*For almost four decades, Greg Phillinganes has been one of the world’s most sought after musicians, often attaching his name and talents as a songwriter, producer, studio/touring keyboardist, and/or music director to an endless list of music’s biggest names.
His musical fingerprints can be found on a multiplicity of music projects for such artists as Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Rod Steward, Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Santana, Usher, John Legend, Elton John, and many dozens more.
As a music director, Phillinganes’ credits include Lionel Richie’s “Can’t Slow Down” tour, as well as Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and “Dangerous” tours.
Most recently, he served as music director for Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life – The Performance: Tour,” which Phillinganes has since received an Emmy nomination – his first – for the CBS TV Grammy salute by the same name.
On Thursday, Oct. 1 at Carnegie Hall in New York, Phillinganes will add yet another rhythmical chapter to his book of music stardom, when he serves as co-producer and music director for a tribute to the legendary singer, guitarist, and recording artist, Bill Withers.
“Bill Withers’ wife, Marcia, always had this idea to celebrate the anniversary of her husband’s “Live at Carnegie Hall” album that was recorded in 1973,” Phillinganes recently told the Electronic Urban Report/EUR’s Lee Bailey. “She partnered with an entertainment company called City Winery. I was brought in as co-producer, musical director, and to acquire most of the talent for the tribute.”
Phillinganes revealed some of the recording artists that will contribute their musical talents to the event, include Anthony Hamilton, Jonathan Butler, Ledisi, Michael McDonald, D’Angelo, Valerie Simpson, Dr. John, Branford Marsalis, Bill’s daughter Kori, and more.
While Phillinganes would not divulge the entire program of which artist will sing which songs of Withers’ many hits, he did say that Jonathan Butler would perform “Lovely Day” and D’Angelo will sing “Use Me” and one other song.
“I sat down and studied the list of songs that I was given, keeping in mind that this was primarily a celebration of the ‘Live in Carnegie Hall’ album that’s going to be done in its entirety,” Phillinganes said. “In addition, there will be another seven songs that were real big hits for Bill. or his favorite songs that will be performed. Based on my almost 40 years in music, I was able to determine which artists could do the best job on certain classic songs of Bill, taking in consideration a particular artist’s key, vocal styling, and personality. I am very proud that of the artists that were chosen for this tribute, not one artist argued, or gave any opposition to my decisions for which songs they would sing.”
Bill Withers, a three-time Grammy winner, first burst on the recording scene in early 1970s. Soon, such songs as “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean on Me,” “Grandma’s Hand,” “Lovely Day,” “Use Me,” “Just the Two of Us” with Grover Washington and many more began to top national and international music charts. His 1973 “Live at Carnegie Hall” has been called one of the greatest albums ever recorded at the famed New York venue. Withers released his last album in 1985 and has not performed publicly in close to two decades. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year.
So the question is, Will Bill thrill the audience at his tribute by singing on stage?
“He will not perform,” said Phillinganes, who also said the tribute will not be televised or recorded, or at least that’s the word for now. “The reality is that Bill doesn’t perform anymore. He will be at his tribute and will enjoy it, but he is not expected to sing.”
“I’m really looking forward to the tribute and my role as music director and co-producer,” he said. “It’s going to be an incredible tribute to Bill and his music, by some of the industry’s best vocalists and musicians.”