Q&A with singer Harrison Kennedy, has been able to pull from styles as varied as Funk, Soul, R&B, Blues, and Gospel

"The impact is obviously worldwide. Who doesn't know Marvin Gaye’s "What's Going On” or Bob Dylan’s "The Times They Are a Changing" music has a way to tell the truth and shame the devil."

Harrison Kennedy: Thanks For The Music

Hamilton, Ontario’s legendary award-winning bluesman Harrison Kennedy is back with a brand new release on Electro-Fi Records. "Thanks For Tomorrow" (Set for release on June 17th, 2022) is an original soulful blues workout with very special guests Ruthie Foster and  Colin Linden. Co-Produced by Harrison and keyboard wizard Jesse O’Brien, the new release also features ace rhythm section Gary Craig on drums and John Dymond on bass (both members of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings) nail it down, while masterful guitarists Chris Cadell and Colin Linden soar throughout. In releasing his seventh album on  Electro-Fi Records, Harrison further cements himself as a giant on the blues scene with what may be his best work to date. Featuring 12 tracks that take us to places known and unknown, all are originals penned by Harrison, save for one Van Morrison cover. All are served with a healthy dose of mastery and creativity. Best known as a founding member of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s million selling 70’s soul supergroup the Chairmen of the Board, Harrison has gone on to  become one of the 21st century’s most inventive blues singer-songwriters.                (Harrison Kennedy / Photo by Ivan Sorensen)

In 2016 he was awarded the "Blues Album of the Year" Juno Award for his release, This Is From Here as well as garnering multiple Blues Music Award nominations from the Blues Foundation in Memphis, TN. His stellar vocal work and heartfelt original songs have never been more  effectively combined than on this uplifting and deep down soulful release Thanks For Tomorrow. It is destined to become one of 2022’s most talked about, and listened to blues music recordings. Harrison Kennedy grew up in a house filled with music and famous visitors such as Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Lonnie Johnson. In 1969 he took a hiatus from college to become a founding member of Detroit Soul Super Group “The Chairmen of the Board” with whom he toured the world, as well as appearing on Soul Train, American Bandstand and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues and Jazz people? How do you describe your sound and songbook?

For a while as a youngster my parents had a "drink house" on Sunday's. At that time, it was unlawful to bootleg on Sunday. Many notable jazz and blues players came to our house to play darts, drink relax and play. I didn't know as a 7 year old that Billy Holiday was singing, or Duke Ellington was playing piano, or Lonnie Johnson playing guitar in our dinning room. Many more artists showed up at our home back then, I thought everyone could do what they did, I had aunts who played and sung, my mother played, too. And I sang tenor in our church, from 11 years old. My mother would sometimes call be downstairs to sing her favorite song... (I had no idea what tune was her favorite).

So, I would just make up a song about what I saw in the room, and everyone would laugh and give me money... mom would say okay son, go to bed. What I heard as a child, is responsible my love for story songs and melody. Like I was able to present with "Black and Tan records, Bob Lo Island!! and Electro-Fi records now. I’m grateful to these labels.

How has the Afro-American culture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

My great great grandparents escaped from slavery in the mid 1800's, and came to Canada. To this day we have kept in touch with our Afro American relatives. The influence is deep. "I’m able to feel the hard times of people of this world and express love and awareness through my music".

"My relatives loved to tell funny stories, I loved that. My mother took an abused German shepherd dog away from a neighbor. Everyone said was a killer, he became a gentle pet in our house, she said all life responds to tenderness!!" (Harrison Kennedy / Photo by Jeff Fasano)

Where does your creative drive come from? What do you think is key to a music life well lived?

I have always loved melody and lyrics that told a life story.

Currently you’ve one more release with Electro-Fi Records. How did that relationship come about?

I was opening as a solo for the Neville Brothers and Electro/fi record president was in the audience.

Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new album "Thanks For Tomorrow"?

Love the title, for two reasons, it makes sense in these Covid times, and it’s about falling in love.

What moment changed your life the most? What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

Meeting and working with an honest label, that appreciates and encourages artists.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Patience, open minded, self-respect, are a few.

Are there any memories from Chairmen of the Board and Holland-Dozier-Holland label Invictus / Hot Wax which you’d like to share with us?

It was like getting a PHD in entertainment. Loved it when Steve Wonder joined me mid song on stage in Detroit. So many great memories!!

"My great great grandparents escaped from slavery in the mid 1800's, and came to Canada. To this day we have kept in touch with our Afro American relatives. the influence is deep. "I’m able to feel the hard times of people of this world and express love and awareness through my music". (Photo: Harrison Kennedy is a founding member of Detroit Soul Super Group "The Chairmen of the Board")

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My mother was the strongest person in my life, she said "the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary! Ray Charles told me to remember that "we stand on the shoulders of giants".

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Mostly I miss vocalist's who can sing, and you believed them. I hope trump is seen for what he really is, a bum!!!

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I’d love it if it was not so expensive on so many levels!!!..Too many middle men.

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from the house where you grew up with famous visitors?

My relatives loved to tell funny stories, I loved that. My mother took an abused German shepherd dog away from a neighbor. Everyone said was a killer, he became a gentle pet in our house, she said all life responds to tenderness!!

What is the impact of Blues/Soul/Jazz music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

The impact is obviously worldwide. Who doesn't know Marvin Gaye’s "What's Going On” or Bob Dylan’s "The Times They Are a Changing" music has a way to tell the truth and shame the devil.

"So, I would just make up a song about what I saw in the room, and everyone would laugh and give me money... mom would say okay son, go to bed. What I heard as a child, is responsible my love for story songs and melody. Like I was able to present with "Black and Tan records, Bob Lo Island!! and Electro-Fi records now. I’m grateful to these labels."

(Harrison Kennedy / Photo by Ivan Sorensen)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

That's a tough one. This planet has so many beautiful places and people, and food, and music... hmmm....How about ...everywhere...

Harrison Kennedy - Official website

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