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Jim Wilson’s Playlist for Tuned In: Memoirs of a Piano Man: Behind the Scenes with Music Legends and Finding the Artist Within.

By Jim Wilson

Music has always played a vital role in my life. In my book, Tuned In: Memoirs of a Piano Man, I describe how music became a lifeline to a diffident kid struggling to fit in. It was a gift of an old guitar, given to be me when I was seven by a friend of my mom’s that set the course for the rest of my life. It offered me an identity and a means to express myself. Here are 10 songs mentioned in my book – all tethered to pivotal moments in my life.

Can’t Buy Me Love, by the Beatles

I think it goes without saying that having a magical four-hour hang sitting on the same piano bench with Paul McCartney, hearing Beatles stories, and singing a Beatles song together would make the highlight reel of someone’s life. I know it did mine! If you’d have told me when I was an eight-year-old boy, listening to “Can’t Buy Me Love“ that one day I’d sing that very song with Paul, I’ve have said you were crazy.

Yesterday, by the Beatles

During that magical, hang with Paul, he shared with me a piece he was in the middle of writing. He said, “I’m stuck for a middle eight.“ (Meaning the bridge section of a song.) Being the cheeky bastard that I am, I suggested a chord change to him. But when he tried it on for size, he said “Hey! That’s me Yesterday change.” Oops!

Like a Rolling Stone, by Bob Dylan

As a nine-year-old kid growing up in the Panhandle of Texas, few people had as big an impact on me as my cousin, Robert Ray. He’d come breezing in from California with his guitar and long hair and I envied his ability to charm people with his music. I’ll never forget him turning me onto Bob Dylan, whom he sounded very much like.

Country Road, by James Taylor

My mom tried to get me to take piano lessons when I was seven. I hated it! But it was guitar that gave me an on ramp to this thing called music. James Taylor was my hero. In years to come, I would transfer my James Taylor riffs to piano, which became the foundation of my piano style.

Walk Away Renee, by the Left Banke

I’ve had the extraordinary fortune of getting to work for and become friends with a musical hero of mine, Dan Fogelberg. In my first of seven trips to his mountain ranch in Colorado, we discovered our mutual love for the classic song, “Walk Away Renee“. The song is bittersweet, with the singer grappling with heartache, but being noble enough to want the best for the other person. My reinterpretation of this song is the only cover on my first album, Northern Seascape.

Northern Seascape, by Jim Wilson

This song is very special to me because of a special memory of co-writing it with Dan Fogelberg. During a late-night hang with Dan, I played the beginnings of this piece for him, and he loved it. He sang a countermelody to the bass line which became the Uillean Pipe melody heard on the song Northern Seascape.

No One Is to Blame, by Howard Jones

I first heard this song at the recording studio in Sussex England, owned by the band Genesis. It was there that Phil Collins had flown me to do work on his pianos. Phil was producing a record for Howard Jones. I popped into the control room where Phil and Howard were listening down to the track they just recorded. “And you want her, and she wants you… No one ever is to blame” I can’t help but think of that moment whenever I hear this song.

There’s a Place in the World for a Gambler, by Dan Fogelberg

On one of my trips to Dan Fogelberg‘s Ranch, we were sitting in his living room in the late evening hours. I picked up a guitar and said “Hey, check out this new song I’m writing.“ I then proceeded to play the opening chords to his song “There’s a Place In the World for a Gambler.” Dan gave a nod and a wry smile. “Sounds vaguely familiar.” He then picked up another guitar and joined in. Playing one of my favorite songs by one of my heroes with the actual hero in their living room is an experience I’ll savor forever.

Lovers in a Dangerous Time, by Bruce Cockburn

I was first turned on to Bruce Cockburn by Dan. We’d sit in his studio and play records for each other. Dan told me that whenever he got writer’s block, he’d listen to Bruce Cockburn for inspiration. Bruce’s songs were full of great lyrics, but one in particular from this song stood out from the rest: “…got to kick at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight.” Genius.

Hey Jude, by the Beatles

As I write in my book, getting to sing this song with a choir on stage at the Hollywood Bowl – while standing behind Paul McCartney — is a memory forever etched in my memory!

Jim Wilson started his career as “piano tuner to the stars” and went on to have several albums in the Billboard Top-20, two PBS specials and music has been streamed by millions of fans around the globe. Jim isn’t merely the guy who gets under the hood of your Steinway and gives it a quick tune-up. He will transform a piano. Which is why he ended up jamming “Lady Madonna” with Paul McCartney, riding the range with Carole King, and hitting the ski slopes with Dan Fogelberg. His best-known work was 2018’s Remembrance: A Collection of Cinematic Portraits. Hailed as his career masterpiece, it topped the Amazon and iTunes charts and held the #2 position in Billboard’s instrumental chart for 2 weeks in a row. Jim’s had two PBS specials, including A Place in My Heart, which was filmed before a sold-out audience of 1,300 fans at the GNC Performing Arts Center in Amarillo, TX. In the mid-‘80’s, Jim helped develop a revolutionary MIDI-adaptor for the acoustic piano, which for the first time allows this age-old instrument to interact with computers and synthesizers. He developed a topflight reputation, teaching uses of MIDI-piano to the upper echelon of pop musicians such as Paul McCartney, Elton John, Jackson Browne, Burt Bacharach, Carole King, and many, many more. Tuned In – Memoirs of a Piano Man: Behind the Scenes with Music Legends and Finding the Artist Within is Jim’s first book.

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