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Amanda McBroom Credits Jacques Brel For Her Becoming A Songwriter

Jul 1, 2017
Originally published on July 1, 2017 1:04 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

"The Rose" won an Academy Award nomination for Bette Midler in 1979. She played a rock star who struggled with success, drink, drugs and self-destructiveness. Today, the film's mostly remembered for a song she sang during the ending credits.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE ROSE")

BETTE MIDLER: (Singing) Some say love - it is a river that drowns the tender reed.

SIMON: Bette Midler won a Grammy for that song. It was written by Amanda McBroom, who won a Golden Globe for Best Original Song. And now Amanda McBroom has a new CD of her own. It's called "Voices." She joins us from the studios of NPR West. Thanks so much for being with us.

AMANDA MCBROOM: I am beyond thrilled to be here, Scott. Thank you.

SIMON: Well, it's our thrill. Now, I've got to ask - you have performed all over the world but have done relatively little recording. Why is that?

MCBROOM: Well, I have done recording. But mostly because it's my own independent label, it hasn't made it out into the enormous mainstream of regular pop music. I was actually one of the first women to have an independent label way back in the '80s, which - you know, that and 35 cents bought me a cup of coffee.

(LAUGHTER)

MCBROOM: However...

SIMON: Yeah. Coffee doesn't cost 35 cents anymore, either. But yeah.

MCBROOM: Not anymore (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FEET OF CLAY")

MCBROOM: (Singing) He left the house that morning with his briefcase and his lunch. And he drove off in that big, old Ford. He came back home that evening in a shiny, little, red thing. And I heard her whisper, oh, my Lord. And she got that look around her mouth that always seemed to settle when she had a real bad day. I only saw his halo, but she saw his feet of clay.

SIMON: What comes first for you for a song, the story, the theme?

MCBROOM: It's always the story. Having come from primarily as an actress, when I started writing songs, I started hearing musical monologues, you know, little musical one-act plays. And this particular CD, which I did because I was cleaning out my music studio and found all these old cassettes of songs that I had written, some, you know, last week and some 20 years ago.

And as I was cleaning them out and throwing them away, I kept saying, that's a really good song. Oh, that's - hey, that's a really good song. And I decided I wanted to let the babies out of the closet before they died. So I just - and a friend of mine who's a brilliant producer named Fred Mollin called me from Nashville and said, it's time for us to record another CD. And I said, I'm sending you the babies. What do you think? And he said, we can do it. We can do it in Nashville, and it'll sound great.

SIMON: Besides "The Rose," which we're going to ask about, is there a song you want to direct us to on this album?

MCBROOM: Oh, let's see. What it would be? "Southbound Train."

SIMON: All right. Let's hear that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOUTHBOUND TRAIN")

MCBROOM: (Singing) I'm sitting on a southbound train, staring at the sky. I'm thinking of my childhood, and I'm trying not to cry. Well, a stranger sleeps against me, and it feels like I'm his wife. The towns and cities flutter past like the pages of my life.

SIMON: That's a beautiful song.

MCBROOM: That's one of the few that's on the CD that I did not write. That was written by a wonderful writer from New York named Julie Gold. And, ironically, she and I are in a club my husband calls the Bette Midler Changed My Life Club because she wrote "From A Distance," which was Bette's other big hit. And, actually, I need to correct myself. I said that Julie and I were in the Bette Midler Changed My Life Club. And he said, no, no, no. Bette Midler is in the Amanda McBroom and Julie Gold Changed My Life Club (laughter).

SIMON: Yes, right. That's right. Thank you. Let's get that in the proper order, yeah.

MCBROOM: (Laughter).

SIMON: You do have your own recording of "The Rose" on this CD.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE ROSE")

MCBROOM: (Singing) Some say love - it is a river...

My producer Fred - when he called me and said, it's been at least two decades since you recorded "The Rose." You need to do it again - need to do it as a duet. And who in all the world would you like to record the song with? And the person whose name immediately leapt into my brain was Vince Gill.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE ROSE")

AMANDA MCBROOM AND VINCE GILL: (Singing) When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long, and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong...

SIMON: Without being indelicate, this is a song that's helped a lot of people through a lot of tough times. And it's helped you to some happy times, hasn't it?

MCBROOM: (Laughter) Oh, yes. Absolutely I like to say it built my kitchen and the swimming pool. And yes.

SIMON: (Laughter).

MCBROOM: It's been very, very good to me. It was a huge miracle in my life.

SIMON: Amanda McBroom - her CD, "Voices." Thanks so much for being with us.

MCBROOM: Thank you, Scott.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE ROSE")

VINCE GILL: (Singing) It's the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance. It's the one who won't be taken who cannot seem to give. And the soul... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.