by Laura Jamieson
The Hooters co-founder and Germantown Friends School graduate Eric Bazilian ’71 recently gave a lesson in songwriting to ninth-grade music composition students at GFS.
Bazilian spoke about working with Cyndi Lauper on her first album She’s So Unusual (and arranging the song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”), writing the hit song “[If God Was] One of Us,” performed by Joan Osborne, and working on such Hooters hits as “And We Danced” and “All you Zombies.”
When Bazilian was 10, he saw the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show and decided he wanted to be a musician. From then on, his main focus at GFS was honing his music skills. He admits to spending more time during ninth grade playing guitar than doing his homework. While he regrets not paying more attention in school, his experiences at GFS stuck with him.
“This school is such a part of who I am,” he said. “I came here one kid and left another, and the kid I left as was closer to the one I was meant to be.”
When Bazilian was 16, he started his first band Evil Seed and performed original songs around Philadelphia. He went on to study physics at the University of Pennsylvania, and while in college started the band Baby Grand with Rob Hyman (his composing partner and co-founder of The Hooters) and Rick Chertoff (now a renowned music producer).
“To actually sit in a room with someone and write a song is an amazing thing,” Bazilian said of the magic that can happen when musicians collaborate. But, he acknowledges, with new technology “anyone with a computer can make a record” by clicking and dragging pre-made tracks.
However, he was quick to tell the class, “There is nothing more gratifying than holding an instrument in your hands and mastering it.”
While he has never had the patience for formal music lessons, he teaches himself a new instrument every couple of years.
Bazilian said he composed the song “One of Us” on the fly in a recording session with singer Joan Osborne — never suspecting that the song would “reach out and touch the world.”
“I tell people that it took me either four minutes or 40 years to write that song,” he said. “I wouldn’t have written it without the hundreds that had come before it, that I had to work through.”
Bazilian explained his creative process to the ninth graders — sometimes struggling to find the right sound and other times hitting on something that “just happened to come from the way my fingers landed on the guitar that day.”
On writing lyrics, he said: “I let the music speak to me and it tells me the story.”
With his encouragement and stories, he inspired the young composers to write, perform, record and share music of their own that could, in Bazilian’s words, “make the world sing.”
“I’ve written a handful of songs that really speak the truth,” he told them with a smile, “and a few that have become hits.”