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Q&A: Acclaimed Songwriters Franke Previte and Pamela Phillips Oland Discuss ‘One World,’ Their 1989 Peace Anthem Updated for the COVID-19 Era
Franke Previte is an acclaimed singer/songwriter whose work with Franke and the Knockouts achieved success in the 1980s before he co-wrote the Dirty Dancing anthems “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” “Hungry Eyes,” which was a major hit for Eric Carmen.
Previte also penned “One World” in 1989 with Pamela Phillips Oland and Estonian songwriters Sergei Manoukyan and Mikk Targo — and now, three decades later, the song has been revamped in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and civil rights activity affecting the entire planet.
Rock Cellar: Franke, tell us a little about how “One World” was written.
Franke Previte: The original song was written in 1989 in Moscow, Russia by myself,Pamela Phillips Oland and two Estonian songwriters, Sergei Manoukyan and Mikk Targo, on a songwriting summit to Moscow, “Music Speaks Louder Than Words,” the first ever Arts Exchange between Soviet and American songwriters. 22 other well-known songwriters attended, including Diane Warren, Cyndi Lauper, Michael Bolton, Brill Building legends Mike Stoller and Barry Mann, Desmond Child (Bon Jovi), Brenda Russell (Earth Wind & Fire, Donna Summer, Rufus), songwriting team Billy Steinberg & Tom Kelly (Madonna, Whitney Houston), Franne Golde (Jody Watley, Commodores), and Alan Roy Scott (Motown, Celine Dion, Cher) … BMI and Columbia Records had arranged the summit back in 1988. I was lucky to be chosen. After the summit, “One World” was then recorded by Earth Wind and Fire but, unfortunately Columbia Records dropped the ball and the project just faded away.
Rock Cellar: How did you get the idea to bring “One World” back?
Franke Previte: One time while doing an interview on a radio station a few months ago, I was asked ‘just how is this pandemic affecting you and all the American songwriters?’ That’s when it hit me. I said, “Not only American songwriters, but the whole world. With this pandemic affecting all of us, we are all officially living in one world.’ And that’s when a light bulb went off and, I flashed back to that songwriting summit and realized I had a tool that might help spark some hope back into all of us. So, I called Pamela Oland, one of the other American writers, and three decades later we started the process of re-recording the song, deciding to use it to help heal others. The lyrics in this new recording have been lovingly updated in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and civil rights activity affecting the entire planet.
Rock Cellar: Share with us your experience re-connecting with one of your co-writers for “One World,” Pamela Phillips Oland.
Franke Previte: I knew when I connected with Pamela Oland and asked her to join me and she said, “Yes! Let’s do this,” we were on the path to creating a new version of “One World.” Pamela is friends with Jon Gilutin, writer of the Patti Labelle hit “New Attitude,” and he immediately starting building the new track and producing the song. Jon called on many of his friends to join in … Grammy-winning and nominated singers and musicians were stepping up to help create the song. We now call them Voices 4 One World. On lead vocals in order of performance: Michael Mayo, Ronee Martin, Ellis Hall, Dorian Holley, Judith Glory Hill. On background vocals: Valerie Pinkston, Amy Keys, Lisa Sherman, Christine Collister. Musicians include; Jon Gilutin on keyboards, Lenny Castro, Brendan Buckley, Scott Mayo, Jerry Watts Jr, James Harrah, Randy Jacobs, Tollak Ollestad and mixed by two-time Grammy winner Bill Schnee (Steely Dan & many others).
Rock Cellar: What was it like working with Grammy winning producer Jon Gilutin and multi-Grammy and Emmy Award winning engineer/producer/mixer Bill Schnee on this new iteration of “One World”?
Franke Previte: Bill Schnee was a long-time friend starting when he produced the band I was in calledFranke and The Knockouts. It was really an honor having Bill on our team. For me there’s no one better. Jon Gilutin is a consummate pro. He knows exactly what he wants and knows how to get it. Jon was thrilled when I told him Bill Schnee would like to mix the song.
Rock Cellar: You have some serious powerhouse talent who contributed to this retooled version of “One World,” with all thos enames you mentioned earlier. How did it feel for you personally to have all these amazing talents step up and contribute to this incredible project?
Franke Previte: Having the talent that stepped up to contribute pro bono was a true testament to the brotherhood and bond that musicians and singers have with each other. I was totally blown away when Jon told me who he had gotten to perform on the track. When you hear the song, you’ll understand what I’m saying.
Rock Cellar: Please share with us some things about yourself as a singer/songwriter, your career, and what you consider your biggest accomplishments.
Franke Previte: After college I joined a band on Capitol Records called The Oxford Watchband. I had written songs before being in that band, but this was my first chance to put my writing voice on record. After that group disbanded, the drummer, Geno Charles and I started a ‘riff-rock’ band called Bull Angus with four musicians from Poughkeepsie, NY which included Larry LaFalse, Ron Piccolo, Lenny Vendettie, and Dino Paillio. We got signed quickly to Mercury Records and toured with Rod Stewart, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac and were asked to be a part of a three-day festival in the Pocono Mountains where 300,000 strong were in attendance.
This group helped me continue growing as a songwriter as we released two albums. Next on my songwriting journey, I was signed to Buddha Records as an R&B singer/songwriter. I wrote songs with Bobby Feldman and Jimmy Vivino as the incredible Tony Camillo (Gladys Knight) became my mentor and producer. I realized that I loved singing R&B, but I felt I was missing my rock & roll roots. So, I called on Billy Ellsworth, the second guitarist from Bull Angus, to join me, and this was the beginning of the makings of Franke and the Knockouts. My songwriting partners were Billy, Blake Levinstone, and Benny Harrison. Two years after FATKOs broke up, Jimmy Ienner — the president of the label we were on — called and said he was working on a small movie called Dirty Dancing. I swear I thought he was doing a porn flick, but it turned out I wrote a song that literally changed my life. “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life” ended up taking me from being an artist to becoming an established songwriter. The rest is history.
Oh, by the way: “Hungry Eyes” was written before that infamous call from Jimmy Ienner changed my life.
Rock Cellar to Pamela Phillips Oland: You wrote songs performed by Frank Sinatra, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight, Selena, and many more great singers. Describe how you met Ellis Hall and how he became the singer for the original demo of “One World” in 1989.
Pamela Phillips Oland: When I became a staff songwriter at Almo/Irving Music, the publishing arm of A&M Records, I was given an office and a whole lot of songwriting collaborators! I needed to find a super female voice and an extraordinary male voice. I heard about Ellis Hall, heard his voice, and immediately heard the heart in his voice and hired him to sing one of my demos. I believe I was the first songwriter to hire him, and when others heard his wonderful voice, his career grew exponentially. When he became a member of Tower of Power, I wrote a record with him for them. When I returned from Russia, I knew I needed the right voice to record our demo of “One World,” which I’d written with Franke, and the two Estonian writers, Mikk and Sergei. I, of course, called Ellis Hall to sing the lead. Brad Cole produced and played on the demo, and a huge group of writers and friends came to the studio to sing it. That demo sold Earth Wind & Fire on cutting it for Epic Records. And with all of that history with Ellis, I had to have him be part of this new charity version.
Ellis could have easily recorded it all by himself, but he graciously agreed to join all of the other stellar singers who were part of the project and donated their terrific talents.
Rock Cellar: What is the overall reaction to the 2020 version of the song? Has it gained a newfound resonance with people?
Franke Previte: Music speaks louder than words. When it touches you and hits the right chord, people will usually respond in a positive way, and that’s what’s happening with “One World”. We are blessed in creating a song that could become our anthem to help heal and get through these hard times. That’s why we’re donating 100 percent of all the proceeds to four very important charities: The Musicians Foundation, The Actors Fund, The First Responders Children’s Foundation and The LDF for Social Justice. Each one of these charities for me hits a true chord and can help bring harmony back into all our lives on the other side of normal.
Rock Cellar: Please share a memorable moment that you had on your trip to Russia.
Franke Previte: While on the Russian summit back in 1989, after nine days we had finished writing and were on a midnight train to Leningrad. Well, about 3:00 o’clock in the morning the train was stopped and the Russian military wanted to see everyone’s passports. Of course, mine was in the baggage car about 10 cars down the train. They pulled me off the train into three feet of snow and marched me down to the baggage car and threw me in. They shouted “Find your papers!” With about three hundred bags to look through I finally found my bag and was carted back to my berth. An experience I’ll never forget.
Rock Cellar: Going forward, how do you think the music industry will be affected by this global pandemic?
Franke Previte: Life in general will be different for just about everyone. We will simply have to adjust to the new normal. Until there’s a vaccine, crowds in theaters, restaurants, sporting arenas will be smaller, which means less pay for the same amount of work you were doing before the pandemic. It’s a truly a Darwin theory (The strong will survive). That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing with “One World”; hopefully the song can help people survive these hard times.
Rock Cellar: You’re involved in a fascinating project wherein you create a custom-made video for pop-up drive-in’s featuring Dirty Dancing. How did this become a reality?
Franke Previte: Not being a record company and having to rely on friends and contacts, you have to think outside of the box. So, I’ve been working with an old friend, Ken Franklin from the Franke and the Knockouts days. Ken was researching all the new start up drive-in theaters that are popping up, due to physical distancing caused by the Pandemic, and we thought that doing a video PSA before the film being played would bring awareness to the song. Having a lot of these drive-ins showing theDirty Dancing film, it was a no brainer. Being the co-writer of ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” and “Hungry Eyes” it’s a perfect fit.
Rock Cellar: What’s coming up for you in the future? Can you give readers a hint of any new projects you may have on the way?
Franke Previte: To tell you the truth, as far as new projects go, I’ll be promoting our song “One World” until it’s safe to come out and play again … “Merry Christmas Everybody” is myToys for Totsanthem, and I hope we’re out of the woods by then.
Rock Cellar: Any final thoughts you’d like to share about the project?
Franke Previte: I am hoping that the song “One World” will be the spark that ignites hope back into our world on the other side of normal.
Please check out the ONE WORLD website for all of the performer’s bios and to see how you can help those less fortunate during these uncertain times.
January 18, 2021