Interview With Frank McGee, Author of "A Song for the World"

Interview With Frank McGee, Author of "A Song for the World"
Interview With Frank McGee, Author of "A Song for the World"

Frank McGee has constructed a distinguished profession as a author and journalist over half a century. In the tumultuous Nineteen Sixties he lined tales as far afield as Brazil, Indonesia, and Viet Nam. As managing editor of “Tempo” journal, a up to date of “Life, Look, and Vacation,” he labored with thought leaders from round the world.

Throughout the Nineteen Seventies, McGee launched and edited “New Worlds,” the signature journal of California’s Orange Coast. The College of California at Irvine tapped him to put in writing the espresso desk e book commemorating the college’s first twenty-five years. In the ’80s and ’90s, he authored and edited books on a range of matters that had been printed in a dozen languages. As we speak, he lives together with his spouse in Tucson, Arizona.

Tyler: Thanks, Frank, for becoming a member of me. You are right here right this moment to inform us about your new e book “A Song for the World” which tells the story of how the Colwell Brothers and Herb Allen used music to carry peace and diplomacy to the world, significantly by way of the group, Up with Folks. To start, will you inform our readers a bit bit about the way it started?

Frank: Glad to, Tyler. Up with Folks began in a means that stunned everybody at the time. It was born throughout the Nineteen Sixties to provide a voice to youth desperate to have a say in constructing the future. There is a chapter in the e book about that. The Up with Folks present was launched in embryo in 1965 at a convention for younger management on an island in the Nice Lakes. It developed that summer time in performances from a showboat touring native harbors, and inside weeks, actually, it was in orbit round the world. Nobody anticipated that to occur, least of all the Colwell Brothers and Herb Allen, who initially simply needed to offer a platform for the idealism and creativity of the younger individuals attending the convention. You would possibly say that Up with Folks was born by way of a ardour for change.

Home and international audiences got here to know the Colwells and Allen in the following many years by way of Up with Folks’s 4 Tremendous Bowl Halftime Exhibits. A number of casts had toured on each continent and throughout the U.S. and Canada. In America’s Bicentennial Yr, 1976, they performed in 771 U.S. cities to dwell audiences totaling 3.9 million. That 12 months they actually invented the trendy Tremendous Bowl halftime format when the NFL invited them to carry out. The primary chapter of “A Song for the World” opens with that occasion. I’ve to say (talking modestly as the writer!) that it is a fairly dramatic story. In 1980 I had the privilege of being a discipline photographer throughout their efficiency at Tremendous Bowl XIV in the Rose Bowl.

Tyler: Frank, I perceive you could have been pals with the Colwells and Allen for fifty years. Would you inform us a bit bit about that friendship and the way it developed?

Frank: That is half a century, Tyler! I first met them of their teenagers. I hadn’t superior a lot past that myself. Allen was acknowledged as a musical genius from his youth, a baby prodigy. In his hometown of Seattle he was well-known as a wizard on the xylophone. He skilled underneath the finest classical piano instructors in the Northwest and was enrolled to enter the Oberlin College of Music, however his ardour in his teenagers was his dance band, Herbie Allen and His Orchestra. Herb was a junior in highschool once we met. I used to be then working with Ethical Re-Armament (MRA), a world volunteer group centered on growing accountable leaders throughout a broad spectrum of society. Herb immediately responded to the goal. Increasingly I’ve come to comprehend the implications of the readiness of younger artists like Herb and the Colwells to have interaction in a goal that gave relevance and which means to their skills.

The Colwell Brothers had been already nation music stars when our paths crossed in Southern California. They had been regulars on NBC’s Tex Williams tv present, broadcasting weekly from Orange County’s Knott’s Berry Farm, which was America’s first theme park (Disneyland opened later simply up the street). The Brothers, aged 19, 17, and 15, had been the youngest group underneath contract with a serious label, Columbia Information.

I used to be in the solid of a Western musical present then, and somebody acquired them tickets for the Hollywood premiere. Paradoxically, the present was about brothers who had been feuding over water rights. “A Song for the World” tells the fairly superb story of what occurred throughout the subsequent few months; I say superb as a result of in little greater than a 12 months they had been giving their first efficiency in a language apart from their very own. It was in Switzerland, after they sang in French for Robert Schumann, the former international minister of France and a founder of the European Union. Throughout the subsequent many years they’d write and sing in 37 languages and dialects, with assist from the locals, of course. All of them converse Italian. Herb Allen, who labored for years in Italy, speaks it like a local. There’s an incident in the e book about Allen discovering a machine gun underneath his mattress when he was staying with the household of Bruno, a younger communist he had come to know: “What’s worrying you?’ Bruno requested Herb when he “occurred” to say his discovery. “All of us have machine weapons right here. There’s one in each condo in the block.”

Tyler: Frank, why did you determine to put in writing “A Song for the World?”

Frank: I do not wish to sound unusual about this, however I feel writing the e book was determined for me. In the spring of 2003 I used to be in a gathering of very long time associates who met occasionally to resume friendships and discuss what was taking place in our worlds. A probation lawyer from Oakland stated that younger individuals in her metropolis had been being confronted with unimaginable conditions day by day, and desperately wanted hope. “There ought to to be a e book about the Colwells and Herb,” she declared.

I am not kidding once I say the thought hit me with an virtually electrical jolt that I used to be meant to put in writing it. My spouse, Helen, who has been my associate in inventive ventures for half a century, felt the similar impulse. And so did my pal John Ruffin, who was moderating our dialogue that day. John’s firm, Many Roads Publishing, would ultimately produce the e book, with startup monetary help from greater than 100 individuals from throughout the world who believed this story needed to be advised.

Tyler: That is an exquisite story, Frank. Clearly, musicians have the energy to be a giant affect on younger individuals, each optimistic and unfavorable. Do you assume Up With Folks is ready to attain younger individuals right this moment and what’s their message to youth?

Frank: At the finish of Up with Folks reveals, there are all the time younger individuals in the viewers who apply to journey with the solid. Generally they’re too younger to qualify, generally too outdated, however the ingredient that reaches individuals most, I feel, is a goal that is vital. After all the present alone is a giant attraction, however in the setting of “Bringing the World Collectively,” it appears to supply a solution to that ubiquitous query, “What can one particular person do?”

Tyler: I perceive these artists traveled an amazing deal and witnessed historical past in the making in a number of nations. Would you give us an instance of one of the most attention-grabbing occasions they witnessed or participated in?

Frank: How about two? Severely, there are a lot of exceptional events described in the e book, for occasion, being the first worldwide musical performers in China after the demise of the notorious “Gang of 4;” or taking the first present to Russia after the Chilly Struggle, even earlier than the Berlin Wall got here down. However listed here are two:

In 1957, Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi was about to embark on a grueling tour of Southeast Asia wherein he would apologize to Pacific nations for atrocities Japan had dedicated throughout World Struggle II. The Colwells and people they labored with, some of whom had been parliamentarians, had been dialoguing with Kishi for months, and at his official residence on the evening of the departure, they had been invited to current the total ship off program for the prime minister, his cupboard ministers, and excessive authorities officers. Their pals spoke and the Colwells sang, with particular songs written in Japanese for the event. The final sound Kishi heard that night as he left for the airport was the music of three younger Individuals, in western costume, singing to him in his personal language.

Two years later the Colwell Brothers had been in the Congo, right this moment known as Zaire, the place they sang at the official celebration occasions when the nation gained its independence. The Congo is the measurement of Western Europe! Throughout an intense and turbulent 12 months they remained working in the nation, dwelling by way of revolt, revolution, and a re-invasion by troops of the Congo’s former Belgian occupiers, after which U.N. intervention. President Lumumba was assassinated throughout that 12 months. With a world group the Colwells visited each province in the nation, assembly with tribal chiefs in the villages, singing to crowds in stadiums, to Congolese navy and peacekeeping U.N. forces in open-air live shows, and performing for nationwide leaders from all events in the nation’s capital of Leopoldville. In the wet season they crossed swollen rivers with their van perched atop ferries constructed of planks laid over dugout canoes fixed aspect to aspect. The afternoon the military seized management of the nation in a coup, the Congo was totally with out cellphone or telegraph communication with the exterior world. An hour after midnight that evening the brothers led journalists to a distant village that they had visited months earlier on the Congo River, the place the reporters may rent villagers and noiselessly slip out into the present in dugout canoes to get the information out to the world. Throughout that 12 months, with their worldwide teammates, the Colwells made greater than 400 broadcasts on Radio Congo, the nation’s sole means of communication, packages the auxiliary bishop of Leopoldville known as “a voice of sanity to the nation.”

Tyler: Wow, that’s willpower. What do you assume actually motivates the Colwells and Herb Allen to take these varieties of dangers?

Frank: That is laborious to reply, for me at the very least, with out seeming to cite from a press launch. I’ve seen the grit, sweat, and sacrifice concerned. They may have turned away a thousand instances from the path they’d chosen. However they believed one thing lasting may very well be achieved, and that they had been meant to provide their time and abilities to it. I do not assume that they had the slightest concept after they set out on this journey the place it might take them, or ask of them.

Tyler: Frank, when different teams like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had been making big hits and doubtless tons of cash in the Nineteen Sixties and past, why did Up with Folks focus as a substitute on touring the globe and visiting nations in disaster?

Frank: I feel that boils all the way down to “purpose for being.” I’ve little doubt that the 20,000 younger individuals who’ve taken half in Up with Folks throughout its first forty years would recognize tons of cash! And I do know Herb and the Brothers would not object!

However to get the reply to your query it’s a must to have a look at the selections they made greater than a dozen years earlier than Up with Folks was even a gleam in anybody’s eye. Have a look at the again cowl of the e book, which has some paragraphs underneath the heading, “The Energy of Music.” There is a line there that claims, “They actually walked away from their childhoods, consolation, careers, and family members, placing all the things on the line for one thing they believed. They believed they may change the world.”

Tyler: Why do you assume “Up with Folks” has been so profitable?

Frank: Much more than the leisure of the Up with Folks present, I feel it strikes a chord in the consciousness of individuals. All of us wish to know there may be hope for the future. We would all wish to take part someway in creating it. To see younger individuals dedicating themselves to that goal is each a problem and an inspiration. The present itself is known as a present window. What’s inside the retailer is the encouragement, the mild persuasion, and probably even a bit provocation to become involved in the life of your neighborhood, to volunteer with others who work to make a distinction.

Tyler: For readers unfamiliar with the group, what are some of the songs they may acknowledge?

Frank: Folks might know “The place the Roads Come Collectively,” by Paul Colwell. It is a poignant and transferring ballad about who we’re:

None of us is born the similar,

We do not know why

It is the means we got here,

Each coronary heart beats a bit in a different way,

Every soul is free to seek out its means,

Like a river that winds it option to the sea.

There are lots of roads to go,

They usually go by many names,

They do not all go the similar means,

However they get there all the similar.

And I’ve a feelin’

That we’ll meet some day

The place the roads come collectively

Up the means.

When you lived in the Congo, you’d likely be aware of the Colwell Brothers’ “Vive le Congo,” which turned one thing like a second nationwide anthem and was performed on Radio Congo for years.

And of course, “Up with Folks” is a tune identified round the world. CDs of the Phrases and Music of Paul Colwell will quickly be out there at

Tyler: Would you inform us a bit bit about the song-writing facet of the group? Who writes the music and who writes the lyrics? The place do they get their concepts, and the way does all of it come collectively so the music could be carried out?

Frank: Paul Colwell, as I discussed, wrote many of the songs carried out in early reveals. He usually had collaborators, regularly Herb Allen, who was listed as coauthor. There is a chapter in the e book titled, “Delivery of a Phenomenon,” about the songwriters, arrangers, and producers from a number of nations who’ve labored with Up with Folks both long run or on particular occasions.

A number of Up with Folks albums have been produced in Britain, with high technicians and arrangers introduced collectively by David Mackay, a very long time collaborator. Mackay has a formidable assortment of gold and platinum albums to his credit score, together with manufacturing of the New Seekers’ worldwide hit, “I might Wish to Train the World to Sing.” One author Mackay introduced in was John Parr, co-writer of “St. Elmo’s Hearth, and in addition David Mallory, one of France’s most profitable pop/rock songwriters who created most of the hits of megastar Johnny Hallyday, generally known as the French Elvis Presley.

Tyler: You talked about the Colwells have written many songs in several languages and dialects? How do they go about offering this sort of worldwide style to their music?

Frank: Once they’ve written songs in different languages it is virtually all the time been with individuals from the space. There are a variety of tales in the e book about this. As an illustration, as soon as they had been touring with Rajmohan Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, to the south of India to affix in the land reform efforts of Vinoba Bhave, Gandhi’s disciple and the man considered his non secular successor. At a practice station in Bombay they chanced to satisfy a senator pal of Rajmohan who helped them write a tune in Marathi, the mom tongue of Maharashtra state the place they had been heading the subsequent day. After a dusty 12-hour street journey in 117-degree warmth in a 20-year outdated seven-passenger Plymouth that they had mastered the tune. Arriving to satisfy Vinoba Bhave, they hauled Ralph’s acoustic bass and their different devices out of the outdated automotive, and carried out in the Marathi language for the saint and 1000’s of his followers. Vinoba Bhave used the phrases of their tune as the theme of his deal with to the crowd.

Tyler: Musically, what do you’re feeling makes “Up With Folks” stand out from different teams?

Frank: I feel it has been the content material of the songs, plus their intent. They speak of taking down partitions of misunderstanding, of excelling, of transferring towards new frontiers. The songs are drawn from life. One, “The Final Embrace,” was impressed by a PBS particular a few bridge that spanned the no man’s land between struggle zones in Kosovo, and a Christian boy and Moslem lady who had fallen in love, and died from gunfire on the bridge attempting to cross it collectively. Many songs have been written for particular events, for particular individuals. A mirrored image by Captain Eugene Cernan, the final man to stroll on the moon, that he had regarded again at the earth and seen “a world with out borders,” impressed the visionary lyrics of “MoonRider.” Paul Colwell and Herb Allen’s “Song for China” opened hearts and doorways in China when an Up with Folks solid went there in 1978 earlier than diplomatic relations had been established between China and the U.S.

Tyler: Frank, what do you’re feeling is Herb Allen and the Colwell Brothers’ best contribution?

Frank: Could I reply that in two components? The primary could be a private response. These 4 have enriched the lives of many. They’re enjoyable to be with, by no means take themselves too significantly, and by no means, by no means get carried away with the PR about them. They’re fast to deflect credit score and provides it to others, and I’ve by no means heard them declare to have brought about optimistic issues to occur as a result of of their work. After all I do know in any other case, however they’d hit the “delete” button on any “spin” I might need tried to slide into the e book. Okay, now to half two:

To me their best contribution could be the demonstration of the energy of music to generate change. They sometimes wrote and carried out not simply any music, however music that touched lives, was drawn from what was vital to individuals, and from what they noticed round them. They by no means got down to inform others what they need to assume or do. On the opposite, they went in every single place to hear, to be taught, and to know. In consequence, doorways and hearts appeared to open to them in every single place. You would possibly say that Up with Folks is their legacy. I feel to them it’s rather more than a present or group; it’s proof to younger and outdated of what the nice English educator Edward Thring declared 150 years in the past, that music “ultimately is the nice world bond.”

Tyler: Thanks, Frank, for becoming a member of me right this moment. Earlier than we go, would you inform our readers your web site the place they’ll purchase a duplicate of the e book and in addition what different type of data they may discover there about “A Song for the World?”

Frank: Go to You may order the e book there, learn opinions, be taught which cities are scheduled to be visited for live shows and e book signings, and see many of the photographs from the e book. Thanks very a lot for having me right this moment, Tyler.

Tyler: Thanks, Frank. I want you tons of luck with “A Song for the World” and I hope it introduces the Colwells and Allen to a complete new era of followers.