Friday, December 2, 2011

Dick Cheney: American Songwriter

How can u just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that's so cold?
Maybe I'm just 2 demanding.
Maybe I'm just like my father, 2 bold.
Maybe you're just like my mother.
She's never satisfied.
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry.


Very few people realize these words were written about the Ford administration.

Their author, a 39 year-old Congressman from Wyoming, scribbled them down on a napkin in a DC-area bar as he reminisced about his time serving as White House Chief of Staff during the political turmoil of the Nixon pardon and the race against Jimmy Carter. A young musician from Minneapolis, MN would reach out to this statesman in the years that followed. Richard B. Cheney would find his talent nurtured in the company of people like Sheila E., Morris Day, and Carmen Electra. And his words would touch a generation. Most people know Cheney as the Secretary of Defense, and for his later work in subsequent presidential administrations. They don't appreciate him as a musical force, a hitmaker, an artist of depth and power.

"That guy just blows me out of the water," says London-area composer Elvis Costello. "He's written for everyone. I mean, everyone. He's done country. He has worked with classical acts. I'm pretty good. But Cheney's balls are just bigger than mine. There's nothing he wouldn't do."

Indeed, in a career as rich and varied as Cheney's he's found plenty of opportunity to showcase his nerve and audacity. Some of his songs have become controversial, even infamous. And he's attracted the attention of those in power.

"Tipper tried to shut him down for years," says Al Gore in an exclusive interview at his Antarctic biodome. "She just knew he was the guy behind some of the filthiest stuff out there. Shit, 2 Live Crew never wrote a single one of their songs. That was all stuff Dick was writing under an assumed name back during the first Bush administration."

"They say 'Sugar Walls' was really about Lynne," Gore adds, "but that's just a rumor. And quite frankly, I'd rather not think about it."

"Don't get me wrong," music fan and political staffer Paul Wolfowitz says. "He did soulful, romantic songs as well. I actually think he had too much talent to be going dirty like that. It was a gimmick from his earlier career. The real Dick Cheney waits out the grunge movement and reappears in the mid-1990's. He works at Halliburton and collaborates with Radiohead on Pablo Honey. That was what he really wanted to do. That and screwing Saddam out of the Kuwaiti oil we promised him."

Much of his catalog, is of course, a closely-guarded secret. Many artists who have worked with him are coy about his involvement.

"I'm not going to shit you and say Cheney had nothing to do with it," says Thom Yorke, about the creative process that went into Honey. "But it's easy to just say he was everywhere during that time, you know? He's like a fuckin' bogeyman. Everyone sees him in everywhere. But no one can do that much."

"I disagree. I completely disagree," Ryan Schreiber of Pitchfork says flatly when told of Thom Yorke's assessment. "If you look at the songs we know Dick Cheney produced during that time they consistently garnered commercial and critical success. We've given him at least seven ratings of 9.5 or more. Cheney's the real thing. Yorke's probably pissed off people are realizing he did some of the band's best work."

"You know what 'Stop Whispering' was called before Cheney got to it?" he adds. "It was called 'Feelin' Dandy.'"

"Dude is an artistic chameleon," adds Rick Rubin, a longtime Cheney supporter, who also produces music. "That's why people doubt how wide his influence is. You don't think the same guy who writes Benatar's 'We Belong' and dedicates it to Ronald Reagan can turn around, gather a group of Jennifer Love Hewitt's session musicians and transform them into The National."

"He does something behind the scenes, it changes the whole world, and you don't realize it was him until years later. Pure Cheney."

He's just as famous -- or perhaps notorious -- for the small private concerts he's given over the years, showcasing his own work.

"His riders were crazy," remembers one club owner. "Thumbprint scanners, guards from Xe everywhere, and no one could be in the building without a background check. Only Mariah Carey was that paranoid about human rights groups."

But this, like many other aspects of the reclusive artists life, is unconfirmed. Cheney himself declined an interview request with a terse statement through his lawyer. We'll let the man have the last words:

"My work speaks for itself."

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