With a catalog of songs that includes such classics as “Doctor My Eyes,” “Running on Empty,” and “These Days,” Jackson Browne is primarily known as a singer and songwriter. Yet for Playing for Change 3: Songs Around the World — a CD/DVD set out June 17, featuring performances by Keith Richards, Sara Bareilles, and more — he opted to take on the role as a producer.
Browne got into the project through Mark Johnson, who co-founded the Songs Around the World concept that evolved into Playing for Change with Whitney Kroenke back in 2005. Since its launch in 2009, the collective has united hundreds of musicians around the world while raising money and promoting music in developing countries. Johnson had met Browne back when he was a recording engineer and worked at Browne’s studio in Los Angeles.
For his contribution, Browne was invited to visit Cuba, which was appealing to veteran singer-songwriter because he’d previously visited the country and has a deep and passionate interest in Cuba. Yet Browne didn’t want to merely record Cuban artists in Cuba, rather he wanted to feature Cuban musicians from all over the world. He’s called the journey “one of the most rewarding and inspiring musical experiences of my life.”
“There’s this diaspora of Cubans all over the world, and they’re Cuban no matter where they go,” Browne says. “And no matter what side of the political debate they come down on, whether they’re living in Cuba and for or against the present regime, or if they’re living outside of Cuba.”
The song those musicians perform is “Guantanamera,” which is perhaps the most popular Cuban song ever written and a song that Browne has loved since he was a child. A version arranged by late, legendary folk singer Pete Seeger by the Sandpipers became an international hit in 1966. The song’s original lyrics were written by famed Cuban songwriter Jose Fernandez Diaz, also known as Joseito Fernandez, who was also a key figure in Cuba revolution that earned the country independence from Spain.
Craig Rosen, Yahoo Music