Be With: Leon! How’s California today?
Leon Ware: Sunshine, blue skies and palm trees. Oh, and lots of cute booties.
BW: Excellent, just as we remember it. Now, wasn’t it your birthday recently?
LW: Yes I just turned 74, three weeks ago in fact.
BW: Happy belated birthday!
LW: Although for the past month all I’ve done is interviews. So much so all I want is an outerview.
BW: Ah. Sorry Leon.
LW: Hey - I’m looking forward to this one! I’m just very thankful for the love shown and I want to hear what you’re going to do because an album this good does not deserve to just disappear.
BW: That’s our whole MO Leon. So what do you know about our release?
LW: It’s coming on vinyl! I’m just glad that labels like Be With treasure an element of an art form that is very special.
BW: And that is?
LW: Analogue over digital. There’s a definite difference that true buffs can really tell the difference between.
BW: And are you aware that this album is a collectors’ item on vinyl?
LW: Absolutely, that’s why this reissue is gonna be loved and appreciated by a lot of people all over the world. And people of all ages too – my hat is off to you!
(Leon coolly doffs his hat)
Also, I’m sure you won’t be stopping with me. I know quite a few people who would benefit from your reissue treatment so just let me know and I’ll do anything I can to help.
BW: Wow, that sounds great Leon. Thanks.
LW: Now, I don’t know if you’re as naaasty as I am - and this has been an issue for me for years – but I’m told in several corners of the earth that my music has been responsible for lots of babies.
BW: I bet.
LW: I wear the bed. I’m one of the Soldiers of Love you know.
BW: Go on…
LW: During my recent sell-out shows in Europe, I was getting notes that I can’t even show my wife!
BW: Uh-oh. Well, I’m sure you behaved. Now, on the subject of male-female relations, the album we are putting out is certainly a bedroom classic…
LW: It’s such a great album and like any work of art – be it dance, literature, painting or music – anything that’s good just stands the test of time. It should be triple platinum! Especially if we compare it to the types of records that achieve that status now. It didn’t get its just rewards first time around so I think this reissue will see to that…
BW: We really hope so, it deserves to. So how do you feel about reissues like this?
LW: I’m just happy there is a younger generation – like Be With - that is willing to search for these records and make an effort and spend time making them available on the format they should be on - vinyl!
BW: So reissue record labels are valid then?
LW: Absolutely. I don’t see reissues as some sort of regression or representing a ‘going backwards’. No, it’s more a ‘reminding’ ourselves of work in the past that is great and blessed. It’s important work. What’s beautiful about where you’re at is that you have been able to see that ‘this is this’
but ‘THAT is THAT!’
Nobody told you to love vinyl. You love it because you discovered it. We may be growing as a species but some would argue that the direction we’re stepping in is debatable. Thankfully, you’ve taken a different direction that marks progression rather than the regression that symbolises much of modern life!
BW: You can never follow the crowd. Something you’ve never done in your career…
LW: I’ll be doing this until my last breath – and I’ve got some plans for that stage too! I’ve done so much music in the past 60 years – fortunately I’m extremely prolific so the world has only heard maybe a third of my work. Just think, there’s still two thirds waiting to come out! I guess some relative at some point may release it. But you see I’m just not that business minded – I never have been. I’ve always felt more compelled to follow the heart and not my mind. Therefore, I’ve continually made decisions based on me advancing as an artist rather than advancing as an artist outwardly.
I’m 74 talking to a young man in his 30s that has a love for the same thing I love and, being at your age, you’re gonna have the double the time to experience the same joy as I have and expressing yourself to the world and doing things like this will make you the individual that you are. A lot of people are taken in by the fame and fluff of TV; of notoriety and accolades – all the things that come with music today.
BW: So, in your eighth decade you seem extremely content with how you have lived your life…
LW: I’m not jaded about life. I like being known as ‘naaasty’! As people get older many turn to church as they think it might save them but I’ve simply gone deeper and deeper in to where I’ve always been at. A friend once said to me, and he could be right, that I’ve probably got more babies and grandbabies that I can even think of! I won’t deny anything! And, you know, if that means going into that other world? The one that’s all flames and real hot? I’m…
BW: …diving in head first?
LW: Ha Ha! Absolutely! One hundred percent! Listen, as someone once said, ‘to regret is to forget that it’s a waste of time’. It’s already done – don’t waste a lot of good energy on regrets.
I embrace the madness in the world because it is a world with so much beauty in it. Mankind is majestic but there are also maniacs that we inherit while we are here on this earth. The ability to love the ugly, the maniacs, is important. It’s as much a part of life as the positive. As Edison proved, you can’t have the positive without the negative. They are a part of each other.
But for all the bad in the world and despite the signs of where we’re all headed, I don’t think we’re smart enough to kill ourselves!
I can kinda smile with a tear in my eye when looking at the injustices in the world and what we are doing. We just need to remind people on the planet to embrace the act that we call ‘bumpin’ and humpin.’’ We need to make sure people respect and have a reverence for it. It’s a truly beautiful thing that you cannot stymie man. There’s a magical, majestic throne that humanity sits upon and I’m proud to be a human!
BW: And your music is so closely related to the bedroom…
LW: I’m a sensual minster, here to remind you all to make sex your principal religion. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking a good quickie!
BW: Who does?! So, back to the album Leon?
LW: Ha! OK. One of the most poignant lessons on the record is ‘Deeper Than Love’. Being 40 years later
(it’s actually 32 - BW)
I totally understand what I was saying. Now more than ever. Words say one thing but they don’t mean the same thing to everyone, everywhere. Whilst the word ‘love’ has a synonymous meaning across the world, not everyone uses the concept of ‘love’ in the same way. And this leads me back to one of my greatest beliefs that life has taught me. People should travel. Whenever they can. Whether it’s in actuality or virtually. Understanding the differences in cultures, in how people live, in how people attach different meaning to words we recognize – these are all aspects of our world that really interest me!
BW: So how do you like travelling to the UK?
LW: Oh I love it there. A lot of good friends in the UK. I remember first going to the UK and doing a lot of pirate radio stations. We’d be in the middle of something and then, all of a sudden, someone would shout ‘you gotta get out of here man, they’re coming!
BW: They were doing it for the love, despite the risks…
LW: Oh yes, like Marvin. Like Quincy. Like Michael. We all were.
BW: But returning to the context of this particular album, your second one for Elektra after Rockin’ You Eternally…
LW: Well my basic approach to life has been the same since I was 33 years old; that’s when I really started growing…
BW: How so?
LW: Well, I accepted a few things in my life that made me who I am today. I came up on the streets and my life has been nothing but studios since 1964. Anyway, one day, in 1973, I was talking to a much older man, a string player. I asked him, why is it that a man never knows peace? Remember, I asked this guy as someone coming from the street. A ‘street guy’ who has been learning street lessons all my life. And the older string player called me on it.
‘For you to say what you just said doesn’t really tabulate. You’ve forgotten something from your time on the streets if you’re asking me this. Don’t forget, we are animals. Humans are born to kill. Yet there are people who are born to make music and love and you must remember that those two things exist; that being human means being part of a lineage that has both sides to it; vicious selfish people, but also people who make love to you, do everything to make your life easier, make you long for intelligence that can rub off on this place we call earth. Those two things coexist always – beauty and ugly.’
You know, as we are talking now people your age are out there killing others. But you can’t hate it because you have to accept it as a part of who we are. I’m not proud of it but we are a part of it. We are a part of everything that exists. And whilst some are like this, some people like ourselves live to sow seeds of positivity: have dreams of making babies, dream of a time when they can enable a child to dream of being anything they want to be.
But we cannot escape the fact that we are animals. Why do we have teeth? To eat meat. Your ancestors were cannibals. These teeth are the same that lions and tigers have. There to tear meat apart. If we weren’t supposed to eat meat why does a steak taste so good! WHY?!
So, in answer to your question, my mindset at that time was the same it has been since that day in 1973. I approached the album with the same love and same weird chords that nobody ever knows where I get them from. And it’s because I don’t read you know? My music really is a gift – it’s wonderful because I surprise myself, still to this day…
BW: So tell us about the new album you have coming in the summer…
LW: It’s gonna be ‘Young Funk’...With an old attitude! And when you say old just remember that doesn’t always mean ‘cold!’ I’m hopeful that it will be something that you’ll love, it’s gonna make people smile.
BW: Is it coming out on vinyl?
LW: You’ll probably do it!
BW: We’d love to! And, talking about new music, which artists do you like in modern soul today?
LW: I’m a big fan of Theophilus London, a really talented interesting rapper who I have produced.
Oh, and John Legend. You should YouTube an interview we did together talking about love songs. We’re both getting off on the power of music and its ability to be a quick panty remover (laughs uncontrollably) He’s a true member of the club…
I also love Pharrell’s ‘Happy’. It’s a big hit because he’s touched on something that everyone can connect with but in such a way that puts a new spin on it. ‘Like a room without a roof?’ Woah. This is something that everyone feels but he’s articulated it in a fresh style. Musically, he’s not over-singing and it’s not over-produced – for the four minutes it’s on you think ‘I really like this.’
BW: Leon – I should let you go and enjoy the sunshine. Any closing thoughts or message?
LW: Let me know if you need any more than what you have – I never have to think about it. I’m gifted with a past that is rich with people and places and outlooks! I’m extremely honoured that you have chosen to do this – and for taking the time to speak to me.
I am very appreciative of this ‘oddity’ that is my life. I’m paid to do something that I love so much and it makes me feel like I’m having my cake and eating it too. In fact, I’m double that! People don’t have to pay me anything to perform. I mean it from the bottom of my heart but the world won’t let me. If I could give my gift away I would but my wife is very healthy and she has a huge appetite so I have to make sure she is fed very well!
Listen, my best to you and yours and if there’s anything I can do please let me know. My love to you and I’ll see you next time…
And with that, Leon was off. An endlessly generous and thoughtful musician who can never do enough for the next man and, happily, is incapable of providing a trite or linear answer!
To see where he’s been and where Leon’s going next, check his lovingly curated website.