Opening a Lyric Window for the HomelessnessBy Suzie Harrison, The Laguna Beach Independent
Powerful riffs resound through a pedestrian walkway off Forest Avenue that leads to a cobblestone alley. Fingers that dance along a guitar’s neck and a voice that betrays the performer’s passion accompany the aural alchemy.
David Holland once commanded more prestigious stages, filling concerts venues with roaring crowds. That picture has faded into oblivion; Homeless for several years, Holland continues to play on the streets, still exuding a passion for music to an audience of passersby.
One of those attracted by Holland’s ability and reputation was local resident Scott Hays, who included Holland’s original songs on a 13-track anthology CD, “Shelter Me,” created as an innovative fundraising tool to benefit the Friendship Shelter. Distribution at various retailers began late in June.
The album includes rock, folk and blues tunes by Holland and another homeless performer, Jelani Diaz, as well as other working professionals Jason Feddy, Alec Bridges, Shayne Fair, Dave Nachmanoff, Kevin Danzig, Richard Bredice, Missiles of October’s Poul Pedersen, Shawn Jones, Mick Overman, Michael Ubaldini and Lisa Lofthouse.
Though he lacked experience in the music industry, Hays conceptualized “Shelter Me” after reading about a similar project distributed nationally, “Give Us Your Poor.” Hays, a writer, understands the power of words and music, what he describes as a universal language that speaks to humankind without prejudice or boundaries. “The thread running through these compositions isn’t desperation or hopelessness, but rather grace and mercy,” he said.
Hays readily found a community of local performers eager to contribute to Weedpatch Productions’ first release. “Every working musician is one or two paychecks away from homelessness,” said Jelani Diaz, who occasionally sleeps at a Tustin shelter, Village of Hope.
He like Holland is grateful to be included among working professionals. “Many of the songwriters and musicians who participated on this project had stories to share about how they were once homeless, or close to it,” said Hays. “There are a lot of us who have gone through periods where we were one paycheck away from living out of our cars. Some are just less fortunate than others.”
All proceeds from CD sales benefit Laguna Beach’s Friendship Shelter, a refuge for homeless people who want to rebuild their lives. More than 5,000 people have benefited from the program over 20 years.
“Shelter Me” is more than a leg up for the homeless. The contributions of homeless musicians to the CD help dispel the stereotype that homeless people are drug addicts or delusional. It’s also a testament to economic fragility, where seemingly secure neighbors, co-workers, and friends can slip into homelessness virtually overnight, said Friendship Shelter’s programs director Mark Miller.
He described Hays and his CD as a gift. “One of those things, wonderful opportunities that drops in your lap that almost seems to good to be true,” he said.
One of the CD’s tracks, “Ain’t It a Wonderful Life,” written by Holland and performed by local Jason Feddy, describes how living out of a car makes one forget what love is like. “Jason emotes it so well,” Hays said. The lyrics both describe music as sustenance and sunsets seen from the streets. Holland performs nightly on a street corner stage, a remarkable turnabout for a former headliner that sold out venues in the ’80s.
Listen to “Wonderful Life” by Holland.
Ain’t it a Wonderful World
Listen to “Beautiful You” by Jelani.
“He wound up homeless in Laguna Beach just by circumstances,” Feddy said. “It can happen to anyone. He played around everywhere. You still hear it in his music; he’s a very talented guy.”
During production of the CD, film students at Orange Coast College produced a documentary, “The Making of ‘Shelter Me’.” Interviews with the singers and songwriters and Friendship Shelter staff and supporters are included.
He believes the CD reflects the hope and longings of the roughly 35,000 people who lived last year on the streets of Orange County, and the nearly 3.5 million homeless throughout the country. “The message is simple: enjoy the music, help the homeless,” he said.