Monday, October 25, 2010

Tears in Heaven...or East Texas?

It's really tough to write about a writer. Writers as well as creative people in general want the focus of their efforts to be about the art in which they create. Their bios or life stories read more like an outline and they never pull you into their world as it's the world in which they feed upon. A world of experiences that lend themselves to lyrics, books, paintings, the mediums of expression.

A really good song writer is usually pretty quiet. They soak it in rather than spill it out if you know what I mean. Can't ever tell what's going on in their heads most of the time as they are all great listeners. Listeners of life and the experiences in which it holds.

Not too many people know that Will Jennings, one of the most successful song writers in America, came right out of Kilgore, Texas on June 24th in 1944. His family moved outside of Tyler when he was just a boy where he attended Chapel Hill Independent Schools.

In 1967, he earned his Bachelors in Art at Stephen F. Austin State University and would
begin teaching shortly after at Tyler Junior College and then on to the University of
Wisconsin_Eau Claire.

Now you should know that creative people are not like regular people. They are driven in an almost mad-like direction if they feel it will accomplish and aid in their end result. The best comparison I can give is when the folks in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" were driven to create a mountain and Richard Dreyfuss filled his entire living room with dirt. This is exactly what it's like when you have an idea buried in your head. A creative will stop at nothing until it's complete within their own vision even it it means building a mountain of dirt in their own home.

Will would have enough of teaching as the creative bug drove him straight to Nashville in 1971. I don't think Will likes to elaborate much about Nashville as you don't see it in any of the stories written about him. However, the Nashville stretch lasted three years from 1971 to 1974 and he will tell you in so many words that he almost starved to death. There is no doubt that It was an exciting time to be in Nashville during the seventies. Waylon, Willie and Kristofferson were like three crock pots boiling over with constant hits and if you were a young song writer with essentially no contacts and zero experience, it was a tough road to hoe.

Moving to Los Angeles was an even bolder move as most folks would have thrown in
the towel and gone back to teaching or whatever it was that they could fall back on. But L.A. proved to be the golden doorway to Will's success and placed him smack dab in the middle of where his talents would excel to the greatest heights.

As I mentioned above, Will's rap sheet reads like some sort of never ending outline. The amount of material he's written is almost endless so to hit the highlights, his major awards are as follows:
  1. Best Pop Vocal Performance 1993 Grammy Awards "Tears in Heaven" written by Eric Clapton and Will Jennings
  2. Academy Award (1997), Golden Globe Award (1997), Grammy Award "My Heart Will Go On" performed by CĂ©line Dion for the motion picture Titanic.
  3. Academy Award (1983), Golden Globe Award (1983) along with Jack Nitzshe and Buffy Sainte-Marie for "Up Where We Belong" performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes from the motion picture An Officer and a Gentlemen
  4. Grammy Award (nomination) (1986) "Higher Love" performed by Steve Winwood
  5. Grammy Award to Dionne Warwich (1979) "I'll Never Love This Way Again" written by Richard Kerr and Will Jennings
  6. Academy Award (nomination) (1980) "People Alone" for the motion picture The Competition
Will lives in L.A. now but still visits his sister in Tyler when the months are cooler. Judging from his list of accomplishments as well as his age, he's what my dad refers to as playing in the fourth quarter of his life.

Although a very bright star that shot straight up above the entire world, it's important to note that the star shot right off of Highway 64.

Tears in Heaven? How about Tears in East Texas? It's the same thing really.

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