January 26, 2012
Host: Ted Simons
Aizona ArtBeat: Melanie
Category: The Arts
- Meet singer-songwriter Melanie who burst onto the music scene in 1969 at Woodstock. She continues to write and perform, and she’s spending a lot of time in Arizona these days.
| Keywords: art
Ted Simons: On tonight's Arizona art beat we meet singer songwriter Melanie, who burst on to the music scene in 1969 at Woodstock. Melanie is still performing and writing songs. She's also writing books, and she spends a lot of time in Arizona with her daughter, Jeordie, who shares her mother's love of singing and song writing. Here now to talk about her life in music is Melanie Safka. That's your last name?
Melanie Safka: My last name. I finally was able to acquire it from some huge corporate group that had bought it and was trying to sell it for a ridiculous amount of money. Finally they gave up.
Ted Simons: Well it’s so good to have you here, thanks for joining us. There are so many things I want to ask you but so many people look at you and say, I remember Melanie, a '60s songwriter and singer. Does that bother you when they say you were a 1960’s performer?
Melanie Safka: it's funny, people say, you're from the '60s, as if the '60s is this place that people like me go to. No, I mean, I just continued, you know. I have never retired. I have never gone anywhere else except on the road. In fact we were on our way to Arizona, my husband, myself and Bo, my guitar player, and Peter was -- he was my inspiration. He was my husband for 45 years. He managed my career. He produced every record of mine. He passed away on the road a year ago. We have been picking up the pieces. We continued to do the gigs that he booked, and he had booked something in Arizona. We just came here -- it's almost like I was guided.
Ted Simons: it felt right, didn't it?
Melanie Safka: It felt like the right place to be. I have been writing here nonstop. As soon as this happened, I began to write. He had bought me a journal, a blank journal, and he said, Melanie, you have to write your book. You have to write your story. I always get the chronological order wrong, so I thought, somebody has to help me with this. I kept backing off. The night after Peter passed away I was in the hotel room and I looked at that blank book and I realized that I have to tell our story. Because the story that is unfolding to me right as I speak because I'm writing this now, is that we grew up together through Woodstock and the Vietnam war, and the music that wove its way through those things and what we did to keep my musical integrity and because making the decision to stay who you are can be a very expensive decision.
Ted Simons: Let's talk about the difference creatively between writing a book like that and writing songs.
Melanie Safka: A song is magic. A song just comes out of me. Somebody the other night said, I think unfairly, oh, you come from the ethereal place. You need to be with a crafter. I thought, that isn't really true at all. I write a song and it just comes right out, but then I spend weeks refining a word, and I'll go over a word and I'll refine it.
Ted Simons: So what's more challenging, then, writing a song or performing the song?
Melanie Safka: Oh! It's a whole other universe. I have learned how to be on stage. I was very shy. I didn't want people to look at me. The last thing this universe I wanted to be was a celebrity. I wanted to be in the Peace Corps or an archeologist. I did not want to be a famous person. Now people are famous for being famous. You don't know what they do. I have seen that face before. But the last thing I wanted was to be a famous person. But I did always have a passion for music.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, you were born and raised in queens, New York, when did you know you were good, singing and song writing? I mean good.
Melanie Safka: I didn't know I was good ever. I knew that I had to do this. And that I was driven to make music and to sing in front of people. And I think it's not been since a few years I realized that I do have something.
Ted Simons: My goodness.
Melanie Safka: I didn't think of myself as a writer for sure. I only wrote songs that I would sing. I didn't think other people would sing them. Then Ray Charles sang my song. I'm a writer!
Ted Simons: You are a writer you have had some monster hits. Candles in the rain, especially the brand new key, everybody knows the brand new key. Were you surprised when you wrote those songs, when you first performed and recorded them did you have any idea that they would be a hit the way they did?
Melanie Safka: With brand new key I kind of wrote it as a slinky Cajun swamp thing. My husband, shameless record producer, heard this. He said, Melanie, it's a hit. I said, oh, no, I'll be doomed to be cute for the rest of my life. It was hard enough because I was cherubic and I smiled and the camera phased me. I grew up with brownie cameras. That's how it went. You smiled at the camera. So I didn't intend for that song to be a hit. Now, years later, I have come to terms with it. It's an amazing song. It really is. It just transcends time and genre. It just followed me. At first I was a reactionary to that song.
Ted Simons: A lot of people are like that. They have a one-hit kind of thing and the hit is so big, whether an actor or performer, they go I don't want to play that role any more.
Melanie Safka: But I always sang it because I realized people heard it and it was familiar. When things are familiar to people it would be a deprivation to not do it. So I always do brand new key. Some of my real core fans could care less if I do that song. They want to hear all the new things. But I feel that there are those people who came to that show -- I love that little song. That's such a cute song. Do the one about the roller skates.
Ted Simons: Last question. We would love to have you longer but we got about a minute left. Your daughter is a performer as well. What kind of advice do you give her? You've lived the life now.
Melanie Safka: I know. You can't stop somebody who has grown up in music. Jeordie has always written songs with her sister Layla, who is in Nashville writing for people, and she is also the singer, they grew up singing, they grew up in the studios. They were studio rats. 4:00 in the morning with me, sometimes they recorded background vocal parts. It was just part of their life.
Ted Simons: Can you give them advice on song writing, on performing, or do they have to learn it themselves?
>> no, they have their own unique little way. Jeordie is very quirky. She has kind of my quirk. Layla is more Celine Dion. More refined. Early on I said, don't do it. You know? But now it's part of who they are. My son is an amazing musician. He is here with me. We're going to go to a writing session right after this. He's been performing with me ever since.
Ted Simons: It's a pleasure to have you here. I know you have the book out, you have a children's album, lots of things going on. We’re glad you could make some time. Welcome to Arizona. It’s good to have you here, good to have you on the show.
Melanie Safka: Thanks a lot.
Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons, thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.
Arizona in the National Spotlight
- Pollster Mike O’Neil discusses political trends that will put Arizona in the National spotlight.
| Keywords: arizona
Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," a local pollster tells us about some Arizona political trends that could have national implications. We'll hear from a state Senator who wants to move up to Congress. And we catch up with part-time Arizona resident singer and songwriter Melanie. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon." Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Governor Brewer's office is not releasing a copy of the letter she gave President Obama yesterday. The letter purportedly asks for a meeting with the president. the governor's office says it will not release the letter because it is a personal, handwritten note. Some public experts say that by not releasing the letter, the governor could be violating the state's public records law. A law that allows disabled students to attend private schools at public expense was upheld today by a Maricopa County superior court. The judge ruled that because money for the students goes into a scholarship fund first and then to parents, the money is controlled by the parents and thus within the limits of the constitution. There are several Arizona political events and trends that could make a big impact nationally. So says the Tempe-based pollster Michael O'Neill, who joins us now to talk about Arizona's place in the political landscape.
Michael O’Neil: Good to be here.
Ted Simons: Let's start with the special election primary an general for Gabrielle Giffords's seat there. That could be a big indicator.
Michael O’Neil: I think it's huge. We're in the middle of a presidential year. That seat is absolutely down the middle equal Republican, equal Democrat. All over the country they are going to be looking for an indication which way the winds will be blowing. This June it will be in Arizona and we'll with the best indicator in Arizona with real people voting democrat against republican in a seat that's a 50/50 toss-up.
Ted Simons: there's no incumbent in the primary in general.
Michael O’Neil: If there was an incumbent it would be about the advantage of that. This is the absolutely perfect barometer of what's going on in the country.
Ted Simons: Now much of CD8 kinds of moves over into a kind of congressional district come the fall but redistricting, we have CD2 that will become CD4. CD9, the brand new district, we’ll talk to David Schapira here in a second he wants that seat, these are all relative, I mean these are good indicators as well.
Michael O’Neil: Three districts all 50/50, the three competitive ones, and all of them without an incumbent. That's about as many open seats genuinely competitive as anywhere in the country. You throw in the U.S. Senate, that makes Arizona a very interesting place to watch this fall.
Ted Simons: Okay, let's keep it going here there are other things as well. We had the president in town yesterday. The president doesn't stop by for no reason whatsoever. That was no fluke. Is Arizona at play in terms of the presidential election?
Michael O’Neil: I think in the Democrats' dreams. It's at the outer reaches of the possible. Think 2008 the way we thought of Virginia or North Carolina. They were states that had not been carried by a Democrat in a long time but the Obama people figured out they had a shot there. They made a play, they took them. I think Arizona is about that level. I'm not saying it's a toss-up. We still have about a 5% Republican edge, but if you were to look throughout the country for one state where Obama lost last time with the exception of Missouri which was a toss-up. They were counting votes three weeks later, among the states that Obama did not carry there is no state where he has as good a chance as Arizona.
Ted Simons: So even if he doesn't have that good of a chance you're saying as well, correct me if I'm wrong, just by making the attempt, by fighting the fight, that sends a message.
Michael O’Neil: Otherwise the narrative is Obama is playing 100% defense. He's just trying to hang on by his fingernails to enough states that he carried last time to have 270 electoral votes. Arizona is offense, going somewhere where you haven't been before. Even if he loses I think he gets credit for the attempt.
Ted Simons: And some of this effort radiates to neighboring states as well which could possibly be more in play.
Michael O’Neil: And there is an arithmetic. Obama could lose Florida, he could lose Ohio, he could lose Virginia, he could lose North Carolina. If he picks up Arizona and holds the other western states that he carried, which is Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, 270.
Ted Simons: Interesting. Let's go to the Republican side. The Republican primarily, presidential preference election here in Arizona, kind of considered ho-hum for a while. Romney and the rest of the field. Not so ho-hum any more.
Michael O’Neil: Not so ho-hum and one other thing makes it real interesting. Between February 7th and February 28th, when we have our primary, there's nothing going on. 28, we share with Michigan. We will only have half that platform, but for three weeks, all Arizona and Michigan and followed immediately by Super Tuesday, that date looks pretty exciting for us.
Ted Simons: Does Gingrich have a chance in Arizona? Against a Romney, does he really have much of a chance?
Michael O’Neil: I think the tea party and the far right is big in Arizona Republican circles. This is Arizona primary voters. I think that's tailor made for him like South Carolina. I would not discount him.
Ted Simons: So again even if the polls show Romney would have a big lead in Arizona, again, just fighting the fight puts Arizona on the board? Puts us in the national spotlight here for a few weeks as you mentioned.
Michael O’Neil: We have one presidential debate scheduled. If you want another one I bet you could get three or four people to show up.
Ted Simons: And the debate itself, you talked about the primary, the debate it’s self is going to be a bigger deal than maybe some had thought. So interesting times in Arizona politics?
Michael O’Neil: Absolutely.
Ted Simons: Very good. Good to have you here. We'll probably get you back here to try and figure out where we’re headed once we get all these events under way.
Michael O’Neil: You bet.
Congressional District 9 Candidate
- State Senator David Schapira, a Tempe Democrat who serves as Senate Minority Leader, discusses his candidacy for Arizona’s newly-drawn Congressional District 9.
- Sen. David Schapira - D-Tempe, Senate Minority Leader
| Keywords: congress
Ted Simons: State Senate minority leader David Schapira recently announced that he will run for the seat in Arizona's newly formed 9th district. Here to talk about his congressional bid is Senator David Schapira. Good to see you again thanks for joining us. Why are you running for Congress?
David Schapira: I running for Congress for the same reason I got into politics in the first place. I was a high school teacher, became very frustrated with the education system in Arizona, realized the buck stopped at the elected officials, the state legislature and the United States Congress. So I got involved in politics, ran for office for the first time when I was 26 years old to try to make changes in the education system. That fervor has been renewed for me. I have two young daughters. They’re going to be entering the education system in just a few years now and there's a lot of important legislation coming up on the federal level with the reauthorization of no child left behind coming up. And I want to be there to work on it, I want a teacher's voice in Washington.
Ted Simons: I was going to ask about education because some say it's more important to be on the local level when it comes to education and education reform and you can make more of a difference locally then you can back in Washington.
David Schapira: And unfortunately too many teachers are taking that advice and staying involved at the state level, then we have a bunch of politicians in Washington who don't understand education who are involved in crafting legislation like no child left behind. We need teachers in Washington who understand what's going on in our classrooms today. Who can work on the revisions to no child left behind and make it legislation that can actually help students improve learning, not just be something that's good for politicians.
Ted Simons: What can you offer that other Democrats running for this particular congressional seat can't?
David Schapira: I think I can certainly offer some expertise in that area of education. I think I understand and I have seen it in practice the link between education and our nation's economy. What is interesting is we have competed state to state for jobs for decades now. In fact even centuries. What the next century is going to look like as far as competition is international competition for jobs. As we have been losing jobs to China and India because they offer cheaper labor force, in the future we'll be losing jobs because they have a more educated work force unless we do something about it now. On the national level I will bring a focus at the Congress on education issues.
Ted Simons: Alright. You're not resigning your seat at the legislature to run for this particular office. Why? Because someone suggested you would need all of your energies to run for the office and those energies you're using to run for the office are being lost at the legislature.
David Schapira: People who know me know I like to multi-task I have been at the legislature going on six years. That time I have worked at ASU, have taught in the political science department there and have had other jobs, started a small business, and started a family, got married, had kids. I like to multi-task. That's not the reason. I'm staying in the legislature. The reason I’m staying in the legislature is because I made a commitment to my constituents two years ago when I ran for Arizona State Senate that I would serve a two-year term. They elected me to serve a two-year term not a one year term. My colleagues in the Arizona State Senate, the fellow Democrats, elected me to be their leader, the democratic leader for a two-year term not a one year term. I believe in fulfilling my commitments, and doing the job I was elected to do.
Ted Simons: You wrote and said in your announcement for candidacy you want to create jobs and uphold values. How can Congress -- this is a big question here because there’s a very philosophical divide, how can Congress create jobs?
David Schapira: Well, it's interesting. The tea party folks on the far right like to say, oh, government can't create jobs. In fact government has never created jobs. I think cap in Arizona is an example of what we have done to create jobs. Government which frankly creates infrastructure. If infrastructure doesn't exist business can't exist in that place either. There's something we can do now in the state and in Washington to help bring jobs to the country and to Arizona. That is diversify our economy. For example states like Arizona have relied for 100 years on growth as our primary economic driver. We have got to have more innovative industries that are not just about getting bigger but getting better. I want to focus on that in Washington, helping us as a country get better.
Ted Simons: Ok, uphold values, that’s your quote. What does that mean?
David Schapira: Well, it's interesting I think especially right now people are very concerned about ethics in politics. For a long time people have been more and more disenfranchised with what's going on politically. I sat on a five-member panel essentially a quasi-judicial panel that dealt with Scott Bumgard over the past few months. Too many people believe that's what all politicians are like. I want to maintain my priorities in Washington while also maintaining my ethical values.
Ted Simons: How closely will you associate yourselves with President Obama?
David Schapira: You know, I was one of the very early supporters of President Obama when he first got in the presidential race. There were four Arizona politicians who came out and endorsed him right off the bat. I was one. I got to meet with the president just yesterday when he was here in Arizona. I see him as an ally, someone to work alongside but not to work for. My boss, the people who I work for, is the constituents of my district. I hope to work alongside not just President Obama and other Democrats in Congress but also the Republicans. I have had a history of working across the aisle to get done what's best for our constituents, I’ll continue that trend in Congress.
Ted Simons: Ok, couple of President Obama ideas here. The stimulus. Would you have voted for it?
David Schapira: Well, there's multiple things that came through in the package and there were things that I really like. A lot of the investment and infrastructure, a lot of what helped keep teachers and firefighters and law enforcement employed. Those are the kind of things I support and frankly I think kept us out of a much deeper recession if not depression there were components I supported, and there were components I think maybe weren't as necessary.
Ted Simons: The health care reform act, the idea of health care reform in general, the president's plan. Would you have supported it?
David Schapira: Health care reform is desperately needed in this country even still after it passed in the Congress. If I had been in Congress at the time, I would have supported it but I don't think it did enough. What we really need in health care reform is cost control. When people see their health care bills skyrocketing that's a problem. I would have supported single payer option, I would have supported a public option. And unfortunately those things were not in the bill but those are things I’ll fight for in the next Congress.
Ted Simons: So would you have supported the bill as it was?
David Schapira: Ya, as it was I would’ve supported it. I don’t think it went far enough.
Ted Simons: Alright, immigration.
David Schapira: Immigration reform is a very pressing issue for our state and our country. Unfortunately we haven't seen substantive reform since the '80s. I will support comprehensive immigration reform and in fact I was disappointed when the president mentioned it and they immediately panned to John Mccain, our United States Senator. Literally it seems he was the only one in the entire section that didn't stand up or clap. This is someone who in previous sessions had actually sponsored comprehensive immigration reform. It's desperately needed. Our Senators and members of Congress from this state should know it's an extremely important priority.
Ted Simons: Last question Republicans are already saying most Democrats running for Congress are going back to rubber stamp the administration's ideas left, right and center.
David Schapira: I support the president and the initiatives he's pushing but I represent constituents. Harry Mitchell, when he was my congressman, was fond of saying representative is both my title and my job description. I felt that way at the state legislature and I'll be that kind of representative in Congress.
Ted Simons: Alright thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
David Schapira: Thanks for having me.