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Speak Out To Me

Speaking Freely • October 2, 2001
First Amendment Center, NYC
by William George

Speak Out

On a beautiful day in New York City, Jackie DeShannon sat in a small television studio at the First Amendment Center on Madison Avenue, and chatted with Speaking Freely host Ken Paulson about her life, career, and creative process.
During the course of the interview, Jackie spoke about her experiences touring with the Beatles, her trip to Vietnam to entertain the troops, her influences, and, in a rare moment of candor, the ideas behind some of her songs.
Jackie recounted that she landed the support slot on the Beatles’ 1964 tour, which she remembers as six weeks of one-night-stands, because John and Paul heard her demos. They shared the same UK publisher at the time. She said she sang only uptempo songs, to try to keep the crowd satisfied while they anxiously and impatiently waited for the Beatles to take the stage.
After the success of What the World Needs Now, Jackie “went into foxholes” in Vietnam to entertain the troops.
Jackie mentioned some of her influences, like Buddy Holly (“I was trying to be Buddy Holly.”), and Brian Wilson (she states he was always one of her greatest influences). She singled out artist Georgia O’Keefe as her idol, saying she possessed beauty within; she was as beautiful at 90 as she was at 30. O’Keefe showed there was “no age limit on cool.”
Speaking about the creation and inspiration for some of her songs, Jackie shared the following anecdotes:
• What the World Needs Now Is Love – Jackie said she related to the imagery and sentiments of the lyrics, having grown up surrounded by cornfields and wheatfields. She feels her emotional ties to the song, from her heart, is one reason for its success over the years.
• Put A Little Love In Your Heart – Jackie explains it started with a riff her brother, Randy Myers, was playing on the piano. She said it was written very quickly, and she credits her mother with the sentiment behind the song, because she was always saying things like “You need to put a little love in your heart.”
When Paulson commented on the positive message of the song, Jackie said “faith and hope played, and continue to play, a big part in my work.”
• Somewhere In America – Jackie shared that this was a rare incident when she wrote all the lyrics before the melody. She explained the task of the lyrics is to try to convince people to be more responsible with their lives. We need to work together, and take care of the Earth which nourishes us.
• When You Walk In the Room – “always one of my favorites.”
• Needles and Pins – It was written for her while she was working closely with Jack Nitzsche. She said the record company didn’t’ want to record it, but she said “we’re recording it or we aren’t recording anything!”
• Vanilla ‘Olay – “Very Jackie!”
• Boat To Sail – Jackie shared it was written for her husband, Randy Edelman, as a birthday present.
• Bette Davis Eyes – She explained her original demo was more like Kim Carnes’ version, but the producer heard it in a different way.
Explaining her performance style, Jackie said she likes the personal approach. She enjoys shows that seem like the performer is in your living room, and the audience feels they really get to know the artist. As for her future activities, Jackie said she has plans to go to England, and tour Europe.
Winding up the interview, Jackie stated, “I follow the art. I do the work and go wherever it takes me.” Let us all feel grateful she has taken us along for the ride. •

This episode of Speaking Freely will air nationally in December. Check their website ( and your local listings for time and channel.

(Regrettably, I suspect that this programme will only be seen in the USA – Alan Rickards)

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