Pat Boone: A Patriotic Pledge
Pat Boone cranked out his first No. 1 hit record – a cover of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” – in 1955. He’s been at it ever since, notching 61 hits and earning himself a spot on Billboard magazine’s list of the top 10 best-selling recording artists of all time.
For his 50th anniversary as a chart-topper, Boone decided he wanted to try a feat never before accomplished: hitting six different Billboard charts with releases as varied as Latin love songs, R&B groovers, an ode to NASCAR and a tribute to the Rev. Billy Graham that features U2’s Bono.
And it’s likely he’ll pull it off.
He’s already started, with an album of patriotic tunes and military anthems titled “American Glory,” and a country album he chose to call “Ready to Rock.”
Noting that country artists such as Brooks & Dunn and Big & Rich “are rockin’ like crazy,” Boone says, “People forget that I started out as a rock ‘n’ roller.”
The first single, “What One Night Can Do,” was recorded with Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles and Danny Hutton of Three Dog Night on backing vocals. The disc also contains “NASCAR Time,” the video for which is already playing on racetrack Jumbotron screens everywhere.
Next is the gospel album, Glory Train: The Lost Sessions, with the all-star tribute track, “Thank you, Billy Graham.” The song features contributions by Bono, Leann Rimes, Larry King, Michael McDonald, Jeffrey Osborne, Kenny Rogers, DC Talk, Marty Stuart, Andre Crouch and more than a half-dozen others.
“After Princess Diana died and Elton John reworked his ‘Candle in the Wind’ and it became the biggest-selling single ever, I thought ‘What’s gonna happen when Billy Graham slips upstairs?’” Boone explains. Irked that media attention toward Diana’s death eclipsed coverage of Mother Teresa’s passing, Boone worried that a similar event might pre-empt “the kind of respect, the tribute that Billy Graham deserves.”
The rest of the album was recorded 20 years ago, but never released. Then the master tapes were lost; producer Ray Ruff recently discovered them in his attic and the pair decided the time was right for these songs to be heard.
Lucky timing played a part in getting Bono involved as well. Boone hooked up with the rock star at a Grammy party.
“I was walking into this party at MCA/Universal, and I was walking in behind the band, and I said, loud enough for them to hear, ‘I think it’s time Boone-o met Bono.’ And he turned around, stopped his group, and said, ‘We met before.’ My jaw dropped and I said, ‘We did?’ And he said ‘Yeah, we were just a starting group and when you were on tour, we were introduced to you. We were glad to meet you, you were very nice, very encouraging to us. We didn’t expect you to remember, but we do.’
Later, Boone asked if he’d like to participate in the tribute, and Bono agreed, saying he was an admirer of Graham.
“I didn’t realize that was an act of courage on his part,” Boone says, noting Bono’s an Irish Catholic celebrating a Protestant minister – a tough position to take in his country.
Proceeds from sales of the song will go to Samaritan’s Purse and Mercy Corps, two hunger relief organizations.
Following that album is a disc full of love songs, “Hopeless Romantic.”
“In each of these areas, I’ve had success in the past,” Boone says. The ballad-heavy album includes a song he wrote with guitar great Chet Atkins, “Waltz for the Lonely,” which includes Atkins’ last recorded performance before his death. Another song, co-written with Paul Williams, was a 50th-anniversary present to Boone’s wife, Shirley. It’s called, “You Make My Life a Love Song.” He also covers Michael Jackson’s “She’s Out of My Life,” and the Four Tops tune, “Still Waters Run Deep.” That’s the single, which is already getting airplay.
The fifth album, a twist on the Frank Sinatra Duets concept, features covers of R&B classics recorded with their original performers. It’s called “We Are Family” and includes appearances by Smokey Robinson (on “Tears of a Clown”), the Four Tops (“I Can’t Help Myself”), Kool & the Gang (“Celebration”), KC & the Sunshine Band (“Get Down Tonight”), Sam Moore (“Soul Man”), Sister Sledge (on the title tune), Earth, Wind & Fire (“That’s the Way of the World”), Ray Parker Jr. (“A Woman Needs Love”) and, for what Boone calls the piece de resistance, James Brown doing “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” It’s also got a hip-hop song Boone wrote himself, which features rapping by Kool Moe D. The album originally was conceived as a follow-up to Boone’s successful 1997 release, In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, his tongue-in-cheek collection of hard rockers.
Album No. 6, Latin Love, will be the first release on the new Latin division of Boone’s Gold label. And for good measure, he’s releasing a disc of Celtic tunes recorded for his summer 2005 Ireland tour.
Boone’s calling this effort “my big finale, a musical fireworks display,” and insists he intends to stop touring next year – though he knows better than to say “never.”
“If something comes up that I need to do after that, of course I can do it,” he says. “But I do consider this just a giant thanks and farewell.”
Whether he puts away those white bucks for good or not, Boone’s releases still stand to make quite an explosion. Don’t cover your ears, though; you need to hear these sounds from one of America’s greatest musical icons.
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