If there’s one thing I’m a sucker for, it’s listening to legendary artists revisit their catalog and dish on not only the creative process behind some of our favorite songs, but the environment that contributed to them.
Podcasts like Questlove Supreme and Drink Champs thrive at doing exactly this, and on the latest episode of Here To There Radio with DJ Spinna on Apple Music Hits, we’re treated to a testimony or seven from Reverend Deacon Pastor George Benson, the legendary guitar maestro who gave us the classic album Breezin’.
In discussing the album as part of its 45th anniversary, Benson explained why Warner Brothers Records was the perfect partner to help propel his career to another level.
“Warner Brothers, I was really confident they knew how to sell records,” he told host DJ Spinna. “From day one, they had worldwide distribution. Within a couple of weeks, my record was heard all over the planet earth. I remember the first week it came out, we sold 20 thousand albums. Warner thought it was incredible because they didn’t expect to sell anywhere in those kind of numbers because jazz records just were not big sellers at the time. The second week, we were selling 20 thousand albums a day. They jumped on it, and turned it into a great seller. So we ended up selling Breezin’ in the millions.”
Another inescapable song in his repertoire is 1980's “Give Me the Night,” written by Rod Temperton and produced by the God himself, Quincy Jones. Grab some popcorn, because Benson had a story about the creation of that song, too.
“I remember the last day we had finished the album. We (Benson and Jones) had done ‘One Hundred Ways,’ which was on my album first. He ended up giving it to James Ingram, and I didn’t know why he had taken it off the album,” Benson said. “I was on my way home, and he called me on the telephone. He said, ‘George, you can’t leave man.’ I said, ‘Wait a minute! What do you mean I can’t leave? I’ve been here a month in the studio, I’m going home!’ He said, ‘You know Rod has written a song man…” I said, ‘Look Quincy, I’m going to do this one night and that’s it.’”
He continued, “So I went into the studio and he had this track, ‘Give Me The Night.’ [Jazz guitarist] Lee Ritenhour was there, so he was the one doing the double up with me on the line. I thought it was pretty slick to add my sound and his sound mixed together. I got tired somewhere late in the night and I said, ‘Man, let’s give this up. This ain’t going nowhere.’ He said, ‘Try it one more time George.’ Out of frustration, I said [sings “Whenever dark has fallen.”] Here’s the joke. And he said, ‘George can you put down a whole track like that?’ I said, ‘I know you, Q! You’ll put that out! I know you!’ He said, ‘Let me hear it.’ But you know what happened. I didn’t think he could get away with it.”
I can listen to stories like these all day.
To hear the rest of the episode, check out Here to There Radio with DJ Spinna only on Apple Music Hits.