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Interview: Bernie Williams discusses his new CD, "The Journey Within"

All Things Considered. 2003. From Literature Resource Center.


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Full Text:

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Now, an introduction.

(Soundbite of baseball game)

Unidentified Announcer: In center field, number 51, Bernie Williams. Number 51.

BLOCK: An elegant runner, smart hitter, four Gold Glove Awards and four World Series
rings with the New York Yankees, so far. In the Yankees' clubhouse, you can find Bernie
Williams at his corner locker. He's the one noodling away at his guitar. And now that
guitar playing is featured on Williams' first CD. Most of the songs, like this one, he wrote
himself.

(Soundbite of song)

BLOCK: Williams has been playing guitar since he was eight. He went to a music high
school in Puerto Rico, studied classical guitar, played baseball on the side and his
mother had dreams Bernie would be a doctor or a lawyer maybe.

(Soundbite of song)

BLOCK: You were signed by the Yankees in 1985. Is this right, it was the day you turned
17?

Mr. BERNIE WILLIAMS (New York Yankees): Yeah. Yeah, it was.

BLOCK: And I guess Mom said, `Well, that's not such a bad deal.'
Mr. WILLIAMS: No, actually, she was opposed to it.

BLOCK: Was she?

Mr. WILLIAMS: Yeah. My dad was, like, `Oh, you got to go for it, man.'

BLOCK: But not Mom.

Mr. WILLIAMS: And it was a big discussion in our house, you know. Now we can look
back on it and say, `Oh, it was great.' But back then, when I was 17, it was so uncertain.
It was, like, `You know, you got to think about this. You know, what are the chances of
you making it? I mean, what are the odds?' But now she's my biggest fan. And she's,
you know, obviously very proud of my accomplishments.

BLOCK: Let's talk about some of the music on this album. The first cut on the new CD,
"La Salsa en Mi"...

Mr. WILLIAMS: Yes.

BLOCK: ...is one that you wrote. You wrote a number of the songs on the album, and
this is one that you wrote.

(Soundbite of "La Salsa en Mi")

Mr. WILLIAMS: I think that was actually the one that took the longest to figure out, I
think. It started back when I was in Puerto Rico, I don't know, maybe eight years ago.
And I was just playing with the chord progression. And I just kept playing with different
ideas over the years. And to me, it's a celebration of my heritage, the salsa rhythms and
the syncopation of Puerto Rico, where I grew up. And it has a little jazzy feel to it, and
then it has that little Spanish part at the end, kind of like wraps everything together.

(Soundbite of "La Salsa en Mi")

Mr. RUBEN BLADES: (Singing in Spanish)

BLOCK: There's Ruben Blades on vocals, Bela Fleck on banjo and some renowned
studio musicians: Leland Sklar on bass, Kenny Aronoff on drums. This must have been
quite a thing for you to know that these guys were playing on your album.
Mr. WILLIAMS: Right. That was my all-star team playing on that. It was just so amazing
to have the opportunity to play with guys so talented. And I had to rise to the occasion
and make the guitar sound in a way that, you know, people would say, `This guy can
play with them, at least.' And, to me, that was the most challenging part.

BLOCK: To match their level, right?

Mr. WILLIAMS: To match their level, definitely.

BLOCK: Do you worry about maybe some people thinking of this as a novelty thing for
you, that, `Of course, people will agree to play with Bernie Williams? Who's going to turn
down Bernie Williams? They'll play on his album, but it's just a novelty thing. It's a vanity
project.'

Mr. WILLIAMS: Well, I can't really worry about that too much because, you know, we're
all different and we're all going to have our different opinions. And I think I have to stay
true to what I believe. And I think that when they hear the music, they're going to realize
this is not some novelty project; this guy was serious about what he was doing. And
hopefully, you know, they'll realize that once they year the music.

(Soundbite of "Samba Novo")

BLOCK: There's one song on this CD that's just you, solo guitar. This is the song
"Samba Novo" by Baden Powell, who is a Brazilian composer and guitar player.

(Soundbite of "Samba Novo")

BLOCK: Was this a scary thing to be out there solo, no backup band, just you?

Mr. WILLIAMS: Yeah. Yeah, it is scary. And actually, I have a very interesting story about
that song. In my high school, we used to have the midterm exams and midterm projects.
But since it was a music high school, we had a midterm concert. So that was my piece
for one of the years.

BLOCK: This song?

Mr. WILLIAMS: This song. And about the middle of the song, I drew a blank and I forgot
the whole thing.
BLOCK: Oh, you froze?

Mr. WILLIAMS: I froze and I forgot the whole thing. So I started back, you know, from
the beginning and then at the same part, I froze again.

BLOCK: At the exact same part.

Mr. WILLIAMS: At the exact same part. And I just threw a chord and I just busted out of
the stage running. And I was just a, you know, high school kid and very frustrating,
crying a little bit. But this track, I guess, is kind of like me sort of redeeming myself from
that moment.

BLOCK: Yeah, you had to put it on there.

Mr. WILLIAMS: Yeah, I had to put it on. I had to put it on.

(Soundbite of "Samba Novo")

BLOCK: Well, Bernie Williams, it's been nice talking with you.

Mr. WILLIAMS: Thank you very much.

BLOCK: Bernie Williams of the New York Yankees. His CD is called "The Journey
Within."

(Soundbite of music)

MICHELE NORRIS (Host): You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR
News.

Source Citation (MLA 7th Edition)

"Interview: Bernie Williams discusses his new CD, 'The Journey Within'." All Things
Considered 10 Nov. 2003. Literature Resource Center. Web. 28 July 2016.

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