David Bruce: Music Anecdotes

Katy Perry’s real name is Katie Hudson, but she changed her name to avoid confusion with Kate Hudson, who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Almost Famous. “Perry” is Katie’s mother’s maiden name. (Katy did record her first album, which was self-titled and categorized as Christian/gospel, using the name Katy Hudson.) The road to the top was difficult. Some record companies dropped her before her first non-Christian album, One of the Boys, hit record stores on 17 June 2008; of course, it was a hit. Among its singles were “Hot N Cold” and “I Kissed a Girl.” Katie’s parents are evangelical Christians, and they have always supported her career. In the music video for “Hot N Cold,” they play the roles of Katie’s character’s parents. Even with a hit album, Katie had to work hard. She performed outside during the Warped Tour, and at a concert in Maryland the weather was so hot that her shoes melted on stage. When Katie was a little girl, she was not allowed to watch any television episodes of The Smurfs. When she got a job doing voice work for the 2011 movie titled The Smurfs, she called her mother and said, “Guess what, Mom — I’m Smurfette!”

Conductor Leonard Bernstein gave credit where credit was due. At one time, Mr. Bernstein wanted to record all of Gustav Mahler’s nine symphonies with the New York Philharmonic. However, conductor Bruno Walter, who had known and had worked with Mr. Mahler, recorded Mahler’s First Symphony. Mr. Bernstein listened to the recording and then said, “I couldn’t bear to record the work now. It’s his!” One of the very good things that Mr. Bernstein did as music director of the New York Philharmonic was to always conduct at least one American composition at each concert. That helped to give the American music credibility — at one time, people felt that American compositions were inferior to European compositions. By the way, one of the stories told about Mr. Bernstein after he retired from the New York Philharmonic was that while rehearsing an orchestra for a performance that would be filmed in Vienna, he did not notice when the curtain above the orchestra pit caught on fire! Of course, he loved music and tried to educate people in how to appreciate music. He once said, “Only a society prepared by music can ever be a truly cultured society. Music desperately needs a prepared public, joyfully educated ears.”

Stevie Wonder — “Superstition” and “I Just Called to Say I Love You” are among his many hits — is blind, and when he was small, his young brothers thought that he needed more light in order to see — they set a fire in a trash can and nearly burned down the house. Stevie remembers, “I know it used to worry my mother, and I know she used to pray for me to have sight someday, and so finally I told her that I was happy being blind, and I thought it was a gift from God, and I think she felt better after that.” Stevie’s mother was Lula Mae Hardaway, and his name at birth was Stevland Hardaway Judkins. The story is he acquired the name Stevie Wonder when he was discovered as a young boy and someone said, “That kid’s a wonder!” Mr. Wonder once appeared on a poster for M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Under his photograph appeared these words: “Before I ride with a drunk, I’ll drive myself.”

In 1998, Cher released the song “Believe,” which became a monster hit and won her a Grammy. An 11-year-old fan named Eric, who suffered from a life-threatening brain tumor for which he was receiving radiation treatments, wanted to meet her. The Make-a-Wish Foundation arranged a visit, and Cher went to Tampa, Florida. She wore gem-studded jeans and spikey high heels and gave Eric a couple of hugs. Eric said, “I like her music. I think it’s good, and well, I think she’s pretty, even though she’s older than my mom and dad. And gosh, my dad is like 30.” Cher is feisty — and she was feisty even in the fourth grade. One day was “Sharing Day,” during which all the students were supposed to tell what they had done over the summer. Cher thought that was stupid, so she said, “I’m going home” — then she walked out of school and went home.

Jerry Lee Lewis’ mother once told him, “You and Elvis are pretty good, but you’re no Chuck Berry.” Chuck Berry, of course, was a duck-walking guitarist who put 15 songs on the R&B Top Ten chart. By making hits out of such songs as “Maybelline,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Roll Over Beethoven,” Mr. Berry helped integrate the United States, which during the 1950s was segregated in many places. He and Fats Domino, best known perhaps for “Blueberry Hill,” toured together in the 1950s. At first, a rope divided the blacks from the whites, but later the black music fans and the white music fans mixed. Mr. Berry said, “Salt and pepper all mixed together.” He added that Fats and he used to look at the mixed audiences and say, “Well, look what’s happening.”

Pianist Van Cliburn, who did not smoke or drink, did many good deeds in his life, including many before he became wealthy. Once, when his life savings amounted to a little more than $1,000, he donated that money to help buy a much-needed piano for the church he attended in New York City. He also gave up a $500 engagement — when $500 was a small fortune to him — to perform for free at a church banquet. After visiting Russia, he carried back to the United States a lilac bush that a Russian fan of Sergei Rachmaninoff had asked him to plant at the head of Rachmaninoff’s grave in Kensico Cemetery, Valhalla, New York.

Run-DMC’s first hit was “It’s Like That.” At the time, both Run and DMC were college students at different schools. Run was walking on campus at LaGuardia College when “It’s Like That” began playing on the radio. Excited, he caused a scene by shouting, over and over, “That’s my song! That’s my song!”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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