CRYING TIME

I’m no Barbara Walters. Its never my goal to get the people I interview to turn on the tear ducts. But it has happened…

The first one of my interview subjects to get emotional was a  songwriter named B.A. Robertson, who I was interviewing for an entry in “The Billboard Book of Number One Hits.” B.A. wrote the lyric for Mike + The Mechanics’ 1989 hit, “The Living Years.” Although B.A. had already written the first verse of the song, it was only after the death of his father that the song truly came together. B.A. gave a great interview, leading me through the entire step by step process of the writing and recording of “The Living Years,” but I guess I asked one question too many because eventually his voice cracked and he said, “I have to go now.” Then he hung up on me.

The same thing happened when I talked to Chynna Phillips of the trio Wilson Phillips. In 1990, when I was a writer for Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” radio show, I did a phone interview with Chynna about Wilson Phillips’ big success with songs like “Hold On” and “Release Me.” I was determined to get some good stories for the show, and knowing Casey, that meant stories about how Chynna triumphed over adversity. Well, it turns out “Hold On” and “Release Me” relate the problems Chynna and the other members of Wilson Phillips were having with their boyfriends at the time, going through a cycle of breaking up, getting back together and then breaking up again. Perfect! I wanted to get all the details I could, but I guess the wounds were still close to the surface because Chynna broke down and cut short the interview.

But the most surprising star to get emotional on me was Curtis Jackson, better known as the bulletproof rapper 50 Cent. At least I think he was getting choked up, but it can be hard to tell during a phone call…

Now as I said, I try not to bring up emotional topics, which is why I didn’t ask 50 to talk about the night in 2000 when he was shot nine times. I did want to know if the shooting affected his rapping style and what gave him the toughness to come back better than ever. He told me that after the shooting, he had a swollen tongue, so the doctors wanted to cut his throat open to ensure he could breathe. Fortunately, his grandmother refused her permission for the operation, knowing that if her grandson didn’t have the chance to rap, he wouldn’t have any hope for a better life. So the doctors waited a day for the swelling to go down and only then did the surgery. Afterwards, because he also lost a tooth, there was now a hiss in his voice, which ended up making him a more distinctive rapper. “Everything happens for a reason. I believe that,” 50 said, just before he asked me to hold on for a moment. Did he get teary eyed, or did he just want to grab a drink? I wasn’t there to see, but I know what I’d like to think. After all, his access to his emotions helps make 50 Cent one of the most interesting rappers around.

Part of that 50 Cent interview was published in Billboard, giving me a by-line in a magazine I’d been reading faithfully since high school. Why, remembering that achievement is making me get a little emotional. You’ll have to excuse me…

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2 Responses to “CRYING TIME”

  1. Trudy Says:

    i LOVE that “Living Years” song : ) Great story!

  2. Sophie Says:

    I cried reading your blog.

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