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Interviews

Herbie Hancock: One World, One Music

By Published: June 21, 2010

AAJ: I think so too. My first thought when I listened to the record was that it sounds like a love album for the world.

HH: Oh, thank you! It's a celebration of the beauty of the human spirit. That's what it's about. And it doesn't have borders, you know? At least that's the vision that I wanted to portray, music without borders.



AAJ: The selection of the songs impressed me very much too. Like the song in Portuguese... How did you go from one track to the other, and realized that those were the ones you wanted to record for this specific project?

HH: Well, I started thinking "Okay, what kinds of songs do we have on here"? I did want songs that had to do with peace, songs that had to do with bringing people together, but the word peace seems so huge, and so lofty, it seems that is something that we all want, but it's unattainable, but peace is not just world peace, from the global standpoint; peace can be a challenge between families. It can be a challenge with a husband and wife; it can be a challenge with parents and children or with your neighbors. Ultimately, peace can be a challenge within one's body. We can have conflicted ideas, we can be conflicted about what we want to do, what we want to be, one part that says do this, and the other says do that...we have these challenges that are pulling at us all the time, it's part of being a human being, so I didn't want to restrict it to just one view of peace. So I was very open to various expressions of what that is, and the problems that challenge peaceful resolutions. So this time, I got together with the artists and I got into discussions about what the record was about, and what I did want.

I had this big thing about challenges towards peace, and how they could be expressed, so that's how a song like "Tempo De Amor," an old song co-written by Vinicius De Moraes, made it to the record. It has interesting lyrics. Wouldn't it be wonderful if there wasn't no wars, and no this and no that? So that everybody can be happy...And then it says "no, it'd be horrible!" [laughs], because you can't know peace unless you experienced those conflicts, you can't know happiness unless you experienced sadness and struggle; you can't know love unless you experienced pain; that's the truth. And that's what I wanted to prevail above it. The truth of what already is, and at the same time, the truth that we hope exists within the struggle.

AAJ: Being originally from Spain, it caught me off guard to find a song, "La Tierra," sung in Spanish. It made my day.

HH: [laughs] Yeah, yeah, yeah...the song with Juanes. When I first heard "La Tierra" it was on YouTube, a performance that Juanes did in Cuba, and in front of more than a million people. So I saw this video and he is singing this song, and on a big banner it could be read "Paz sin fronteras" [Peace without borders].

So as soon as I saw that, I thought, "Perfect, these are already thinking this way," you know? We were fortunate enough to be able to get a hold of Juanes, and when we explained what the purpose of the record was about, he was so happy to be a part of it, because this is the way that he believes also. And because he wrote that song, it made it a lot easier, he didn't have to learn a new song or anything. You would know that the lyrics to that song sound more nationalistic. Originally we were going to have some of the lyrics in English as well as in Spanish, but by the time we did all the recording we had very little time to put the English things together, and he had very little time to work on the pronunciation, so we never could get any of it to where it made sense, switching languages and so forth, and he sounded so much more comfortable in Spanish. So we just let it as it was. We were going to say things like "respect your race," but I don't think the Spanish for "Raza" means the same as it does in English in that sense, does it? I mean, I know it's the word for race, but...

AAJ: You are exactly right. We don't see it the same way.

HH: That's right, it's something that's bigger than that, , it's not so narrow as it sounds in English.

AAJ: No, to us, that word means more like your whole country or everybody that's like you; in our case, if you speak Spanish that's your own race, like your family. It's your own family.

HH: Exactly, like family, which is great. That's why the song says, "Respect your mother, the woman that gave birth to you," and all of those things; I thought they were great, so the lyrics are more uplifting, I think.

AAJ: And what was the process of coming up with all these different musicians for the album, people from different countries?

HH: We sat down and started to do research. Most of that research was done by Larry Klein, the producer. And some of the suggestions were from the executive producer, Adam Mintz. Céu, from Brazil, works with his management company, she's one of their artists, and so is Dave Matthews. Dave and I, we're friends, and Dave was supposed to be on my record Possibilities (Hear Music, 2005), but we never could work out the schedule, and we were able to have him on this record. The reason he recorded a different piece is that we recorded it, and he was writing lyrics, listening to the playback, sitting in the corner, trying to write the lyrics. We finally finished the recording, all in one day.

Months later, we heard that he hated the song [laughs]! And after we had mostly mixed it and did some corrections and things to it, he finally put together another song, which he didn't write, a The Beatles

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song, and it's "Tomorrow Never Knows." It's completely differed from the piece that he had worked on before, this one's a more psychedelic piece, but we had nothing else on the record like that. So I was like, "This is great, there's nothing else that sounds like this," and I wanted everything to be different from everything else, so the song adds to the dimension of what was not covered by the other pieces.


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