Songwriter:  DESMOND CHILD
Video:  “Beautiful Now” by Zedd ft. Jon Bellion


2018 Marks Child’s 40th Year as an ASCAP Member
ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) will present Grammy Award winner and Songwriters Hall of Fame Inductee Desmond Child with its prestigious Founders Award at the 35th annual ASCAP Pop Music Awards in Los Angeles on April 23, 2018. From Aerosmith to Zedd, Child’s genre-defying collaborations include some of pop’s biggest hits over the last five decades including classics like “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “I Was Made for Lovin’ You,” “Dude (Looks Like A Lady),” “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” “I Hate Myself For Loving You,” “Poison,” “Waking Up In Vegas” and “Beautiful Now.”

Celebrating his 40thanniversary as a member of ASCAP, Child has penned over eighty Top 40 hits (rock, pop, Latin and country) and serves as the Chairman/CEO of the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame. “Mr. Child is one of the most successful songwriters of the last 30 years.” – The New York Times.

“Desmond is one of the most respected and successful songwriters in the world,” said ASCAP President Paul Williams. “His unique ability to capture the essence of our lives through song—whether we’re livin’ la vida loca or livin’ on a prayer—is simply unequaled. We are honored to present Desmond with the ASCAP Founders Award in recognition of his towering achievements. With #1 hits now spanning five decades, Desmond surely has many more milestones still to come.”

Child’s peers also are some of his biggest fans. Kiss’ Gene Simmons once said, “Desmond is the perfect songwriter. Neither styles in music nor trends and fads have ever held him back from doing what he does best, which is craft a song like nobody else.” Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler said, “The guy’s a genius.” Reflecting on Child, longtime collaborator Jon Bon Jovi has said, “The Desmond you don’t know about is the one who not only taught me the next level of songwriting but so many of the true aspects of friendship: truth, honor and loyalty.”

Last month, Child launched a new performance series An Evening with Desmond Childdirected by Richard Jay-Alexander to rave reviews. Broadway World said, “There are many people who try to rock and pop—but Desmond Child is the real deal.” The sold-out, three-night premiere engagement at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City featured the original members of his hit band, Desmond Child & Rouge including Maria Vidal, Myriam Valle and Diana Grasselli.

The ASCAP Founders Award goes to pioneering ASCAP songwriters who made exceptional contributions to music by inspiring and influencing their creative community. Each songwriter is a musical innovator with a unique style of creative genius. Past recipients include Sir Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty, Patti Smith,James Taylor, Smokey Robinson, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler & Joe Perry,Billy Joel, Neil Young, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, Carly Simonand Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson, to name a few.

For five decades, Desmond Child’s songwriting and/or production credits have appeared on high-profile projects by artists such as Bon Jovi, Kiss, Aerosmith, Cher, Alice Cooper, Meat Loaf, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Selena Gomez, Sia, Mickey Mouse, Kermit the Frog and many more. Having grown up in Miami Beach, Florida, his first big break came with the group Desmond Child & Rouge which was formed in New York City while attending N.Y.U. The group recorded two albums for Capitol Records, and their first single “Our Love is Insane” became a dance club classic.

Child soon focused on his songwriting and was recruited by Kiss’ Paul Stanley to pen songs for their 1979Dynasty album. That affiliation led to Child joining the Bon Jovi songwriting team for some of their biggest hits, including “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Bad Medicine.” It set up his work with Aerosmith on a handful of hits like “Dude (Looks Like A Lady),” “Angel,” “What It Takes” and “Crazy.”

Throughout the 80s, additional artists such as Alice Cooper (“Poison”), Joan Jett (“I Hate Myself for Loving You”), Michael Bolton (“How Can We Be Lovers”) and Cher (“Just Like Jesse James,” “We All Sleep Alone,” “Save Up All Your Tears”) kept Child at the top of the charts. In the late 90s, his songwriting collaboration with Draco Rosa for Ricky Martin gave the pair the modern standard “Livin’ La Vida Loca” as well as the international hit “The Cup of Life” that charted #1 in 22 countries.

Child was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2008. He became Chairman/CEO of the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012. His autobiography Livin’ on a Prayer: Big Songs Big Life, co-written with David Ritz, is scheduled for release this Fall.

We talked with Desmond Child about his passion for songwriting, his five decades of #1 hits, the art of connecting words with musicians and with the audience, and why he believes hope is the currency of love.

with M Music & Musicians magazine publisher,Merlin David

How long have you been writing songs?
I started out very young, and I’m actually in my fifth decade of #1 hits: 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s and now, 10s. My first biggest hit was with Kiss—“I Was Made for Loving You.” And my latest #1 was with Zedd called “Beautiful Now.” Between all of the different albums my music has been on, for all that time, I’ve reach 500 million record sales. There aren’t that many artists who can say that.

Who inspired you to write songs?
My mother was the Cuban poet and beloved songwriter, Elena Casals. She was a lifelong member of BMI, ironically, and a Peermusic published songwriter. When I was born, she was always writing songs. I would be at her feet, playing—while she was writing songs. I didn’t know that people didn’t write songs. To me, it’s the most natural thing in the world. As soon as I could stand up next to her and say something, I would start making suggestions for the songs she was working on, and she would swat me away. (Laughs)

How important is music education?
I went to Miami Beach High and graduated from NYU, where they’re honoring me with the Steinhardt Alumni Award this year—in May. I’ve been doing Master Classes at NYU at the Steinhardt School and also at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. It feels like full circle.

What significant event happened at NYU?
When I went to NYU, I started Desmond Child & Rouge, with Maria Vidal, Myriam Valle and Diana Grasselli. We made two albums on Capitol, and toured the country. We were on Saturday Night Liveas the musical guest. Then, our group broke up for crazy reasons—the same reasons that every band breaks up—because everybody thinks they can be better off as a solo artist. Next year, in 2019, we’re coming up on our 40thanniversary of our first album. We’re going to release an album of new material. It’s our comeback record.

Do you still perform?
For the first time in my entire life, I’ve recently been performing as a solo artist. It’s a show called An Evening with Desmond Childdirected by Richard Jay-Alexander. He’s actually the diva whisperer that works with Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Kristin Chenoweth, Norm Lewis and many others. He offered to direct my show about a month and a half ago—it was at Feinstein’s/54 Below. It got amazing reviews. I’m planning on touring with it to LA, Nashville, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco—in time, throughout the year.

Are you working on any current projects?
I’m working on my autobiography with David Ritz as my co-writer. It’s called Livin’ on a Prayer: Big Songs Big Life. It’s actually finished, and it should be out in the Fall. I call it the reckoning—all these things I’ve ever wanted to do, I am now doing them. Writing the book was important because I had to get all these stories out of me. They’re in the book. Now I don’t have to continue to have it churning around in there—in my soul. (Laughs) I can move forward. That’s really what I’m interested in now. Because that’s what songs are—they’re a reflection of now. There’s a lot of now in every song, and that’s what I’m after.

Describe your creative process.
My Mom struggled as a songwriter. We were very poor. We lived in the projects of Liberty City. If you saw Moonlight, that’s where we grew up for 14 years. My mom didn’t even have gas for her beat-up car. She’d have to take three buses to get to whatever little job she landed—until she got fired from that. She was very Bohemian. So for me, it’s always been a vow—that I would make it as a songwriter. I was able to take care of her until she passed away seven years ago. I made a vow to make it as a songwriter. To me, it’s always been that—striving for artistic heights, but at the same time—the hustle of making sure my music is heard and that I’m able to support my family with my music. They’re intertwined. It’s never been—oh, I really need to be inspired to write. Even when I was in college, I was driven to make it. I didn’t have a B plan. I just said the A plan’s gotta work.

Tell us about one of your songs.
One that is a favorite of so many people is “Livin’ on a Prayer” that I wrote with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. It was truly amazing when I went to one of their concerts with my husband, Curtis Shaw, and our twin sons, Roman and Nyro. The version they did was incredible. It’s actually the last song they do after the final encore. No one leaves the stadium until they do that song. It could be as late as 11:30 at night, and you’ll have parents with kids sleeping on their shoulders—waiting for this particular song. At that point in time, it’s not about the band. It is something incredibly special to hear 50,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs—singing in unison. You look around, and you see it in the eyes of everyone singing. That’s when I feel good knowing that I did something worthwhile in my life. I was able to give something hopeful to the world.

In these unique socio-political times, how do you still remain hopeful?
I believe hope is the currency of love. I look at my children—my sons, and say “that’s the future—right there.” They help me remain hopeful.

What songwriting tip would you like to offer?
It’s a double-sided thing. Artistically, there is a drive to make a song as strong as it can possibly be. I’m currently working on songs to present to Barbra Streisand. There’s a song I’m co-writing with Shelly Peiken, and I’m still texting her lyric revisions. I still think that it can be better. The original demo singer went to Europe, so I’m using a different singer and matching the sound to help us fix the song with these new lyrics that I feel are better. And on the other side, it’s the hustle. I want the songs to be presented to her properly—in the most beautiful way. It’s been a dream, a lifelong goal of mine to work with her. I saw her singing when I was 12 years old. I saw Funny Girl, and saw her singing “People”—and that was it for me. She is truly the greatest singer of all time, and now she’s better than ever. She too has the drive—the same thing I have—striving for perfection, for artistic excellence, for technical excellence. You can easily see it in everything surrounding her and her shows—they are so beautifully directed by Richard Jay-Alexander.

Why do you think the songs you write so relatable?
I write songs for specific artists. They’re definitive versions. Who can sing the song better than that person—for whom it was specifically written? Who else could sing “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” but Steven Tyler? Who else could sing “You Give Love a Bad Name” but Jon Bon Jovi? Who else could sing “Poison” but Alice Cooper? Who else could sing “I Hate Myself for Loving You” but Joan Jett? I believe the listener is transported in a deep spiritual way to the original spirit of the song. There’s a connection that’s made—and it is real.

How did youlearn to make that connection?
I had amazing mentors. Bob Crewe and what he did for the Four Seasons—writing, producing, everything—was incredible. My acting coach, Sandra Seacat, was so inspirational. I wasn’t an actor, but I was a fly on the wall for some amazing actors who were there at that same time: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Lange, Frances Fisher, Christopher Reeve, Marlo Thomas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Lawrence Bender (Pulp Fictionand An Inconvenient Truth). We were in this tiny apartment. We were all sitting on the floor, reading plays and scripts. She helped connect words with the actor. I used that approach to help me connect the song to the musician.

What is unique about your approach?
When I get together to write with someone, they tell me their life story. And songs jump out of those stories. Sandra Seacat would tell us, “You won’t get a part until your soul has destiny or a calling for that part.” The same is with a song—it is real only if the singer makes that connection. She said, “Artists are the wounded healer—showing the pain in their soul. And the audience is a co-creator with the performer—and heals through that process.” Both create in the imagination—in that space. As songwriters, we have a sacred job to help them connect.

Were there any others who helped you make that connection?
My first voice teacher, Mrs. Leeds—Marie Louise Leeds. She was a Holocaust survivor, and she taught voice to kids in high school. When I went to see her, there was a fire in her eyes. I knew there was a higher calling. She put that fire inside me.

What PRO (Performing Rights Organization) are you with?
ASCAP. This year I’m celebrating my 40thyear as a member of ASCAP. They’re presenting me with their biggest prize, the Founders Award. I am so proud, honored and happy about this incredible award. I care so much about songwriters. I’ve been on the Board of ASCAP for a few years. I’ve worked real hard to come up with ideas and programs to help songwriters. So, it’s not just that I’ve had all the hits I’ve had, but also because I’m very involved. I care so much about the future of our business.

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