I guess the idea started to come to me two years ago. It was the famous audience request “medley” that did it.
There was a new request in the air. Every night it was Bohemian Rhapsody. Sure, I’d played rock songs for years . . . specifically Free Bird and Stairway To Heaven for all the rocker dudes in my crowd (and at Dayton’s). But Bohemian Rhapsody was the newest and hottest request.
For a whole year I wrote down that request on my medley pad of paper, but ignored it, thinking it wasn’t even possible to play (I guess I should say play it WELL). Everyone in the audience would laugh when the song got shouted out. Obviously, they were thinking the same thing. Ha! Ha! Ha!
This happened night after night in every city. And some other songs started to get shouted out on a regular basis . . . Africa. Don’t Stop Believin’. Rocket Man.
Was rock making a come-back?
A whole year went by and I was getting ready to go back out on the road for the Christmas tour again. Knowing I would get Bohemian Rhapsody requested night after night, I decided to at least look at the music. My friend Elliott from Schmitt Music sent it to me and I stuffed it in my wardrobe case at the last minute. I decided I would learn to play a few lines at rehearsals and continue on the road at sound check every night.
After about a week, I had the first part learned and memorized, and the ending, but all of the middle and difficult section (the operatic L’istesso section) would be too much to learn on a stage with no lights, no music stand on my piano or my TASCAM in front of me (so I could listen to the actual recording). But, night number one, here it comes.
I was ready. I played my few learned lines and it was a hit. And I had a good ending.
And thus it began. Could I take rock music and make it spectacularly beautiful on the piano?
It was a new beginning for me. A new challenge was before me.
And so my song list began for the project. Africa, Don’t Stop Believin’, Free Bird, Stairway To Heaven, and Rocket Man made the list. And of course Bohemian Rhapsody.
This would be the biggest project in my career.
Before I started, Tim and I ran by the song titles to all the copyright holders. I was so anxious and excited that the three-week time frame for approvals felt like six months. And then we heard back.
None of the songs were approved. Every single one of them was denied. (I quickly learned that rock publishing rights are tricky and difficult to obtain.)
I remember that day very clearly. I put on the armor of God. It was cold outside and I bundled up and went out and shoveled snow, and asked the Almighty One to bless me.
In the end, He did. I got even more than I had hoped for and some interesting songs that I would have never chosen . . . but love, love, love.
Once we were granted approvals, I started learning the music. My routine life changed immediately and I was up and going (with a beautiful fluffy cappuccino made by Tim) and at the piano in my pajamas at 7:00 AM (it was still dark outside when I first started the project) every day, absorbing this strange but wonderful music that I actually grew up listening to on the radio. Each day was new and different, so exciting. I became a student. A student of rock music. How can I play that on the piano . . . ALL of the parts, including the melody? How can I create a pianistic performance styled arrangement of this great song?
I’m not kidding. Every song became my favorite. I listened to all of the original recordings over and over, measure by measure, note by note, to capture the nuances and the details, especially the lead vocal line. When I got to Stairway To Heaven, I physically got goosebumps and weepy. I still have no idea what the song is about, but when the drums came in it felt like something I’d never heard before. (OK. I have heard that song a million times, but not like this.) That morning as I learned this song . . . the sun came up.
And the heavens opened before me.
I enjoyed every single day putting this project together and am actually sad it is done. I will have to do another one. ROCK STAR II.
By the way, I titled this project ROCK STAR because my 30-year old daughter always says that to me. “Mom, you’re such a rock star.” I’ve honestly never thought of myself as a rock star.
But I’ll take it.
This is Ms. Line’s 58threcording and most ambitious work to date. She is celebrating 30 years of touring.
ROCK STAR releases the last week of June, 2019.
Photography above by Joel Larson. Hair by Dave Hermann. Styling and makeup by Lorie Line.