He is known as a children’s entertainer throughout the world, selling more than 15 million copies of his recordings. But even with such hefty success, Raffi has consistently done things his way. Throughout his career, he has held to his belief that children should not have marketing directed specifically towards them and as such, has subsequently turned down dozens of offers for television and other endorsements of his work.
One of Raffi’s latest songs transcends age groups though. Inspired by the passing of Canadian politician Jack Layton, Raffi composed the song Letter To A Nation which incorporates words taken directly from Layton’s final letter to all Canadians.
The MusicNerd Chronicles had the pleasure of catching up with Raffi last week to discuss his newest work:
Did you have the chance to meet Jack Layton prior to his untimely passing?
Raffi: No, I did not.
What inspired you to want to make a song from Layton’s letter to Canadians?
Raffi: Simply put, I was very moved by his words. Shortly after reading his letter though, I truly felt that his words were not just for us as Canadians but for all people everywhere, no matter where they are in the world. There are such endearing values in those words for people both young and old.
Did Layton’s widow Olivia Chow give her blessing to the song and the inclusion of her late husband’s words?
Raffi: After I had conceived the idea, I had felt it was appropriate to contact her early in the process. I ended up doing a demo of the song at home on my laptop, sent it to her and asked for her feedback. Luckily, she came back to me and said that she quite liked it and was eager to help out. I was very blessed to have her give me the go ahead to complete the song.[Olivia Chow, speaking of Raffi’s Letter To A Nation, was quoted as having said: “This song really touched me, as I’m sure it will touch countless people. Jack believed so deeply in the ability of young people to change the world. I hope today’s children are as inspired by this song and by Jack’s legacy.”]
Why do you think his passing resonated with people so much with the Canadian people?
Raffi: It is really like nothing I had ever seen before. His passing gave Canadians a historical moment that ultimately transcended politics and it was in that same non-partisan spirit that I wrote the song. There are moments in life where you feel moved by achievements and values and in this case where someone’s life is taken much earlier than it should be, it moves you even more.
Do you feel there is a lack of positive messages and reinforcement available to today’s youth?
Raffi: I definitely feel as though people of all ages could use more of these kinds of uplifting messages.When you think of love, hope and optimism, they are a rallying cry for a way of being, seeing the world and moving in action towards changes we’d like to see in the world. It is something that can inspire both children and adults.