It might be Stephen
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo () - January 12, 2011 - 12:00am

First, a confession: Among his many hits — including It Might Be You (theme song of the Dustin Hoffman starrer Tootsie), On And On and Save It For A Rainy Day, it’s Separate Lives (theme song of the movie White Nights) which Stephen Bishop considers his top favorite.

“I love that song,” Stephen told Funfare in an exclusive phone interview yesterday (he was calling from L.A.), “and I’ll tell you why in a while.”

For sure, Stephen will include Separate Lives in his repertoire when he performs with Dan Hill and Yvonne Elliman in Love Rocks, a special pre-Valentine concert set for Feb. 11 at the Araneta Coliseum.

I told Stephen that he must love Manila so much that he keeps on coming back.

“It’s my sixth time to be there,” he said, “and I’m very excited about it. I’m bringing my girlfriend with me and we’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day in Manila; our first time to spend it there.”

The first time he was here was in 1980 and the last was four years ago. So how different is his music from it was three decades ago?

“It’s different and it’s the same,” he assured me. “I’ll still be playing hits from Careless, my first album — yes, On And On and It Might Be You — including Something New In My Life which wasn’t a hit here in the States but, I heard, it is in the Philippines,” adding with a little laugh, “I don’t know how it became a hit there. It was on an album that was released in Hong Kong in 1985 I think, and I don’t know how it got there.”

In November last year, Stephen went on a concert tour of three US cities with Hill and, I tried to test his memory, a popular Filipino singer (whom I didn’t name).

“Oh yes, Kuh Ledesma. I did a duet of Separate Lives with her. She sings great, she’s really a great singer, she’s very sweet. We got along great. She sang Separate Lives really good.”

Reminded that Valentine’s is big deal in the Philippines and that Kuh and the Hitmakers (composed of Rico J. Puno, Nonoy Zuñiga, Rey Valera and Marco Sison but minus Hajji Alejandro who is not in good terms with Rico J) are among the local artists having a show, Stephen said, “Oh is that so?” Informed further that Kuh is spearheading a campaign against foreign acts during the Valentine season, Stephen expressed surprise, “Oh, I didn’t know that,” and refused to elaborate.

Sorry, Kuh, but I don’t toe your line. I believe that the more choices there are, the better, regardless whether they are “local” or “foreign,” a distinction that shouldn’t be because art (as music is) should be universal. Limiting the audience to a selection of only local shows is tantamount to emotional blackmail, insinuating that if one patronizes a foreign act instead of a local act it makes him “un-patriotic.” What if other countries would retaliate and impose a similar “ban” on Filipino artists abroad, can you imagine the hundreds of them that would be rendered jobless considering that anywhere you go in the world, entertainment is provided by mostly Filipinos? Besides, I’m sure that it’s the people who have the final say on what show to spend their money on, local or foreign, depending on which one they think is worth their time and money.

“Filipinos are very talented artists,” conceded Stephen. “I remember that every time I perform in Manila, there’s always a Filipino artist on the show. A month ago, I did a show in the US with a Filipino as a performer — Joey Albert. She’s just as good as and as talented as Kuh. Yes, I also did a duet of Separate Lives with Joey. Oh, by the way, I hope to see Kuh when I get to Manila.”

Valentine’s Day this year is a different one for Stephen and his girlfriend. They usually spend the special day by having a traditional dinner by candlelight in the same restaurant in L.A.

Asked how many Valentine’s Days has he spent so far, Stephen laughed.

“Four with my present girlfriend.”

What about before her?

“I’d better not talk about those before her or she would kick me in the ass.”

Stephen has nothing but praises for Filipino artists Kuh Ledesma (below left) and Joey Albert (below right) with whom he has performed in separate shows in the US. ‘Great ladies, great singers!’

And what’s his favorite love song?

“I really like the song I Can Let Go Now by Michael MacDonald. It’s not a very positive song but I like it. Among my songs, I like to sing It Might Be You on Valentine’s Day. But my favorite is still Separate Lives because I like the way it turned out. There’s always a great reaction when I sing it.”

I wondered, did he write Separate Lives under unpleasant circumstances?

“Yes, I was falling out of love. It’s a break-up song. You know, you were together before and now you’re leading separate lives. Sad, isn’t it?”

Does he write better when he’s heart-broken?

“Yes, I do,” admitted Stephen, “It’s hard to write a song that,” proceeds to sing, “I’m in love…It’s great! Now I’m in love,” adding, “It’s easier to write a break-up song.”

Stephen started his musical career at 14. He formed his group called The Weeds in 1967 and they recorded Beatles-inspired demos in L.A., in the process winning second place at the Claremont Battle of the Bands. His break came when Art Garfunkel heard some of his songs through a friend and recorded them on his Gold recording. Stephen eventually signed up with ABC Records which released Careless, his debut album.

How does he keep the music playing and the inspiration working?

“It’s pretty much all I’ve ever done. I don’t think I’d be a good plumber or anything. I’d be a lousy gas-station attendant. Making music is all I know. I continue to write songs because I still can.”

And how does he preserve his voice?

“I built a steam unit in my bathroom, so when I take a shower I sing and sing to rehearse by vocal cords. The steam is good for the voice.”

Come to think of it, when he serenades the ladies in the audience at the Love Rocks Big Dome concert, which of his songs will choose?

Breaking into a you-guess-it-right laugh, Stephen exclaimed, “It Might Be You!,” singing his favorite line from it, If I found the place, would I recognize the face; something’s telling me it might be you…

(Note: For tickets to Love Rocks featuring Stephen Bishop with Dan Hill and Yvonne Elliman, call Ticketnet at 911-5555.)

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph or at entphilstar@yahoo.com)

IT MIGHT BE YOU KUH LOVE LOVE ROCKS SEPARATE SEPARATE LIVES STEPHEN
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