Music is what rules my world and looking at the talent we have been able to contract for the first Amelia Island Blues Festival, it's going to be a memorable milestone.
The other day I received an email from a Greek Blues band calling themselves “The Big Nose Attack”, offering their contribution to the Amelia Island Blues Festival for a stipend towards their travel and some simple accommodations. Since the idea was born for a Blues Festival here on island, we have received numerous offers like these. Blues is connecting the world and we’re taking a spot in it.
Ever since I was old enough to keep a guitar straight in front of me I felt that composing and making music is what makes us humanoids stand out in the universe.
It’s a human accomplishment of unequaled beauty and expression. There is no other human art form that has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people as music does. No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race. Wherever I go music is a major part of my journey and when we started developing the idea of enriching Amelia Island with its own Blues Festival, I was largely guided by the inspiration and philosophy of the Playing for Change Foundation, which started with a revival movement in 2007 to connect and bring peace to the world through music.
It started all in March of 2005 when Playing for Change Founder Mark Johnson heard Roger Ridley perform ‘Stand by Me’ on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica California and realized that Roger’s voice, soul and passion had to be shared with the rest of the world.
He shot and produced this magnificent video that takes you around the world in that one beautiful song.
Mark once asked Roger the question: with a voice as powerful as his, why was he singing on the streets? He replied, “I am in the joy business. I come out here to be with the people.” Roger, who hailed from Lumpkin/Charles Junction near Atlanta Georgia, passed away 8 months after this video was shot at the early age of 57. He lived the blues man’s life bringing joy.
Last Saturday night I played at the American Legion for a very appreciative crowd when I got reminded of one of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s best songs “Curtis Lowe” and the lines: “People said he was useless, them people all were fools, Cause Curtis Lowe was the finest picker to ever play the blues”. Playing for people is what the blues is all about and that’s why Roger Ridley kind of personified Curtis Lowe for me. Livin’ the Blues but in a positive way. Of his passing he said: ” My Lord and Savior called me home and I had to go. I have made my mark and am very satisfied in knowing that my family is keeping my music alive. Besides his family, Playing for Change and Mark Johnson have given Roger’s beautiful gift more exposure than a lifetime of playing in front of people. But that is what he wanted and enjoyed most.
Over the past 6 years Mark used posthumus footage to have Roger hook up long distance with many great performers around the world to spread the message of Stand by Me which is here followed up in a video compilation of Otis Redding’s immortal “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” (anywhere in the world).
When we were riding the Subway in New York last week, 3 guys from Peru or somewhere in the Andes Mountains jumped in at one stop, clipped on their guitars and sang a beautiful upbeat harmony rendition of Bamboleo. When they finished two stops further down the tracks, they had made my day, and a $5 dollar tip could not even come close to expressing what this did for my overall well being. That night we saw Sean Lennon and his band “The Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger” in a complete free open air concert at South Street Seaport and with pure excitement I recognized flares of his dad’s genius in his music.
Music is what rules my world and looking at the talent we have been able to contract for the first Amelia Island Blues Festival, it’s going to be a blast.