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From Broadway to Hollywood and her work behind the scenes as a producer, Rita Wilson has made her mark all over the entertainment business. Many of her musical inspirations have been strong women and we hear a set of emotionally stirring songs as part of her Guest DJ set. Rita will be appearing at the Geffen Playhouse on Ocotber 8.
For More: http://ritawilson.com/
1. The Beatles - She's Leaving Home
2. Joni Mitchell - Blue
3. Patty Griffin - House of Gold
4. Justin Timberlake - Hallelujah
5. Patti Scialfa - Spanish Dancer
Anne Litt: Hi I'm Anne Litt and I'm here with actress Rita Wilson. From Broadway to her work behind the scenes as a producer and the release of her first solo album as a singer, she's made her mark all over the entertainment business. Today we’re playing excerpts of songs she's selected that have inspired her over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. Rita, what did you bring for us.
Rita Wilson: Let's start with "She's Leaving Home" by The Beatles
AL: I love that song.
RW: I love this song. I thought it was sort of a sophisticated song for these young Brits to be writing about.
I grew up with immigrant parents - I'm a first generation American -- so I loved the idea that there was a song here about a girl who was exerting her independence, but there was also the voices of the parents echoing in the background.
I remember hearing this song and thinking to myself ‘what an ungrateful young girl. I can't believe she'd do this to her parents. They're crushed! They don’t know where she is’. But, at the same time, I understood and embraced her independence, because it was something at that period of time, in that generation, where young people we're really reaching out and going their own ways.
It was kind of shocking because I would never have thought that the Beatles would have written a song like this. It just had such a good narrative to me, in my own little nine or ten year old brain. And it was also sort of surprising.
Song: The Beatles – She’s Leaving Home
AL: That's "She's Leaving Home", by The Beatles. The next song you've chosen is one that’s near and dear to me and I love that you picked it. Joni Mitchell's "Blue".
RW: Right. I chose “Blue” because it's representative of that entire album that was so meaningful to so many people growing up in that generation. Joni Mitchell was the person, as a woman -- one of the first with her and Carole King -- that I thought ‘they write their own music, play their own instruments, and sing their own songs’. And I was never able to play an instrument - I tried but I wasn't gifted at it - and so the idea that someone could, a woman was out there doing this, was really powerful. So "Blue" is really that sort of iconic album, but that song is beautiful. The imagery in it is so beautiful.
Song: Joni Mitchell -- Blue
AL: I take it the visual is very important to you and I would imagine in your work as an actor, a producer, as a songwriter, and a performer. How does that all relate?
RW: I think, you know, songs are so powerful you can not hear a song for 25 years and it comes on the radio and you know the words to it even though you have maybe never even thought of that song for 25 years. They get into you.
Songs get into you and the visuals are a part of that, I think.
Before music videos you would fantasize about all those people in the songs and in the music that were those stories -- whether you put yourself as the main character in the story or if you put yourself as someone that the main character might have been singing about.
Even when I come across a piece of material, if it's for a movie or something, I envision it. I can see it in my head and I sort of have an awareness of what it could look like and what it could be like. But, yeah, I guess the visual is important because it's part of what gets into your head and your body in terms of the emotional experience that you want to have -- or that you want the audience to have.
AL: That was "Blue" by Joni Mitchell. It is one of Rita Wilson's song picks. She's our Guest DJ today on KCRW. Next up, you’ve gone with a more modern artist named Patty Griffin and the song "House of Gold". Tell us why you chose this.
RW: Patty Griffin has one of the most beautiful voices. It's such a pure, clear voice. She did this album called “Downtown Church” and she got a bunch of her friends, I like to think that they're friends, all together and I believe that they recorded the songs over a weekend in an old church.
To me, that would be the ideal way to make music. To me, that's as close as you can get to perfection -- sitting around with a bunch of friends and just being like, ‘hey, let's put this down’. This song "House of Gold" was written by Hank Williams so her take on it is very spiritual, as the song is meant to be I suppose, but it's also so clear and so beautiful. She had such great, guest artists on the album like Mavis Staples and Buddy Miller and I just think her rendition of this is beautiful.
Song: Patty Griffin – House of Gold
AL: That was "House of Gold" by Patty Griffin on KCRW's Guest DJ Project. You’re next song is also a cover, it’s Justin Timberlake’s version of "Hallelujah". Talk about this one.
RW: Justin Timberlake did a version of "Hallelujah" for the Hope for Haiti concert. I love his voice. I think he is absolutely an amazing artist – really, really mature beyond his years. But they just did this heartbreaking version of "Hallelujah". It's Justin playing the piano and the other performer comes in with the guitar on the second verse. And there's just something about his voice in this version that is deep and heart wrenching in a way.
I think the versions of this song that really work the best are the ones that are the most paired down and the most simple. Sometimes when people try to over do this song they kind of lose their way. But I just love it because for the life of me I still can't understand the whole song.
Thank you Leonard Cohen, I will forever be analyzing what this song is about. And there are so many incredible versions of it.
Song: Justin Timberlake -- Hallelujah
RW: I think that's what is so great about artists is that their interpretations of songs really allow you to see who they are as people. So that's why I think covers are amazing sort of things to listen to - and believe me I've gone through many, many late nights on YouTube, you know, youtubing versions of songs -- but you really get a sense of who the person is and how they feel about the song by the way the chose to interpret it.
AL: That was Justin Timberlake covering “Hallelujah”. And you're closing out your set today with another strong woman, Patti Scialfa and the song "Spanish Dancer". Now why did you pick this particular track?
RW: I love this song. It has one of my favorite lines in a song ever written: "A red dress of temptation over a long black slip of fear".
I think that is such an amazing image and communicates so much. I also love that she's telling her mother the story of this incredible man that she's met and she's asking her, have you ever met someone that you've loved so much.
I mean, to me, it's sort of like that first love that you want to share with someone and who do you go to? The woman closest to you, your mother. And so, to me, I think it's that beautiful sharing of something that you're going to burst if you don’t say something, but it's also an incredibly sensuous song and an incredibly visual song. Patti Scialfa's writing tends to be incredibly visual. She's a really wonderful songwriter and I wish she was doing more and more albums, but she's a little busy with the E Street Band.
AL: (Laughs) Yeah, I think she is.
Song: Patti Scialfa – “Spanish Dancer”
AL: That was "Spanish Dancer" by Patti Scialfa. Rita thanks so much for joining us.
RW: It was a pleasure to be here, it's so much fun.
AL: For a complete track listing and to find these songs online go kcrw.com/guestdjproject and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.