(Every artist has a soundtrack that reveals their musical journey. But what is the one recording that proved to be a transformative moment? In this ongoing series, GRAMMY-winning and -nominated artists will reveal their answer to the deceptively difficult question: What recording changed your life?)
"Think Of Me As Your Soldier"
Where I’m Coming From (1971)
"I've thought about my answer to this for a few days, because there are so many songs and records that mean a lot to me.
"My choice is by Stevie Wonder, and it's called 'Think Of Me As Your Soldier.'
"I'd get up every morning and listen to that song while I was getting dressed. And it made me appreciate everything about it: the lyrics of the song, the arrangement, the space in it, the way the mix sounds, everything about it. It definitely instilled inspiration in me when I think how I am going to produce something, or even when I am picking a song for somebody.
"There's something about that song that just does it for me. It was really a door opener for me as far as getting to know a song like that. It inspired me a lot. That song connected me all the way to the production of something like Jazmine Sullivan's "Lions, Tigers & Bears." And also to any other song I am producing on a song level. It was the whole song itself which inspired me, but also the arrangement, the mix, the way it starts, the outro. Everything about it opened up my brain and showed me there's a whole other way to approach this process.
"I was a child of the '80s who grew up on hip-hop records in the hip-hop generation. That was really my main focus: 'Hey, what's the beat like?' So this showed me everything. It showed me the song is more important sometimes than the music. It showed me how the vocal can carry the whole thing. It showed me how the bass line is in the right place and doesn't do too much, but does just enough. The whole vibe of the song, and the chorus, are just so thematic while being so subtle. It’s hard to describe it. Of course, it's the lyric that is a big part of why it's great.
"A lot of people write songs but it doesn't mean they write like Stevie Wonder. And it doesn't mean they deliver them like Stevie Wonder. I would advise anyone to listen to it."
(Producer/songwriter Salaam Remi is currently nominated for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical and Best R&B Song for Tamia's "Beautiful Surprise." Artists with whom he has collaborated include Melanie Fiona, Luke James, Alicia Keys, and Amy Winehouse, among others.)
(Paul Zollo is the senior editor of American Songwriter and the author of several books, including Songwriters On Songwriting, Conversations With Tom Petty and Hollywood Remembered. He's also a songwriter and Trough Records artist whose songs have been recorded by many artists, including Art Garfunkel, Severin Browne and Darryl Purpose.)