*Veteran music industry-ite and publicist Jo-Ann Geffen has taken her talent to the tome. Geffen authored the new book “Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song,” a latest title of the “Chicken Soup” franchise. The book shares 101 personal stories of songwriters about some of the most popular songs ever written.
Although Geffen is well known in the industry and close friends with a number of the book’s subjects, she actually stumbled upon the opportunity to write about the legendary songwriters.
“It was a fluke,” she said of leading the project. “I write, but I was at a meeting with the gentleman who founded the brand and his publisher and they were talking about all of the different titles they had. I didn’t realize, frankly, how diverse they were and was listening to all the different subjects and realized they had nothing on entertainment or music or celebrities.”
Geffen told EUR’s Lee Bailey that when the meeting was over, she simply asked if they were open to outside ideas and proceeded to pitch the idea of revealing some poignant stories behind songs that create stories for many.
“They loved [the idea] and said, ‘Let’s do it.’ It was really that simple. I was kind of thrust into it,” she said.
She also said that there were several reasons why she was compelled to pitch the idea of the book in the first place.
“One reason was the curiosity factor from a consumer standpoint. I’ve always wondered what inspired people to write certain songs. If we hear it under a certain circumstance, that’s how we remember that song, but that’s not necessarily at all how it was intended. So, the curiosity factor was one thing.”
All of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books include 101 stories. This release also includes song lyrics and artist/songwriter photographs. Geffen admitted that her book holds to the 101 stories, but she only interviewed 94 artists. Some artists have two stories.
“It was quite casual,” she said of interviews. “I wanted to reflect each writer’s personality. I wanted it to be their essence that came across. I simply asked ‘What was the inspiration behind the song?’ and as one thing led to another; it became more conversation and storytelling.”
She continued that each story tells of the inspiration or the circumstances under which the song was written.
“Some of [the songwriters] talk about the beat. Some of them talk about how they got it to a particular artist. So it has a lot of insight into the music business that wrote the songs that we put our own stories to,” she said.
Songwriters featured in the book include representatives of just about every popular genre including John Legend, Nick Fleetwood, Richie Sambora, Smokey Robinson, Lamont Dozier, Diane Warren, Barry Manilow, Daryl Hall, Howard Hewitt, and many more.
“The fact that there are several genres of music reflected in it was intentional,” Geffen explained. “What I was trying to show is that people are really the same. Whether it was written in 1960 or 2009, our essence as human beings is really the same, whether it’s a country song talking about love, or an R&B song, or a rap song, or a pop song, or a classic rock song.”
“We all have the same basic emotions,” she continued. “Our individual circumstances and experiences may vary, but basically we’re the same human being. If the beat’s a little different, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to it and open ourselves up to hearing what other people have to say.”
In addition to running the gamut as far as music styles are concerned, Geffen said that the back stories were varied. She said that while some stories or inspirations were rather basic and straightforward, others were sparked by some intense situations.
“Some [answers] existed by virtue of publicity,” she said citing Huey Lewis’ ‘Heart of Rock N Roll.’ “We get it. It’s very simplistic. Also Chicago’s ‘Saturday in the Park,’ I got that it was very visual. There’s not a tremendously deep meaning to it.”
“Others, on the other hand, were far more intense than anyone could have ever anticipated,” she said. “Even people I was close to like Ronald La Pread of the Commodores. When he wrote ‘Zoom,’ I knew he wrote it as a tribute to his then wife. I didn’t know the dynamics of what went on when he was writing it. She was dying when he wrote it. Even though I was right there, I didn’t realize some of the detail. I was very touched.”
Geffen said that she had a great time writing the book.
“I got amazing people,” she said. “There are a lot of phenomenal writers in the book, and great names. I tried to really reflect their voices and that made it more interesting to me and for the reader. It’s a fun read. It’s entertaining and insightful.”
“Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Story Behind the Song,” is in stores and available online now. For more information, visit, www.chickensoup.com.