Playing For Change (PFC)
Playing For Change (PFC) is a Certified B Corp (Social Purpose Corporation) created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. The primary focus of PFC is to record and film musicians performing in their natural environments and combine their talents and cultural power in innovative videos called Songs Around The World. Creating these videos motivated PFC to form the Playing For Change Band—a tangible, traveling representation of its mission, featuring musicians met along their journey; and establish the Playing For Change Foundation—a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting music programs for children around the world. Through these efforts, Playing For Change aims to create hope and inspiration for the future of our planet.
Playing For Change (PFC) was founded in 2002 by Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke. Mark Johnson was walking in Santa Monica, California, when he heard the voice of Roger Ridley (deceased in 2005) singing “Stand By Me;” it was this experience that sent Playing For Change on its mission to connect the world through music.
Travelling the world with a small film and recording team, producers Johnson and Enzo Buono developed a mobile recording studio (originally powered by golf cart batteries) for recording and filming musicians live outdoors, and progressively editing all the separate artists, blending all into one performance as PFC travelled from artist to artist, country to country. Starting with a studio-made demo in the right key and tempo, “we would deconstruct [the track]” as each recorded musician or singer could listen with headphones to what had been recorded before them, and playing the same song, adding into the mix their own style. For the project, Johnson has recorded and filmed music in more than 50 countries across the world, using mainly street musicians.
I have chosen five covers from their “Song Around The World” offerings, and it was very difficult to limit it to five! Four of the five are straight covers, while the fifth, Oye Cómo Va, is a cover of a cover, of a cover, with a twist! The song was originally written and recorded by Tito Puente in 1962. It was arranged as a “cha-cha-chá,” a genre of Cuban music with a repeated piano tumbao with block chords and a vocal refrain, usually sung by a chorus, which is typical of that genre. This means that Santana’s “original” version is a cover, and the PFC cover is a cover of both versions. The twist is that Carlos Santana is featured in this cover along with his current wife, Cindy Blackman, his touring drummer who he proposed to on stage at a concert in Illinois. They were married in December of 2010. Also featured is Tito Puente Jr., who has carried on the legacy of his late father.
The concept of these performances is quite amazing as well as the sound and staging, which is done all over the world, almost entirely outdoors. I will let the music speak for itself!
PFC “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay,” Otis Redding. Song Around The World recording, June 2011.
Otis Ray Redding Jr. (1941-1967) was an American singer and songwriter. He is regarded as one of the greatest singers in the history of American popular music and a seminal artist in soul music and rhythm and blues. Nicknamed the “King of Soul,” Redding’s style of singing gained inspiration from the gospel music that preceded the genre. His singing style influenced many other soul artists of the 1960s. Shortly before his death in a plane crash, Redding wrote and recorded his iconic “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” with Steve Cropper. The song became the first posthumous number-one record on both the Billboard and R&B charts.
Otis Redding “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay.” Released posthumously in 1968 on Stax Record’s Volt label.
PFC “Everyday People,” Sly and the Family Stone. Feat. Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, Keb’ Mo, and Turn Around Arts. Song Around The World, May 2016.
Sly and the Family Stone was an American funk rock band from San Francisco, CA. Active from 1966 to 1983, they were pivotal in the development of funk, soul, rock, and psychedelic music. Their core lineup was led by singer-songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist Sly Stone, and included Stone’s brother and singer/guitarist Freddie Stone, sister and singer/keyboardist Rose Stone, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, drummer Greg Errico, saxophonist Jerry Martini, and bassist Larry Graham. The band was the first major American rock group to have a racially integrated, male and female lineup. The groups music synthesized a variety of disparate musical genres to help pioneer the emerging “psychedelic soul” sound. The work of the band greatly influenced the sound of subsequent American funk, pop, soul, R&B, and hip hop music. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
Sly & The Family Stone, “Everyday People.” Album, Stand! Official video, 1969.
PFC “Oye Como Va” Feat. Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman Santana, Becky G, Tito Puente, Jr., and many others. Song Around The World, May 2022
Carlos Humberto Santana Barragán (1947) is an American guitarist who rose to fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s with his band Santana, which pioneered a fusion of rock and roll and Latin American jazz. Its sound featured his melodic, blues-based lines set against Latin American and African rhythms played on percussion instruments not generally heard in rock, such as “timbales” and “congas.” He experienced a resurgence of popularity and critical acclaim in the late 1990s. He has won 10 Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards and was inducted along with his namesake band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Santana “Oye Como Va. Album Abraxas, 1970
PFC “Lean On Me” Bill Withers. Song Around The World, January 2015
William Harrison Withers Jr. (1938-2020) was an American singer and songwriter. He had several hits over a career spanning 18 years, including “Ain’t No Sunshine” (1971), “Grandma’s Hands” (1971), “Use Me” (1972), “Lean On Me” (1972), “Lovely Day” (1977), and “Just The Two Of Us” (1981). His life was the subject of the 2009 documentary film Still Bill. Withers was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
Bill Withers “Lean On Me.” Album Still Bill, 1972
PFC “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” U2. Recorded on the International Day of the Disappeared. August 2022.
U2 are an Irish rock band from Dublin, formed in 1976. The group consists of Bono (lead vocals and rhythm guitar), the Edge (lead guitar, keyboards, and backing vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen Jr. (drums and percussion). Initially rooted in post-punk, U2’s musical style has evolved throughout their career yet has maintained an anthemic quality built on Bono’s expressive vocals and the Edge’s chiming effects-based guitar sounds. Bono’s lyrics, often embellished with spiritual imagery, focus on personal and sociopolitical themes. Popular for their live performances, the group has staged several ambitious and elaborate tours over their career.
The song featured here is from their fifth album, Joshua Tree (1987), which made them international stars and was their greatest critical and commercial success. The album produced their only number-one singles in the US to date: “With or Without You,” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
U2 “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Album The Joshua Tree, 1987. Official Video.
Bonus video! Just for the heck of it I decided to include one of PFC’s video projects combining different groups/musicians playing an array of different instruments and covering a “classic” song, but filmed in one location. Enjoy!
Los Angeles 2023
5 thoughts on “DUTC#19 May 21, 2023”
That’s some collection of epic songs. I liked the outdoor concept and the mix of some big names with some lesser so. I was aware of this organization but really didn’t know what it was, thanks for sharing North.
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Test it is! The outdoor settings are amazing and I feel give a very different feel for the music compared to an indoor stage. You’re welcome!
Thanks for this — inspiring, toe-tapping, heart-warming stuff!
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Glad you liked it!
I saw the Lean