Chris Webber

Former NBA great and current TV analyst Chris Webber picks a set of timeless, poetic music for his guest DJ set. We learn about his upbringing in a musical household in Detroit, his soft spot for jazz and how the words of Bob Marley have inspired him. He also makes a special dedication to his wife.
For more:

1. I'll Keep My Light In My Window- Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye
2. Love You To the Letter- Anita Baker
3. Redemption Song- Bob Marley & The Wailers
4. Winter In America- Gil Scott- Heron
5. Yeah- David Ranier

Eric: Hi, I’m Eric J. Lawrence and I am here with former NBA great and current TV analyst Chris Webber. Today we’re going to talk about some songs he’s selected that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Chris, thanks so much for coming down.
Chris: Thank you for having me Eric, I’m really excited about this.
EJL: Well, what’s the first track you've got for us?
CW: The first track I have is Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye, “I’ll Keep My Light In My Window”. I just love the positivity of the song. It talks about just, you know, when you put your light in your window if someone’s lost they know that if that light’s in the window, it’s a safe place of refuge, a place of peace, comfort, a good night’s sleep. I think that today we just need to be more like the old innkeepers that would allow people in -- whether we take care of people, whether we help or help with charity. And no one has a better voice than Marvin Gaye, and Diana Ross is beautiful and she had a wonderful voice. I just love this song.
EJL: Here’s a couple of Motown greats, Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye teaming up for “I’ll Keep My Light in My Window”.
Song: Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye “I’ll Keep My Light in My Window”
EJL: That was Diana Ross & Marvin Gaye with “I’ll Keep My Light in My Window”, as selected by our guest Chris Webber. Now those are two great Motown artists. You grew up in Detroit…
CW: Well, exposure to music mostly was gospel. My mother was a choir director and had done many gospel workshops. So growing up our house was filled with music, whether it was Aretha Franklin or the Mighty Clouds of Joy, or the Clark Sisters. There was just so much music going through our house, and our mother making us play piano and other instruments, that it really wasn’t necessarily a Temptations-type of Motown for me. For me, it was kind of a gospel type of Motown and then, when I got with my friends, an R&B and rap type of Motown.
EJL: Well, what’s the next track you got for us?
CW: My next song is from a Detroiter. I guess an adopted Detroiter, Anita Baker.
This song is “Love You To The Letter”. Anita Baker is my personal
favorite artist and I’ve listened to her since I could remember, her Songstress album.
“Love You To The Letter” for me is almost like a personal letter to my wife. We’ve just been married two and a half years. I really love the words to this song and Anita Baker is someone I had the chance to meet and I’ve admired her for
so long. And this song to me has a personal meaning just to how much I love my wife, and so I just dedicate this to her.
EJL: Well, here it is. A beautiful dedication, from Anita Baker, “Love You To The
Song: Anita Baker -- “Love You To The Letter”
EJL: That’s actually sort of a little bit of a jazzier song for Anita.
CW: Jazz is something that I grew up in the house with. My mother, who definitely was strict and loved Gospel, but she would binge on jazz at times and, first of all, it’s a part of an American fabric. It’s homemade. But to me when you look at Thelonious Monk or Miles Davis or any of the greats, you know they were breaking rules and they were rebels in music. So jazz played such a big influence and Anita Baker and her live music ensemble always, you know, was just so prevalent in the background. “Love You To The Letter” -- the piano and just how it is and the words and the way it flows -- is probably one of the reasons why I like this as well.
EJL: Well what’s the next track you got for us?
CW: Bob Marley and “Redemption Song”. I collect African-American history. I have friends of all races that, you know, really collect the history of different ancestors and I’m really encouraged by all the torment that all of our people have gone through, but how they’ve risen up out of those ashes and how they’ve made no excuses in going forward.
Whether you look at the Holocaust, whether you look at slavery, just the fact that people can rise from horrific things, so I love the fact that, you know, Bob Marley talks about the “robbers came and took me, put me on a slave ship”. But he also talks how he depended on God and how his hands were made strong.
And if you look at things today, so it’s not just the history aspect but I think, the reason why I love Bob Marley and so many others, is because he’s relevant today. And, you know, with the elections and politics and everybody trying to control your mind, he says, “Free your mind from mental slavery”, that’s everybody, everybody today, everybody that’s in America, have your own opinion, none but yourself can free your own minds. And when you think of Bob Marley you think about love and you think about his energy of love and so, I love Bob Marley and “Redemption Song” is one of my favorites.
EJL: Well here it is, from Bob Marley, it’s “Redemption Song”
Song: Bob Marley “Redemption Song”
EJL: That was Bob Marley with “Redemption Song” as selected by our guest Chris Webber. Talking about the history, do you actually have articles of musical history?
CW: Actually I do. I have a song written by James Brown. I also have one of the
last suits that James Brown performed in.
EJL: Wow.
CW: So I’m pretty happy about that. But one of my favorite pieces is a piece by
Phyllis Wheatley, it’s the second book ever published by a woman and it’s the first novel ever published by an African-American woman. I love lyrics, poetry and books as well, and so I think it all fits into the artistic genre.
EJL: Absolutely. Well what’s the next track you got for us?
CW: He’s a poet and a legend Gil Scott Heron, and it's “Winter in America”.
Once again, when you think about Marvin Gaye and “What’s Going On?” and all the songs that just last through time and Bob Dylan and all the great artists
that had messages. It just still speaks to how things were bad in the 70’s and the 60’s and how they’re bad for everyone now. Not a color, not a race but for everyone right now it’s kind of a struggle and it seems to be “Winter In America”. And of course, with everything that’s going on in the economy, this song just seems fitting and it’s
something that I just groove to in the car sometimes when I’m drivin’ out and zoning,
so I love this song by Gil Scott Heron,“Winter in America”.
EJL: Where did you first discover a song like that?
CW: Music to me, as an athlete, has always inspired me. You know, it just pumped me up. When we were playing at Michigan our favorite song was Public Enemy “Shut ‘Em Down” just because defensively we wanted to shut the
guys down. And so, I got into Gil Scott Heron when I was in kind of in my fight the
world, lets all unite, depressed, teenager stage. And now that I’m older and I really can look at it from a more mature viewpoint, I appreciate it that much more because the words and the music is timeless.
EJL: Here it is a selection from the late Gil Scot Heron, "Winter in America"
Song: Gil Scott Heron -- “Winter in America”
EJL: That was Gil Scott Heron, with “Winter in America”, selected by our guest Chris Webber. What's the next track you got for us?
CW: The next track is one of my personal favorites, it's from my brother David Ranier. He’s a guy that, like myself, played in sports. He had a great career at Central Michigan University and he transformed and uses those talents and characteristics from sports and has taken that to music. This is a song that my brother performed at my wedding, “Fly Away”. He and my wife are very good friends, almost to the point where I get jealous of it. But he being my
brother, he’s so close to me that he said that he wrote this about our
relationship. And being that he has so many songs and he’s worked with other artists is really great but, to me, this is one of my personal favorites -- may not be his, but he wrote it for us, he performed it at our wedding, and that’s my younger brother, David Ranier.
EJL: Well there you go. Here it is, David Ranier, with “Fly Away”.
Song: David Ranier, “Fly Away”
EJL: That was David Ranier with “Fly Away” as selected by our guest Chris Webber. Chris, I want to thank you so much for coming down and sharing some of these selections with us.
CW: Thank you very much Eric. This is a great opportunity. And you know, like I
said, I wish I got 10 songs, 15 songs, but, no this is a wonderful opportunity, I had a lot of fun doing it and I’m going to play this back everyday.
EJL: For a complete tracklisting and to find these songs online, go to and subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.