Betting On A Washington Underdog

  • (l-r) Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) speak with Harvey Mason Jr.
    Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images
  • Singer/songwriter Chikk with Harvey Mason Jr.
    Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Fifteen years ago, pop/R&B hit makers Harvey Mason Jr. and Damon Thomas chose "The Underdogs" as the moniker for their Los Angeles-based, songwriting and production company.  Both men had logged hits separately, collaborating with more established songwriter/producers, but felt their achievements were publically "unsung" before joining forces. Since then, they have penned and/or produced tracks for Jennifer Hudson, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Whitney Houston, Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige, Jordin Sparks, and Chris Brown, to name a few. 

Harvey, now a Recording Academy Trustee, recently told me that even with all their success, they still like the name "The Underdogs" because they're "still hungry, still fighting."

On Dec.4 The Academy's Advocacy team was fortunate to host Harvey on a visit to Washington. The Underdog toured the Capitol; spoke to policymakers about key issues important to songwriters, artists, and studio professionals; then appeared at an intimate year-end gathering for congressional members and staff in our offices. Mason used an unreleased Hudson track titled "Who Do You Love" to demonstrate to attendees the fascinating creative process of writing, recording, producing, and shopping a new song.

The track was co-written by artist/songwriter Chikk, who sang the tune live with accompaniment from Mason on keyboard before the finished track featuring Hudson's vocals was played. Mason — who also chairs The Academy Board's Advocacy Committee — spoke about the challenges of being a professional music creator. In so many ways, the advocates of the creators' rights movement are also "The Underdogs."

Recording Academy members come to Washington outnumbered by larger, well-funded special interests that oppose fair treatment for music makers. And yet, their accomplishments are impressive. The Academy's modest office in D.C. stands in contrast to these large lobby operations, which often occupy their own buildings. But on Wednesday night, five members of Congress and 10 Capitol Hill staffers graced our cozy suite to listen to Harvey's music and learn how the self-styled "Underdog" rose to industry prominence through talent, tenacity and laser-like focus. 

As music advocates, we're proud of our "Underdog" title too. Just like Harvey, we're "still hungry, still fighting…." 

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