which means Christ—a song about Christ—was a great song, until the Tabernacle Choir sang it. Now, she thinks it’s a great song as well. [laughs] But those are three of the original songs on the first album. At that time she threw a dinner party for me when I was down there and that’s when I met Madeline Stone, and Madeline is a wonderful Jewish writer who won the Dove award for Christian music. Marilyn Bergman told Madeline, who was Jewish, she said, “You have an identity crisis,” [laughs] but Madeline can write beautiful music and… We started writing music together, and I kept writing with Janice Kapp Perry who I think I owe it all to, who’s a wonderful, wonderful writer. By the way, she and her husband are on LDS missions down in Chile at their own time and expense, just loving it, and she’s writing music for the people in Chile. That is uplifting them, teaching them how to use the keyboard, how to sing parts, how to sing in choruses; doing some really, really good things for people in Chile. She’s a wonderful, wonderful woman and her husband Doug is a wonderful person. But, gradually it evolved when Peter McCann called and we started running songs with Peter McCann. I had one of the Beach Boy band members calling; his name is Billy Hinsche. A wonder guy and we wrote five or six songs together; nothing ever came of those, but I still think I can resurrect those. Those are pretty good. They were some of the first ones I ever wrote, so I can probably improve on them. But, gradually I became acquainted with Lowell Alexander and Phil Naish, and they’re great guys. Sam Lorber is one of the great Democrats down in Nashville and we’ve written some country songs together; Steve Holy is going to sing one of those along with Madeline Stone. He’s her friend as well as mine, and, you know, there are others that we’ve written that… It’s just been a lot of fun, and I’ve had a lot of people who’ve said, “Hey, I wanna write a song with you,” and that’d be great! But, what happened is that…whenever I have a few minutes, I have these beautiful thoughts come to me. Like, in the middle of the night, I’d get up and write them down; or, on planes, I do have more time to write. Sometimes, I get so tired of reading—I read about 5,000 pages a week—and my eyes get tired and then I sit and write on planes. In church, I’ve received a lot of inspiration, where I’ll hear some beautiful thoughts by somebody speaking in church: The ministers or members of our faith, and some of those thoughts trigger a response in me and I’ll write. One time I was kidding and I said that I even wrote a song during a boring committee meeting and I got an irate letter from one of my Utah constituents saying, “How dare you use your government time to write your lousy music,” and I [laughs] and I thought I’d better not make that claim any more, but you’re right. There’ve been a couple times on the floor when I’ve been bored or where things have slowed down and where nothing’s going on, where I’ve just written some things down that later became a song.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: I wondered if, rather than being bored, you might have been inspired by one of your fellow senators’ oratory…

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: [laughs] Every once in a while I am; every once in a while somebody will say something that just hits you the right way and that’s what’s fun about it. Writing music is just a matter of trying to bring everyday life into a reality form through music that will cause people to think about it and to be thrilled by it…


SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: You know, when you write tragic music, for people to understand some of the more tragic and suffering things in life…


SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: But most music is uplifting and entertains people. I wrote a song once for a man that was about to be married, and he said, “Do you think you could have your people come and sing some of your songs at my wedding,” and I said, “Well, why don’t we write one for your wedding?” “You’d do that?” “Yeah,” I said, “Write down all the beautiful thoughts you have of your wife to be,” so he did and I sat and helped him for about an hour. It was on a plane flight; when we got through with that, I took that and I wrote a really beautiful love song. Well, when they had the wedding, there were two Democrat senators there. He’s a Democrat and he’s a very good friend of these two senators. The leader was one of those two senators… and they called everybody in from outside into this apparently big living room or family room, where he had a hook up—a stereo hook up—and he played this song, and they all wound up crying. Because it was beautiful and he’d had a kind of a disastrous first marriage and was very unhappy until he met this woman and she is just a terrific human being, and when they played that song everybody broke down and cried. I mean they all felt… because they felt like for once this fellow’s got a break; he’s going to be happy, and when you can do that, it’s a really nice thing. I wrote a song for my friend, Mohammed Ali, called, “The Difference Makes a Difference,” about diversity, and he liked that and then one time Ted Kennedy was particularly mad at me and I told him, “Well, you know, Ted, I wrote a song for you and Vicky,” and he said, “You did?” [laughs] And that just completely diffused the whole thing so I played it for him. I just had a demo tape of it, and when I got through he said, “I gotta have that,” he said, “I gotta have that.” It was the only one I had, and he said, “I’m gonna play that for Vicky when we’re on our boat this summer,” and so I was out here in July—I think it was July 3rd—and it was their wedding anniversary, and he called me from his boat out in the Atlantic, and he said, “I just played that song for Vicky and she’s over there sitting at the end of the boat crying,” he said, “she was so moved by it.” Well, that’s the kind of stuff that makes you feel good about it.


SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: I’ve written a number of love songs for my wife and I think those are very meaningful to her. But they could just as easily apply to other… you know, to your wife, or other women.


SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: These songs are universal, but the inspiration was for Elaine, my wife, and people really like them. The only one I put out with a lot of love songs on it was this one called Whispers of My Heart. Now, when Vic Damone first heard “Whispers of My Heart,”—Vic Damone is, of course, one of the greatest crooners of all time—he said, “I love that song, I gotta sing that song!” He hasn’t done it yet, but he will, and he wants John Williams to arrange it. John Williams used to be his band leader. You know, the great John Williams, who did the “Olympic” song, and who of course was one of the great composer/conductor/producers in the world today.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Well, as a fellow songwriter I know it’s great to have a lot of those out there and have those possibilities. You had great epigrams, little quotes to start each of these chapters, including one from Mick Jagger: “You can’t always get what you want,” and this one at the beginning of the epilogue. I just love this, by Andrew Fletcher, and this I think was great for you to choose, being both a lawmaker and a songwriter. He says, “I know a very wise man who believed that if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who makes the laws of the nation.”


PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Which I think speaks a lot about the effect that songs and music can have on society and on our communities, and I’d like to ask you about something that I experienced: Before I was mayor, my town, unfortunately, was very polarized and one of the ways in which we healed the divisions was we had a humanities program called “Embracing Opposites: In Search of the Public Good” which had five different speakers come in; people like Terry Tempest Williams, and some others: William Kittredge, literary people.

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Yeah, good people; she’s a very good writer.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Right, and they would come and speak and there’d be a round table earlier in the day. It was a way for the people to address some of the issues sideways, not head on, and it really played a big role in helping to heal the town. That was before I was mayor, but as I became mayor, I thought a lot about that and I thought a lot about how musical skills and capacities can help with community dialogue, as you know. I mean, musicians have to be good listeners; they have to pay attention to what else is happening when you’re performing with them. It’s a collaborative enterprise; you usually work in an ensemble and when you do that, you learn that there’s a time for you to support the other players and then there’s a time for you to solo, but it pays for you to pay attention before you solo, because…


PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: …And before you speak, so you can know what’s already… what you’re stepping into.


PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: And of course we understand counterpoint and we understand how different voices, opposing voices, can be blended together. Different instruments… and we understand the role even of dissonance; of course we appreciate harmony, but dissonance can even play a role.



SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Yeah, I think of Béla Bartók when I think of dissonance, and I really have a rough time accepting Bartók in comparison to Beethoven or Mozart or Rachmaninoff or any number of other composers.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Well, in the 20th century we certainly got a lot of dissonance both musically as well as politically…

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: We also had John Rutter and others who were just wonderful composers of music that everybody wants to listen to.


SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Bartók was a real genius, there’s no question about it. Some of my close friends who are very knowledgeable about symphony music really love Bartók. I’ve never quite appreciated him as I have the old classicists that… well, how can you beat Beethoven, when you think about it? Or Mozart…


SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Or Bach. I mean, I love Bach and those old composers… Chopin; they were all great but, you know, music is really about our lives. It’s about the real inner meaning of our lives. That’s why people are so moved by it. You can cover the dramatic to the mundane, you can say, to the difficult part of our lives to exhilaration. And music is a way of uplifting people; like I said, I like to study the music, I like to read the music, especially classical music, and I like to listen to great ballads. I like jazz; I like soft rock. At one time, I managed a little rock band…


SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Oh yeah, it was a very expensive experience. I was a young attorney here in Utah, and these were a bunch of kids who were former drug users and abusers who joined the Mormon church and changed their whole lives. And they were cute kids, but what they did is that they wrote Christian lyrics to a moderate rock beat and called it Latter Day Sound. It was kinda cute but it was a very expensive experience for me but I really enjoyed it because they were just innovative and creative people and every time I was around them I felt like I was a part of this innovation and creation. I didn’t know that I could write music at that time, but I sure knew that I could entrepreneur it, I knew that I could enjoy it, I know that I could love it. And my family, as poor as we were, we always loved music.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Well, and you’re a member of the senate, which is a hundred members, you know, a large symphony could be about the same size…

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: I think it’d be pretty discordant myself…

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Well, I don’t know; we could have you playing the piano and Senator Robert Byrd playing the violin and…

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, that’s right…

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: But I just wondered if your musical capacities and your musical orientation and that approach to listening and collaboration and understanding what’s going on in the great composite of a structure that you’re listening to; does that help you to craft legislation, or does it help you as you have an approach to negotiation or a dialogue that you’re having with your fellow senators?

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, I think any experience that uplifts your life, that refines you, that causes you to think of your fellow men and women, that causes you to want to be better, that helps you to visualize the future, that gives you a meaning, a real meaning for life, that helps you to want to love others, you could go on and on. Any of those experiences can help you become a better legislator, a better political leader, a human being, a better person. Music plays a pivotal role. It’s a proven fact. At least, many psychiatrists and psychologists tell me this, that if you listen to Mozart your IQ will automatically go up and it will be a little bit higher. Now, I believe that to be true, and I think it’s probably true of a lot of these great composers. You know, but I can see value in Elvis Presley. I can see value in the Rolling Stones. You know, I’ve got to say that I would prefer love ballads, I’d prefer country, I’d prefer good jazz, I’d prefer good popular music; perhaps to some of the hard rock stuff, but you know, I look at some of the groups out there today and they’re really ingenious. I saw, you know, I was at the Grammy awards and I saw Bruce Springsteen play, and that was the first time I saw him live. I was blown away. I mean, talk about a great musician, a great promulgator of beautiful stuff. I was really blown away by it, as I have been for others. And I saw Norah Jones perform. It won so many Grammys, and… Beautiful young girl, who has a consummate music background, with a father who really has, you know… I was surprised she won with the beautiful soft ballads. But she did, and it was really something nice to see her win. Two of my friends are Brooks and Dunn. You know, it doesn’t get any better than Brooks and Dunn; they’re great country musicians, and Ronnie Dunn once said, “Senator, I want you to write some music with me,” so I’d already sent him some songs, and he called and said, “Senator,” he said, “these are okay, but they don’t have enough of an edge to them.” So he put a little edge on them; there’s a little tragedy, a little country vicissitude. But, they’re terrific. I mean, their harmonization, the way that their musicianship is unbelievable. Last week, I was down in Nashville on this Christmas CD and I saw David Cleveland: David Cleveland playing my music. I shouldn’t say mine, but Lowell Alexander, Phil Naish’s and my music. David Cleveland is one of the greatest guitarists in the world today. He’s a young guy, about 35 years of age; just a sweet, wonderful guy. But, the drummer who was there, the keyboard person, the bass fiddle, who could play not only with any jazz ensemble or any rock ensemble, either guitar or violin—bass violin—he could play with the symphony and did. He was marvelous. To see musicians like that and then see the big board and see the engineering that goes into making these songs—and we didn’t even get to the mastering and mixing part of it—it was a great, great thing for me. It began with Greg Hanson out here in Utah, who’s one of our best arrangers and producers. Greg will use any one of the number of studios around here that all had big boards and really do very good things and Greg gets the best musicians in Utah, who are really good, and brings them in and of course lays track upon track until you get to the point where you can mix them, master them and he’s done all of our Janice Kapp Perry songs and some of our others; some of our Madeline Stone songs. Phil Naish is a great studio guy himself, as well as being a composer, and so is Lowell Alexander. They both have studios in their homes. And it was just a thrill bring around these people who really this, but you can find anything in music. You can find your niche, but if you’re really smart you’ll like it all. I mean, you’ll like the good parts of all of them. Now I have to say that some of the real heavy metal stuff, I think, leaves me a little cold, and some of the rap music. But even there I was at the Grammys one year out in California and Eminem did a song with, who was it?


SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: …Elton John. I wanted to say Billy Joel, but he did a song with Elton John. I have to admit there was a genius to what he did. Now, I don’t like some of the lyrics, but there was a genius in what did, and I have to give him credit for it. I think if he’d clean up his lyrics, he’d even go farther, but maybe that’s why he is successful, because of the lyrics. But I’ve just really enjoyed all of these artists. Now, one of the people I enjoy the most is the Eagles, you know, Don Henley. Don Henley comes and visits me all the time because he really believes that the performers and artists and songwriters are not treated fairly, and he’s right. They’re not. The writers in particular are just given second thrift all the time, and of course they have the recoupment policies that if they pay anything out to you, they’ve got to recoup whatever they’ve spent to begin with.


SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: And it’s really hard on the writers. It’s very difficult for anybody who’s a writer to really make much of a living unless you’ve really hit the big time and there are very few who do. I’ll never forget I was speaking to an ASCAP National Board of Directors meeting, and there had to be more than a thousand people there, all writers. And I had just received my first royalty check which is, I think, something like 65 bucks.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: That’s pretty good for a first check!

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, I stood up and I said, “I just got my first royalty check,” and I waved that check in front of them and I mean the place went wild. I mean they were clapping and screaming and yelling and jumping on top of the chairs, so I sat down and I thought, “My goodness, that’s very nice of them,” but I sat down beside Marilyn Bergman who was conducting the meeting and she turned to me and she said, “Senator, the reason they’re so excited is that there are some very, very good writers out there who will never make a dime in their whole lifetime,” She said, “and they just are so excited for you that you are able to get your first royalty check.” Now, I know how tough it is and of course I have other ways of living, but it’s been thrilling for me to be able to write where some of these great artists love the stuff. I had David Foster, for instance, I’ve been out there to visit him in his Malibu home and his studio there, which is a multi-million dollar studio right below his mansion. And David Foster, of course, is one of the greatest composer/conductors/writers/producers in the world. You know, he’s won so many Grammys and Oscars it’s unbelievable. And to have him compliment my music was really something. But, Don Henley comes out, and very grouchy, you know, and really mad at the world for the way songwriters are being treated, but I think the world of him. He is a gutsy guy. He irritates all of the big people with money, but he stands up for the writers. He’s a gutsy guy, plus a tremendous lyricist and musician, and one of the privileges I had in the last two months was being invited to go see Don Henley at the DC arena, and it was terrific. Elaine and I went, and we just had a wonderful evening, and of course the Eagles are a great, great soft rock group.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Well, I’m glad you brought up your support for songwriters and independent musicians because I just read your two addresses—at least two, maybe you’ve given many more—to the music industry; their record merchandisers and the entertainment lawyers, and I know that in addition to being a strong supporter for intellectual property rights, you expressed your concern about narrowing distribution channels, about payola and other abuses of market power and their effect on smaller and independent artists and companies, and you’ve just shown how you’re very aware of how difficult it is for songwriters to make a living.

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, it really is, and it’s getting… you know, there is a situation where they’ve been able to get around the payola problems but still require the record companies to pay so much to get their songs on the radio. You see, I think that’s wrong. I think it shouldn’t be who pays, it ought to be who’s good. And, you know, in this business people said, “Well, they’re just doing this… they’re just working with you because of who you are.” There may be a little bit of that, but I gotta tell you: Nobody will produce your music unless it’s good.


SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: And in that industry they don’t care who you are. If the stuff isn’t any good, it isn’t going to go anywhere and they’re not going to produce it. These people know what they’re doing. And they don’t care who you are. So, it’s a thrill for me to have some of the leading people to say, “Hey, we like your stuff. We like your music. We want to do it.” Tim McGraw happens to like some of our songs; he has produced “I Am Not Alone” with Natalie Grant, and that’s sold a lot of records. And it… he thinks it’s a marvelous song, and it is. That was the one done with Madeline Stone and myself. And then he also managed Steve Holy, so he loves the song we did for Steve Holy, “What Can I Do Different Tonight.” Now, that won’t be out for a while, but I think it’ll be out and I think people will love it because it really talks about everyday life, talks about our problems, our vicissitudes and yet still has a moral message to it.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Well, as you said, creativity is essential and it must be rewarded. And you also said that to the record industry. And, you know with the experience that you had with your own musical molding and how that’s led to a great life, and thinking about arts education and what’s happening in the country recently with budgetary concerns, we’re cutting that out in schools. I know that you’ve been a strong supporter of the NEH and the NEA and there are a lot of great programs going on like We the People, which I’m sure you’re aware of, with National Endowment for the Humanities talking about American history and civics, and I’m on the board of the Utah Humanities Council and I know we’re a great believer in that program. My question is: What do you think we can do to cultivate the same sort of opportunity for our music education and that approach to life, the greater understanding that music and art gives us in our children today?

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, programs. Everything from having the University of Utah become a Steinway school… Very wealthy entrepreneurs have put up the money for not only a school of music but they had to make it a Steinway school of music. It costs a fortune to put 150 Steinways into a university. I’d like to see BYU become a Steinway school. The local Steinway dealer would do it overnight if he could and take all of their old pianos, recondition them, and put them out in the high schools throughout the state, which would be a wonderful thing. But it would cost 4-5 million dollars to do that. But also, I think the organizations for the arts across the country do an awful lot of good. Our problem is sometimes they get too avant-garde, and they’ll be for visual arts that really are just off the charts. And they’ll not help those who are very, very good, say, impressionists or realistic impressionists who are ten times the artists that some of these abstract artists are. Now, I’ve seen abstracts I would rate among the best artwork. I never did quite appreciate some of the more modern art: Modern expressionism or… but, one day I walked into a gallery in New York and the owner of the gallery was a little elderly lady named Hildy Girst. Now, Hildy Girst runs the Hildy Girst Gallery right in the Carlysle Hotel on Madison Avenue in New York. Well, I, whenever I had a little time, and I’d given a lecture—I was giving lectures in New York—I had some time so I usually try and go to the galleries, and especially ones where you can buy or… because it’s very interesting to me to see what contemporary art people are doing. And I walked into her gallery and she had an awful lot of neo-expressionist art, and neo-impressionist and at first I didn’t think I liked some of it, but gradually I started to talk to her and she’s one of the world’s leading authorities. And she’s an elderly woman who speaks eight different languages—a Jewish woman who escaped the Nazis with her family from Austria; her husband was one of the Viennese psychiatrists—and gradually got into the art world, and she’s now become one of the great neo-impressionist art dealers and one of the authorities. She talked to me about it and I’ve gotten so that I like Chagall, I like Picasso, you know, and she has all of those, and I’ve gotten so that I have an appreciation for something I never thought I would. It’s the same thing in music, you know, I’ve written… we’ve started out writing inspirational, then we decided to write a couple patriotic albums, then I decided to write some love ballads, then I started writing some specialty pieces like the one for Mohammed Ali and the one to Ted and Vicky Kennedy, then I tried some modified soft rock, then I’ve tried country. It’s been really a lot of fun to try all those different forms of music. I’m not sure I’m great in all those forms, but I’m trying to be, and that’s what’s part of it: Just trying to be great, trying to be the best you can be. And in the process I’ve been meeting some of the great artists. I went to a Billy Joel concert and we met him behind stage, and I was thrilled to meet someone of his caliber, who can play the piano like he can and lead orchestras and write the music that he does. I have to admit it took me 4-5 hours to get my ears back to normal [laughs] after the concert. I think I’m getting to be too much of an old fogey, but with the Eagles it didn’t take that kind of time. They weren’t equally as loud, but they were very, very good. It was a different form of music but it was really, really good. And I like the various forms of music, and I like them all. They all have a statement to make, a statement that hopefully edifies, uplifts, and helps us to understand life better and understand our fellow human beings better. It helps us to soften our lives, which is what it’s done for me, what my mother’s encouragement did fro me as a young man. I got so I realized there’s a really nice side of life called music. Called the arts. One time, I even started painting, and I have to say I can do twelve paintings an hour [laughs]. In fact, some of my art hangs in the best closets in America [laughs]. I just want you to know, but I used to have fun with it; I used to abstract stuff and I had a lot of fun. And there are a few that actually turned out to be pieces of art that you might enjoy. Most of it was otherwise, but it was fun for me to do that although I have absolutely zero painting ability. I was surprised to find that I could put my deep most thoughts into lyric form that people would want to write music about.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Well, with these different forms that you’ve tried musically, and the different parts of Orrin Hatch that are being expressed in them, will we hear from Johnny Trapdoor? [laughs]

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, you know, that was Bono. I should’ve mentioned Bono long before now. Bobby Shriver, who’s a member of the Kennedy clan is a very ebullient, very upbeat lawyer—Yale law graduate—who runs the… helps run the Special Olympics and does the annual Christmas Special Olympics rock CD. And he… we’ve become very good friends, and I really like Bobby. He’s very, very upbeat, and he said, “I want to bring Bono in to see you.” I said, “I’d be delighted,” so he brought Bono in to see me and Bono was concerned about sub-Saharan African debt relief, so we talked about that and I said that I would help him, and I helped open up the doors all over capitol hill to where we got money for debt relief, or shall we say we got the debt relief that he was seeking for. I admired him because here’s a world-class rock star who was willing to take very precious time away from his band and work for the betterment of mankind, so I really kinda fell in love with Bono as a person, because of the good guy he is. He is a very religious Catholic Irishman and so he came back again and this time it was about AIDS, well of course I’m, along with Ted Kennedy, the author of three AIDS bills that have really helped America and helped those who have suffered from AIDS and helped people all over the world because of what we’ve done. Well, he naturally admired that and asked me if we’d help with AIDS and we helped right up to the point of the 15 billion dollar AIDS bill that finally got pressed and put through. But I’d say about the third time he came he said, “Hey, senator, I wanna hear some of your music!” I said, “Okay!” That’s music to your ears, to hear some one of the stars of the world who wants to hear my stuff. So, I played him a couple of songs and he said, “Senator,” he said, “those are beautiful,” he said, “but the brothers will never sing them,” and I said, “Oh, why’s that?,” and he said, “Because of who you are,” I guess meaning a conservative Republican Mormon, you know. And I said, “Well, what do I do about that?” and he said, “Well, you’re gonna have to change your name,” and I said, “Well, what should I change my name to,” and he, very contemplative, looked up at the ceiling and contemplated for a few minutes and finally he waves his fingers and says, “Ahh, I’ve got it,” he says, “Johnny Trapdoor!” [laughs] So I… if you ever see a song written by Johnny Trapdoor, you’ll know who wrote it, but I had a call from Ronny Dunn in Brooks and Dunn, and he said, “Hey, senator, I wanna write some songs with you,” and I said, “Gee, I’d like to,” and Ronny, he said, “But you gotta use your stage name,” he said, “your nom de plume, your sobriquet,” and I said, “Well, what is that?” and he said, “Johnny Trapdoor!” [laughs] He had heard the story and I guess he’d read the book and I said, “That’d be fine,” so I’m gonna… so if I write with Brooks and Dunn it’ll be under the sobriquet Johnny Trapdoor.

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Excellent. Senator, you’ve been very generous with your time and I appreciate it…

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, you’ve been a good interviewer and I’m afraid I’ve gone on and on too much…

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: No, no, you’ve been great. There’s just one more thing, and you can be as long or as brief as you want; how would you describe American music? What do you think the term American music is?

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Well, as you know, Aaron Copland personifies that. George Gershwin personifies that. There are so many others who are great. Now, they were more modern, more, you know, I would say more American than most people, but there are other great, great composers from America. I don’t want to… John Rutter for choral music… We have an arranger here in Utah who is as good as anybody in the world, and he arranges for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and he does a terrific, terrific job. And, you know, I would listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, because it sings America’s music, all the time, and it’s a wide cross-section of music, including classics. Do you realize that… I think that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ought to be on every radio station every Sunday morning in the… because they put on new program every Sunday morning; the longest continuous radio broadcast, and Mack Wilburg, this great arranger, writes… arranges a lot of the songs. He’s unbelievable, and he’s as humble as he is great. If you were to see Mack, he’d be very shy, he’d be a little reticent to talk, but when he writes choral music and orchestral music, he’s unbelievable. And he’s right here in Utah. There are others, of course, as well. But, naturally. The great thing about our country is we’re a musical country. It’s one of the things that keeps us together; it’s one of the things that embraces the highest quality of life. It’s one of the things that softens our lives and helps our children if we give them the right music to grow and to prosper and to really become even educated. It’s one of the things that literally has been falling down in some ways because many of our high schools are not teaching music any more. Utah, a state where really everybody ought to learn the piano, because we have a lay ministry in the Mormon faith, and literally we need pianists and organists and we love piano and organ and they’re picked right out of the congregation, the people who play them, these instruments. And yet we have discontinued music education in our high schools because it’s… we don’t have the money. Well, I think we’d better find the money because there’s nothing that will soften our young people better, there’s nothing that will bring a higher quality of life to them… There’s nothing that will bring more recognition of the finer things of life, there’s nothing that will help them to love their fellow men better than having beautiful music in their lives, especially if they can participate in it, whether they’re instrumentalists or whether they’re in the choruses or whether they’re just of the local little jazz ensemble or rock ensemble trying to do it themselves. Music literally cuts across all beliefs, cuts across all philosophies, all ways of life, all countries, and every country has its own genre, and every country’s genre is beautiful. I can’t say everything’s beautiful, but the vast majority of music is beautiful. And there’s so much to learn from music, not only about life and poetry, but really about fun things, about sad things, about love, about hatred, about children, about adults, about animals, you know, about quality. And frankly, we oughta all become music entrepreneurs, music appreciators, because by appreciating music, by participating, the quality of our lives goes up exponentially. And I have to say that in my later years—I’m now 69 years old—to be able to write music in these later years is been one of the most uplifting, beautiful things in my whole lifetime. And I would never have had the chance had not Janice Kapp-Kerry said, “Hey, I’d like to write some songs with you,” and Peter McCann say, “Hey, I’m a Republican! I want to write some songs with you,” [laughs] and without Madeline Stone, who’s a Democrat, saying, “Hey, I love your stuff. How about letting me write some with you?,” and, you know, Lowell Alexander saying… we wrote a CD called How His Glory Shines, and… beautiful songs on there; we wrote a song on there that’s a choral number called “Ship of Dreams,” about the Pilgrim ships that came to America. It’s a wonderful, patriotic choral number, about our country. It tells a real story. Janice and I have written… we wrote a song called, “Morning Breaks at Arlington.” People who hear it break down and cry because it’s a tribute to…

PHILLIP K. BIMSTEIN: Yes, I’ve heard that…

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: It’s a tribute to our many heroes who died and were buried at Arlington. And Lowell Alexander and I wrote a patriotic song called “Where the Marble Gardens Grow.” All about Arlington are these cemeteries for our soldiers, all over the world. Where ever Elaine and I go we try to go to those cemeteries and pay respect to those fallen soldiers and sailors and marines and airmen who have protected the freedoms that we enjoy. I wrote a song called, “For My Brother: Someday I’ll fly.” My brother was killed on the Ploesti oil raid during the Second World War. When I first heard it—Janice had sent me the mixed version—I put it on my stereo in my apartment, our condo here, and I absolutely broke down and I couldn’t stop crying. He was… I was ten when we first heard that he was missing in action, and he was a hero and that song means a lot to me. Now, it probably won’t mean a lot to other people because it’s a specialty song written for my brother, but I’ll bet it’ll mean a lot to families who’ve lost loved ones in the war, and it is a beautiful song. But, you know, “Where the Marble Gardens Grow,” it’s a classic, classic song about our heroes who have fallen and now are under these marble pillars in these military cemeteries from Arlington to Normandy to the Far East. You just name it, they deserv

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

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