I am a composer. This is what I do. I spend days and nights listening to the music inside me, hoping for a sign, a theme, a beat. I will take three notes, if this is all I get, but I pray that I will have something I can call my own before night falls. Without it, there can be no peace, no respite. It is the air I breathe, the companion of my joys and sorrows, my guardian angel. Music lives in me, whether I want it or not. And I want it.
The purpose of composing is to create life. A life that you hope to be able to share with as many people as possible. Music is made of notes, but notes are not alive by themselves. These are just sounds. Music is sounds put together to tell a story. When I have a story, I am the luckiest man on Earth. On story days, I celebrate, I make noise, I do a little dance. I might even videotape myself having a party of one. It doesn't matter. Besides, I'm not alone. I have my daughter. I live in France, she works in New York. So I call her,tell her all about it. We improvise a party on the phone, we forget about the ocean between us, the distance, the absence, work, strife. Life is great, and it is going to remain that way forever.
And then there are the “other” days. Days without end, devoid of meaning, frustrating, depressing, hopeless. When you work alone, like I do, there is nobody to pat you on the back, nothing to do for others to make you feel less worthless than the trash can in which your production for the day ends. Days like these, I just want to crawl under a carpet, dissolve into nothingness, which is what I am. For creation starts with nothing. The challenge, is to make sure it doesn't end the way it started. And all too often, that is just what happens.
Spend two years like this and you might seriously wonder if you will ever make it in the music business. For that is the dream, the holy grail. Be it New York, L.A., or Nashville, you must end up there. It is the consecration, the moment that will erase all the angst and despair, nirvana.
When I met Judy Whiting, I was a standing in a ditch, unable to pull myself together, let alone figure out what to do next. I knew one thing: I needed help, guidance, a kind word, a sign from God or someone who works for him. Public figure on the Nashville music scene, producer extraordinaire, C.E.O. of her own studio, songwriter with billboard hits in her trophy box and a heart of gold, Judy Whiting was a ray of light into my world of gray.
Like the godmother of fairy tales, she took me under her wings, and taught me how to fly. She did this simply by hearing the beauty buried in my amateur recordings, and by giving me her trust. Music is like life. It has its growing phases, and pains. It all begins with the childhood of innocent, carefree composing, then the travails of adolescence when writing music is like a torture, and not writing feels even worse. And for those who are lucky enough to survive this far, spring comes, and with it the seeds of greatness.
The New Year was twenty-three days old when I received a package containing the CD that Judy Whiting had just finished recording. It was my birthday. I opened the padded manila envelope, pulled out the disc and inserted it in the player. I held my breath, and pressed play. The first notes echoed throughout the room and I knew, in this moment, that I had just entered the elusive, coveted world of professional music. Judy had given me a name, a proof of my talent for the whole world to hear, and a future.
Judy had done it. My music, in her hands, now sounded like Kenny G. And all this without ever meeting. I never saw Judy other than on a picture, never shook her hand, never heard her voice, although we did make plans for a beer, after the album. This summer Judy was to travel all the way to the little French village where I reside during the warm season. I was in charge of picking the best bottle of red for her and her companion, John Heinrich. We would sit on the patio, with the hundred year old vine climbing up against the arbor and overhanging from the trestle above our heads. Sitting next to the pool, with the mountains emerging from the thick summer haze across the Rhone Valley, we would raise our glass to friendship, living the dream, and to another hundred years of making music together.
We will never have that bottle of wine. On March 15, 2010, Judy Whiting fought her last battle against lung cancer. She had entered the Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville on March 4 for an emergency surgery against the illness that would not go away. The odds were slim that her system would be able to withstand the procedure. It did not. On the morning of the surgery I sent her an email to lift her spirits and give her the energy to win and come back to this world. She replied she would do just that, win. That is the last I heard from her.
Now it is my turn to carry the flame and tell the story of the Lady that changed my life so that her name will be remembered for generations to come. Judy Whiting graced the days of those who knew her. To all of them, to her family, this memoir is dedicated.
I have always been drawn toward writing, ever since I was young. But my life took a different course. Recently, and with renewed intensity over the past Christmas period, I became increasingly filled with a sense of needing, no longer wanting, to write. I had no understanding of why I felt this way. What was life trying to tell me?
As I sit at my desk, remembering the days of blessing spent with Judy Whiting, I no longer wonder why my fingers move on the keyboard. Judy Whiting was an angel sent to Earth. What she accomplished, her legacy, is the story I now must tell. That is why I write."