From Shakespeare to Star Trek and the hugely successful X-Men series, Patrick Stewart is a beloved and accomplished actor and he gravitates to music that is emotional yet humorous. He calls Stephen Sondheim “the most important figure in American theater in the 20th Century”, praises the complexity of Randy Newman and even offers a track from his wife Sunny Ozell. He stars in the drama Match, which is out today in theaters and on VOD.
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1. Paul Simon - "Getting Ready for Christmas Day"
2. Randy Newman - "New Orleans Wins the War"
3. Stephen Sondheim - "Our Time"
4. Sunny Ozell - "Git Gone"
5. Edvard Grieg - "Morning Mood"
Eric J. Lawrence: Hi, I’m Eric J Lawrence and I am here with Sir Patrick Stewart. From Shakespeare to Star Trek, and the hugely successful X-Men series, he’s a beloved and accomplished actor and we’re thrilled to welcome him to the studio today to talk about some of the songs that have inspired him over the years, as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Patrick, thank you so much for joining us.
Patrick Stewart: Thank you Eric. I’m delighted to be here.
EJL: So, what’s the first song you got for us?
PS: Well, I grouped three songs together, first of all, because they are all from songwriters, musicians, lyricists combined, who, for me, represent the very best of music and lyric writing in the 20th century in the United States.
The first one is Mr. Paul Simon and I have a track from his album, So Beautiful or So What. I’m proud about enjoying Paul Simon because when my kids were young and they were listening to all kinds of music that they liked and I wasn’t interested in, I was the one who introduced them to Paul Simon and they have both become fans since that. So this is the song “Getting Ready for Christmas Day."
All of these first three writers have the ability to move, to make something emotional, and very often humorous, and at times just outright hilarious.
But in this song, there is one line which every time I hear Paul Simon sing it, it moves me, and it is, “I’d like to tell my mom and dad that the things we never had didn’t matter, we were always OK.”
It’s very much a reference to my own childhood which I’ve always enjoyed hearing, and indeed, as you probably heard just then, I read it and I get emotional.
Song: Paul Simon - “Getting Ready for Christmas Day”
EJL: That was Paul Simon with the song “Getting Ready for Christmas Day.”
Next up, you’ve selected some music from Randy Newman. Which track did you pick?
PS: This is a track that’s called “New Orleans Wins the War.”
It’s a combination of many things that I enjoy and am interested in. It’s autobiographical, it is very funny, it is quite bleak at times in some of the pictures he paints, and it also makes me laugh a lot.
And it’s about politics, which has been a passion in my life since I was, oh, 1945, the first post-war election in which I carried a placard up and down outside my polling session. There’s so much complexity and subtlety in what Randy Newman writes. It gives me enormous pleasure which never diminishes no matter how often I hear it.
Song: Randy Newman - “New Orleans Wins the War”
EJL: That was Randy Newman with “New Orleans Wins the War” as selected by our guest Patrick Stewart. So, what’s the next track you got for us, Patrick?
PS: Well, this is the great unsurpassed Steven Sondheim.
I think, in fact, please forgive me Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, but I think he’s the most important figure in American theater in the 20th Century. His achievements have been absolutely unique and brilliant.
This song is from the very first Steven Sondheim show I ever saw, when my first wife, who was a choreographer, choreographed a Guildhall School of Music production of “Merrily We Row Along”. There were so many delightful, uncomfortable songs in that musical, but this song, which comes toward the end of the show, is actually upbeat and the song is called “Our Time."
Song: Steven Sondheim – “Our Time”
EJL: That was the Steven Sondheim classic, “Our Time” from “Merrily We Row Along.” So what’s the next song you’ve got for us?
PS: This is a song by Aaron Lee Tasjan, wonderful young musician and he, from time to time, accompanies my wife in a group of wonderful musicians that she works with. This is a song by Aaron called “Git Gone” and it is sung by Ms. Sunny Ozell.
EJL: Do you recall when you first saw her perform?
PS: Oh, yes. [Chuckles and sighs] Oh, Lord.
We’d been dating about maybe three weeks, and by dating I mean, I was in a production of Macbeth on Broadway so I only had any free time on Sunday nights and Monday nights.
One Monday morning she called me and said “Listen, I got a gig tonight,” and I wasn’t honestly quite sure what a “gig” was. I thought it was a thing drawn by horses, you know? And I said, “Oh, well, yeah?” And she said, “If you want to come, it would be very nice of you to show up,” and I said “Oh, that’s terrific.”
I didn’t know. I didn’t know she was a singer.
But I showed up at about quarter to eleven and I sat right at the end of the bar, the corner, and had myself a stiff drink. And then, Sunny turned up. And then she introduced me to this man, she said “This is Jim Campilongo, whose gig this really is, and I’m just going to sing with him at some point,” and I went through the next ten minutes in real terror, thinking that it was going to be a ghastly experience, and I wondered if I could possibly gracefully escape from it.
Anyway, the break was over, Jim went onstage and said “OK, I want you to welcome to the stage Sunny Ozell.” And quietly, and confidently, and assuredly, this gorgeous woman walked up to the stage, stood at her own mic, Jim began to play, and she began to sing. [sighs]
And that sigh you heard just then was a repetition of the sigh that happened to me. Not only was she not just a competitor in an open mic competition, she was sensational.
And, what a relief.
And she did a couple of numbers with Jim. Jim Campilongo has become a dear friend and Sunny Ozell is now my wife, as of like 15 months.
Song: Sunny Ozell – “Git Gone”
EJL: That was “Git Gone” as performed by Sunny Ozell. Well, what’s the last selection you’ve got for us?
PS: The reason why I’ve chosen this is that it is the first piece of classical music I think I ever consciously listened to.
I listened to it because in the not-very-academic school that I went to when I was 11 years old, a group of about 20 musicians turned up one afternoon and the whole school was shuttled into the dining hall because we were going to listen, whether we liked it or not, to a classical concert.
I had no idea what classical music was about. And there were twenty of these musicians on stage, not exactly a symphony orchestra, and the leader of the orchestra talked about music, described each one of the instruments to us.
It was very much a class, it was a learning experience. And then finally he said, “Now, we’re going to play a piece for you,” and the piece that they played was the piece “Morning” from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite. I didn’t even know what Peer Gynt was and I’d never heard of Edvard Grieg, that’s for sure, but they began to play it and I was instantly enraptured.
I’d never heard sounds like that and to be in the same room, even though it was a smelly school dining hall, and there were only 20 of them up there on stage, I was absolutely enchanted.
This particular piece always captures for me that 11-year-old having his ears serenaded by the most beautiful sounds.
Song: Edvard Grieg – “Morning Mood” (Peer Gynt Suite)
EJL: That was Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite, as selected by our guest, Patrick Stewart. Patrick, thank you so much for joining us here at KCRW.com.
PS: Eric, it has been a great pleasure talking to you now, but also the hour that I spent last night listening to a lot more music than I generally listen to in the evening. Thanks for inviting me.