One Track Mind: Keith Richards and Friends, “Words of Wonder/Get Up Stand Up” (2014)

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Playing for Change is a charity movement that spotlights music’s transformative powers, hoping to harness that power to bring about unity between people and various cultures. Recently, Keith Richards dedicated his time and musical prowess to a Playing for Change version of his own “Words of Wonder” from the 1992 album Main Offender cross pollinated with the Bob Marley/Peter Tosh reggae burner “Get Up, Stand Up.”

The proceeds of the recording are to help erect music and art schools for children around the globe. Also contributing their time and abilities to this world music recording are a host of popular musicians including but not limited to, Keb’ Mo’, Mermans Mosengo, Natalie Pa’apa’a, Sherita Lewis, as well as far reaching local musicians from Mexico, Zimbabwe and Jamaica.

In a corresponding video, the musicians are shown virtually jamming from their respective locations with headphones on, as well as respective instrument — adding their unique flavor to the stew of influence. Richards is cool as ever, acoustic in hand, raging fire behind him, riffing when feels it, just another musical shade in the color wheel of the song. The tunes performed mesh like key in lock, their groove similarly triumphant and inspirational. The bass licks hail from the Congo, the horns from Mexico, a stiff washboard sounds from a street in New Orleans and Johnny Herno’s mouth music and bird sounds call out from Brazil. It’s this diverse musicality that makes this collaboration such a joy to behold, each sonic addition a smile-inducing tonic.

“Words of Wonder” flutters on a sweet-scented reggae groove, with Richards’ smoky preaching working in contrast to the squishy island rhythm. Titi Tsira from South Africa takes verse two and coasts beautifully on the melodic gusts created, while also joining with Richards on the chorus. The powerful video allows each artist’s contribution to be noticed vividly when highlighted in the frame of the performance. The seamless transition into “Get Up, Stand Up” leads to a beautiful sandy groove only increased by ‘Norm’ from Australia’s deep didgeridoo blasts, Keb Mo’s appearance and the collaborative vocal attack hailing from all over the world.

The completed composition is truly celebratory, and encourages the listener to be taken away by a multitude of talent and diverse musical perspectives. While Richards’ name leads the list of contributors on this performance, it is the coming together of artists — as well as the alchemy of this meeting — where the true musical magic lies.

Stephen Lewis

A creative writing major at SUNY Brockport and freelance writer from Upstate New York, Stephen Lewis maintains a music-focused site called Talk From the Rock Room: He has also written for UpstateLive Music Guide and Ultimate Classic Rock. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
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