After nearly two dozen guests joined our series since the start of the pandemic, HPR’s All Things Considered Host Dave Lawrence is offering up an Off the Road New Year’s Special: Story and Performance Highlights. Over two days, we’re digging into some of our favorite, lighter moments of storytelling, and sharing some of our favorite exclusive performances done just for us, from this wide range of musicians and musical genres.
We started the series after the pandemic shut down the touring entertainment industry. On All Things Considered over the last decade, most weeks we had musical and entertainment guests, often touring artists, with concerts here in the islands. But it came to an end, as all live shows and tours were cancelled or postponed. Sadly, before starting the new remote interviews that would become the series, we featured artist flashbacks to conversations related to artists passing on from COVID-19 during the start of the crisis: Manu Dibango, Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne, and Ellis Marsalis.
The series began thanks to a one-off phone conversation with Jack Johnson in April, the first musical guest in weeks after all touring came to a halt around the world. From there, a series developed organically, and has featured artists from across the musical spectrum.
While there were many engaging, sometimes even frightening stories about the ways the pandemic has touched these artists, their loved ones, and careers, we also gathered more uplifting, fun and entertaining stories, some of them based on classic experiences in the lives of our guests, others about remote recording projects and various activities they were engaging in during their time at home, which is where we reached the artists heard on Off the Road. Here’s the complete list, in order of appearance on the show (and you can click on each to get to their episode):
Jack Johnson, Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner, Marco Olivari, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana, Al Di Meola, Alice Cooper, Jimmy Webb, Joe Satriani, Steve Hackett (of Genesis fame), Randy Brecker, John McLaughlin, 10,000 Maniacs’ Mary Ramsey, Jon Anderson (of Yes fame), John Scofield, Moody Blues’ John Lodge, Deep Purple’s Steve Morse, Third World’s Stephen “Cat” Coore, William Shatner, George Benson, Linda Ronstadt, System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian, Dave Mason and Michael Des Barres.
Since the year in general has been full of rather intense moments during this crisis, we’ve decided to focus our Off the Road New Year’s Special on the fun, entertaining, and at times inspiring stories we got along the way.
Another facet to these interviews has been the incredible array of live and exclusive musical performances. With artists at home, many with instruments and home studios handy, we were able to collect a lot of different and very personal musical performances, material offered exclusively to HPR and the Off the Road series. We got everything from impromptu tributes offered to fallen heroes like Willie K, who left us this year (not due to the virus), to covers of classic songs, performed examples of song fragments from their repertoire, and similar on the spot, very personal, sometimes improvised renditions.
We’re sharing some of the very finest musical performances along with the stories, for a remarkable, and decidedly upbeat celebration of the series. We appreciate all the artists who took time for us so far, and you can hear not only all the aired radio features, but the complete interviews, which contain many musical segments and stories that didn’t make it onto the air.
Day One of our special includes two of the many guests we’re grateful to have had: reggae legends Third World, and their founder, guitarist/cellist/vocalist Stephen “Cat” Coore, and one of the greatest guitarists of all time, noted fusion/jazz hero Al Di Meola.
Cat shared a range of stories and experiences when he was our guest in October, documenting his journey through the pandemic, from how he was touched by the killing of George Floyd and the resulting global Black Lives Matter / Police Reform movement, and by the loss to COVID of Toots Hibbert of Toots and The Maytals fame, to his visits to perform at and be moved by the remains of a historic slave hospital in his native Jamaica, where he joined us from. He also told some hilarious stories about his long connection to one of Bob Marley’s many children, Damian Marley, among many captivating stories, and that one made it onto today’s highlight reel.
Al, for his part, joining us from his home in New Jersey, not only shared a lot of riveting stories about how the pandemic shut down his tour, but also classic tales that connected to a pair of albums he’s done covering music of The Beatles. Al’s fun story of meeting Paul McCartney during the recording of one of the albums made it into today’s feature, and comes with one of our favorite musical performances during the series, as Al spontaneously grabbed his guitar to perform multiple Beatles classics exclusively for us, including Strawberry Fields Forever, which we shared today.
Tomorrow we’ll have more of our favorite stories and performances as we welcome 2021.
Hear the complete series online now, and get ready for some exciting guests to come in the New Year, with more fascinating stories and tasty musical offerings!