Photo: Lester Cohen/WireImage
Jeff Lynne: Humbly "Messin' With Music" | "Required Listening"
On the Sept. 26 episode of the GRAMMY Museum's Required Listening podcast, Artistic Director Scott Goldman interviewed Jeff Lynne and explored the phenomenal range of his creativity — spanning bands including ELO and the Traveling Wilburys, and his success producing legends such as George Harrison and Tom Petty. Sharing his unassuming approach to "messin' with music," the GRAMMY winner stays down-to-earth about his accomplishments, bands and hits. "He has to be the most humble superstar I've ever encountered," Goldman said.
Lynne credits much of his recent activity performing, including this year's touring with Jeff Lynne's ELO, as reaching a higher profile after the 2012 documentary Mr. Blue Sky: The Story Of Jeff Lynne & ELO. "That's what started it and then suddenly the BBC got on and said, 'How'd you like to play a concert in Hyde Park, top of the bill?" Lynne described. "I was so worried ... because that was the first big, proper show for many years, 30 years actually."
After so many years, "I thought there'd be nobody there ... because we were last on," he'd worried before the show. Lynne recalled the night of his comeback:
"A big long day full of music, probably eight hours of it or something, and we're on last so by the time it gets dark, I thought 'Oh god, I hope somebody is still here.' And I climbed up these ladders to the stage and it was packed, the whole park was packed. It was 50,000 people. So I went, 'Well maybe they do like this music after all.'"
Lynne's music hasn't been forgotten and neither has his comprehensive background. Playing every major role in music, from songwriting through production, makes for a dizzying array of all-star anecdotes. As an artist he grew from a boy idolizing Roy Orbison and Del Shannon for their plaintive expressions of loneliness to writing and producing for both, from idolizing the Beatles to writing and producing with George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Goldman and Lynne cover highlights of all of it, including the stage-prop spaceship left over from Lynne's 1978 ELO tour and the first Traveling Wilburys sessions spent recording in Bob Dylan's garage.
Traveling Wilburys Volume One won Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal at the 32nd GRAMMY Awards. Lynne's fellow super group members winning with him that night were Dylan, Harrison, Orbison and Tom Petty. That same year Lynne and Petty's work on the album Full Moon Fever was also nominated along with the lead single "Free Fallin'" they co-wrote and Lynne co-produced. Lynne's rich life creating is enough to cause flashbacks and audio hallucinations, as he recounts his early success covering "Roll Over Beethoven," how he wrote "Evil Woman" in an inspired six minutes, and describes the fun he had writing tunes in the disco genre.
While almost two dozen classics from his catalog are summed up in Lynne's 2017 concert film Jeff Lynne's ELO: Wembley Or Bust, he promises more is in store. Alongside his humility, his inspiration and motivation remain undiminished. And he still looks forward to discovering new chords while in the throes of composing.
"I love messin' with music, basically, it's what I do," Lynne shared. "I've the same passion — probably a little bit lazier than I was — but I will go at something until I get it ... I love chasing that tune and that melody and that set of words that fits right on the good bit."
Jeff Lynne is now on tour in the UK and Ireland, leading Jeff Lynne's ELO.