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When I first heard You Got Me Singing, a new record by Amanda Palmer and her father Jack, I thought, "How sweet. They probably sang many of these songs together long ago." Then I discovered how wrong I was.
The story goes more like this: Amanda Palmer's parents separated when she was about a year old. She saw her father only on occasion. Palmer became a popular and provocative artist with the Dresden Dolls and other projects; her dad lives in Washington, D.C., and sings in a church choir at St. David's. He also plays guitar, an old Martin he's had for much of his life.
One night, years ago, when Amanda Palmer was playing at D.C.'s 9:30 Club, Jack joined Amanda on stage to sing a song by Leonard Cohen, an artist with whom they share a common bond. That was the beginning of a new relationship that spawned You Got Me Singing, which opens with the Cohen song of the same name.
You can hear the full interview through the link above or read edited highlights below.
"I started inviting my dad up on stage to play some cover songs, and we didn't have some long-story family musical history. We didn't know each other that well. My parents got divorced when I was [a year old], and I would occasionally visit my dad, but we didn't play a lot of music together. I knew he was a musician and I knew he sang and I knew he had a guitar, but [it wasn't] like I would go visit my dad and we would strike up the campfire singing Bob Dylan songs together."
"I'd been playing guitar before I'd heard Leonard, or even heard about him for the first time. But like [he did for] millions of other people, he blew me away. He still does, and his songs have any number of attributes. But one of them, from a musician's standpoint, is that they're really accessible. They're easy to learn, and up to a point, they're easy to play. He does some things, increasingly now, with more complex instrumentation. But anybody, pretty much anybody, can sit down and play a passable version of 'Suzanne.' It's not hard to learn 'You've Got Me Singing.'"
"One of the joys of doing this album with Amanda was the time we spent in [what] might have been over a year before we even got into the studio, throwing songs back and forth like, 'Oh I love this song! That's a great song!' Or, 'What about this?' and 'Have you heard of John Grant?' Well, listen to 'Glacier.'"
"Music does a thing that nothing else does. We see it when we're standing on stage, and when we sign at the end of shows, and we hold people in our arms who cry and weep and say, 'This song changed my life.' Music never has to feel less powerful, and I think the way music has changed and the way it's gotten more commercialized, it doesn't change the core. If you write a good, powerful song like 'Glacier,' or like the songs I've written that get into the heart of your listener, it all falls away. Nothing else really matters."
"If music has lost its ability to do that, we're just doomed. Music has a unique ability to communicate. As a writer, as a musician, you can choose from an incredible range of things to communicate — as you can when you sit down and talk to somebody. And so the question of what you choose to communicate is a whole separate issue. Music gets an idea across in a way that nothing else I know of can, and it can be incredibly powerful."
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