We took a road trip to Staples Center to talk music with the “Voice of the Clippers”, Ralph Lawler. He tells us how the soundtrack from “Hair” changed his life, confesses his love of Broadway musicals and admits to being a hopeless romantic. He also discusses the relationship between the flow of a good song and doing play-by-play. The Los Angeles Clippers are in the NBA playoffs, which begin this weekend.
For More: http://www.nba.com/clippers/news/ralph_lawler.html
Jason Bentley: Jason Bentley for KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Taking the show on the road this week, we are at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. We are here with the “Voice of the Clippers”, Ralph Lawler. Hello sir.
Ralph Lawler: Hey, how you doing Jason?
JB: This feature gives us a chance to talk with a cultural luminaries and find out more about their interest in music. So, set this up for us, you’re going to pick some tunes. What do you have for us first?
RL: Well, I've picked them chronologically. I started as a disk jockey in the 50’s and though the 60’s and into the early 70’s and I remember putting the needle on an LP at about 1968. It was the original Broadway cast recording from “Hair” and I went "WOW". This music jumped right off the vinyl.
It wasn’t just the sound of the music or the energy or excitement of it; it was what they were saying. I was listening to these words and there I was… I was a very conservative Republican kid, grew up that way in Central Illinois, and these guys were going anti-war and they were cursing and swearing and taking off their clothes on stage and I go ‘my goodness!’
Song: “Let The Sunshine In” -- Broadway cast recording from “Hair”
RL: I was so impressed with that, I went into Hollywood and saw the live production of the show and was just transformed. It changed my political views almost instantaneously, it changed and adjusted my musical tastes. I wound up programming an underground rock station in San Diego a couple years later. That album had a profound effect on my life that resonates still.
JB: Ralph Lawler is our Guest DJ on KCRW. Here is the Broadway cast recording from Hair and “Let the Sunshine In”.
JB: We're back with Ralph Lawler, the “Voice of the Clippers”, and he's sharing some music with us for the Guest DJ Project. What do you have for us next?
RL: Well in the 70’s, down in San Diego programming this radio station, we used to book acts for a little club which was just off the campus of San Diego State. We would bring a live act in for 3 nights and the 1st night we broadcast one of their sets as a means of promoting - come on down the next 2 nights and see them play - and one night it was Harry Chapin.
Song: “Cat in the Cradle” – Harry Chapin
RL: “Cat in the Cradle”, which is a father son story, I played it for my dad some years later. Dad said ‘music today, the words just don’t mean anything’. I said ‘oh yeah dad, listen to this’ and I played the song and had him listen to the lyrics and go ‘oh my god, it really does have a message’. That’s one that every father and son on earth should go listen to even today.
JB: Here's Harry Chapin with Cat in the Cradle. Ralph Lawler is our guest DJ on KCRW.
JB: We're back with more music selections from our Guest DJ Ralph Lawler. We're coming to you from the road, it's our road trip, here for the Guest DJ Project at Staples Center. So next up, I don’t know this song, but I'm guessing this is an epic tune.
RL: Well it is. My wife and I are Broadway music… we just love going to New York and love going to the Broadway musicals. My all-time favorite is Phantom of the Opera. It is hopelessly romantic which I positively am and I think the most romantic song I've heard in my life is “All I Ask of You”. Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford originated the key roles on Broadway and when they sing this together it gives me goosebumps even almost just thinking about it right now. It is such a great love song.
JB: Let's check it out. Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford with All I Ask Of You. This is from the Phantom of the Opera. Ralph Lawler, our guest DJ on KCRW.
Song: “All I Ask of You” – Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford
JB: Next up we have a song which a lot of us know, “Viva La Vida” from Coldplay. Ralph, I wonder if this is the kind of soundtrack that would get you pumped up for a game.
RL: I don’t think I’ve used it for that, but it certainly could be because it's just so full of life and so full of energy and it's about as contemporary as I get for my age. One of the great things about when you go to a Coldplay concert is you’re going to see several different generations of fans.
Song: “Viva La Vida” - Coldplay
JB: I feel like good play by play has the flow of song almost.
RL: I don’t feel it so much in television but in radio I positively have felt that it was musical. When your clicking as a radio play-by-play guy, it is like you are on the dance floor and they're playing your favorite song and everything is just clicking and everything is in rhythm and so right. I've felt that for years - the relationship between music and radio play by play. It is less so in television because your kind of beholden to the pictures and the pictures kind of tell the story and create the rhythm rather then your own words.
JB: Here's Coldplay with “Viva La Vida”. Ralph Lawler is out Guest DJ on KCRW.
JB: We're back with the final selection from Ralph Lawler, he is the “Voice of the Clippers”, we're spending some time with him backstage at Staples Center. So what is our final selection Ralph?
RL: Well, I’ll tell you, a year ago I didn’t know a darn thing about Adele and coming into the Grammys this year was my first real awareness of her. I kept reading that she was going to sweep all the Grammys and, of course, she wound up doing it right here in this very building.
That made me want to listen to some of her music. So I started listening and I thought, I can hear Janis Joplin in there. She's really a better singer, has more range, then Janis Joplin. Then when you listen to “Someone Like You”, which became the song of the year, you go ‘Oh my goodness she's more than Janis Joplin’. She'll be around for years and years and years and there's nothing, I don’t think, in music that makes you more immortal then 20 years, 30 years, 40 years after your gone they're still playing your music and I think that will be the case with Adele.
Song: “Someone Like You” - Adele
JB: Do you think there is any other relationship between music and sports? Where they might intersect on the court?
RL: Well, no two players play to the identical rhythm because they are athletically different. One is quicker, one is slower, one is more of a plodder, one is lighting quick. They may all be hearing a different tune in their heads but the guys are all in tune with music. When we travel in the airports or the team bus, everyone has their headsets on. I'd say largely rap music, some rhythm and blues, and some that I guess would surprise us.
JB: It’s a pleasure to meet you. Ralph Lawler, the long time Clippers broadcaster, many more years to you sir and all the best and lets try and get a championship shall we?
RL: That’s the goal.
JB: Thanks Ralph.