Hal Blaine just passed away. For the ones who don’t know him, he was a legendary studio drummer who contributed to Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” in the 60’s and 70’s. He played on 35,000 sessions, 6,000 singles and will be remembered for many songs we all heard, but particularly for “Be my baby” by The Ronettes.
As I was reading up on him, I was thinking about writing this blog. But I encountered a problem: there was too much, and it went too close to my heart. I’ll put it in the form of questions.
Should I talk about the dying studio scene of the 80’s who obliged him to stop playing for bands and do more jingles and movies dates? This in itself is a hard topic for many players hoping to get a start in the professionally musical world.
Should I talk about his jazz education, his participation in The Count Basie band, certainly a badge of honor for any musician? Maybe put an emphasis on the fact that one has to have technique in order to be versatile? Or maybe tell my readers that it is important to keep an open mind and explore different areas of music like Hal Blaine did coming from Jazz and going into Rock.
Should I emphasize his reading skills? That must have helped tremendously to keep him employed in L.A hopping from session to session. That reading that saved my butt more time than I can count. That reading that, to this day, provides me with most of my income, whether I teach or I play.
Should I cites him when he said that he was a painter who helped paint the picture of the song? This is the very core of musicianship we are talking about here. This is where everything he was, be it a technician, a listener, a man, an experienced musician, all the element that was him came together to enhance the mood, the projection, the movement of a song. This is what I’ve been talking about to my students for so long: you are only here to serve the music.
Finally, should I talk about him working as a security guard after he lost everything in a divorce? I went through a very similar experience, became expandable meat for my ex-wife, no negotiation, the whole system ganging up on me, I almost ended up on the street. That’s the part that’s too close to my heart, the pain it takes to be a musician flying by the seat of your pants, how vulnerable and beautiful at the same time we all are. Hal Blaine, my brother.