27th of November 2017 Istanbul
Dear Paul, My Dear Friend,
It was a month ago that we had a wonderful evening in LA in Musso & Frank restaurant with Chris and Sara. You got annoyed with the MD for not letting you know about our arrival despite you asking him to and told him off for keeping you waiting at the bar when we were waiting for you at our table. But it was quickly forgotten as we enjoyed each other's company, reminiscing about our many past projects and planning new ones.
Exactly a month later to the day, on the 7th of November we learned you were gone. Although at our age we should be immune to this unkind reality of life, the loss of someone you have loved for so many years is still difficult to comprehend. It was a total shock.
We met in London in Tony Hall’s office, Carnaby Street in 1979 where I was pestering him to publish my songs. When he introduced you to me I could not believe my ears. I had known your name in Istanbul since the ‘60s, listening to the extraordinary arrangements that you masterminded for many songs; Bowie's “Space Oddity”, Elton John's launching albums with “Your Song”, “Sixty Years On”, “Levon”, “Tiny Dancer” and many, many more including your arrangements and compositions with Carly Simon, Nilsson, Miles Davis and many artists and orchestras around the world.
I always appreciated and listened to your arrangements more that those great performers you worked with... You made all those songs sound so different and exciting. I know that the artists and their producers very much appreciated and valued your contribution to their work. They all benefitted from your unique treatment of their songs. I give them credit too for recognising your art in those early days and using it.
When I shared my view with you that for some of the songs like “Sixty Years On”, you did not only arrange the work but you added your own extra compositions and you should have had a share of those works, like all real artists who care about their craft and nothing else, you just smiled at me. The music industry should have thought about this and protected you and your art without you ever asking for it.
We met several times in your Barnes home and my house in Kingston in the ‘80s, talking about music and world affairs for hours. You were as knowledgeable and passionate about politics as you were about music.
I was very surprised about your knowledge of Turkish music too. You knew more about Asık Veysel than anybody I knew. You told me your hair stood on end every time you listened to him and you did not even understand the lyrics. I had to translate them for you. I still have the demo you recorded of “Uzun İnce” as you called it, with your arrangement in my drawer.
Looking back, among many things I will never forget you warning me that the unwritten parts in an arrangement are as important as the written parts. Something that should be taught first, to composers in all music schools around the globe.
You, coming from LA to Istanbul to work with me for the arrangement of the famous Azeri song “Gel ey Seher”, by Polat Bulbuloglu, then the Minister of Culture was another exciting joint project. It took the Minister some time to digest and comprehend your arrangement since he was used to his local treatment of his song since the 1960s. But once he understood it he was as excited as the rest of us. With your arrangement this is today still one of the most requested popular songs for the Turkish radio stations after all these years.
We used to talk about how music companies today forgot how this business was created and nurtured by the dedicated businessmen who really loved and cared about great music, great lyrics, great arrangements, putting music and artist development first, never compromising on mediocrity as a second option.
We both thought that sadly the music industry was getting more than its fair share from today’s general short sighted and self-destructive business practice, thinking no further than the next 24 hours, putting our future in jeopardy... that music companies instead of acting together and standing solid on the crucial main issues to safeguard our ever fragile industry and competing safely under its protection kept facing time after time the consequences, ignoring all lessons... that the creative community took for granted all the wonderful opportunities provided by the generations following the Magna Carta, not showing any resistance or interest to organise any fight back out of complacency are responsible for most of our problems.
For some time I was trying to convince you to produce your own album. You did not have one and that bothered me. Maybe if we had not lived 10 000 miles away from each other I could have convinced you. I failed. But so has the world music industry.
Recently you arranged “Country of the Blind”, the song I wrote in 1972 but only found time this year to record. During the session at Rıza Erekli with the Cihat Aşkın String Quartet, you got connected through Skype and you stepped in again with your magic “Buckmaster” wand, affecting everyone in the studio, raising my song to a different level.
Thank you for your friendship all these years, for all the positive things you added to my life and of course for your incredible contribution to the world music community. I am very honoured to be your friend.
Until we meet again, I am sending you all my love and leave you with “Country of the Blind”.
Chris, Sara, Ezra and the Muzikotek team