Marsha Malamet – Between Times of Incarnation

Marsha Malamet
Marsha Malamet photo by Gene Reed

Picking up from Part 1, ABILITY’s Geri Jewell and David Zimmerman continue their interview with songwriter Marsha Malamet in her quaint bungalow in Hollywood, CA.

Malamet: I believe we come back time and time again, and have hundreds of past lives.

Jewell: Do you believe that we connect with the same people we connected with before?

Malamet: Absolutely. We come in, and we have groups. We travel in groups. We’re always changing roles. Let’s say if Nancy is my caregiver now, and I’m the patient, maybe in another life I was the caregiver and Nancy was the patient, so we experience the other’s perspective, and work out some issues we continually have, lifetime after lifetime, until we finally resolve it and it ends.

Zimmerman: I feel like that’s why when we met, we connected. That’s why when you and Geri connected; we all felt a bond.

Jewell: It’s amazing.

Malamet: Yes! All right, you have to indulge me here.

Zimmerman: Indulge, indulge! (laughs)

Malamet: So, we have lifetime after lifetime to perfect and evolve, but what happens between the times of each incarnation? We plan, we choose certain things to experience, and people are at the top of the list. Who knows? Maybe we all chose this time, this place, to share, to experience one another. And now it gets fun. Maybe we wrote this in our life script to have this interview now, for this particular magazine, so we would help and inspire people.

There’s a guy named Robert Schwartz who wrote a book called Courageous Souls. I would suggest you read it. It’s about the notion that we plan our life challenges before birth. We have to be courageous to even choose to come back to this earth, because it’s not very pleasant, especially now. We all our warriors in some sense, and I believe we are all looking to heal, whether we know it or not.

Jewell: We’re spiritual warriors.

Malamet: Right. If we do decide to come in, we have consults with our spirit guides and our angels and we write up an overview, like a PowerPoint of our life. Of course, there’s free will and there’s things that happen, but basically we created our lives.

Zimmerman: And then jumped in?

Malamet: We jumped in. “Aaaaah! Waaaah!”

Jewell: “Why did I agree to this?”

Malamet: Right! Exactly!

Zimmerman: I always say that when I popped my head out of the womb, I said, “Push me back in!”


Malamet: Well, hey, my mother was in labor 48 hours. Did she want to have a baby? I mean, I’m sure she did, but there was some fear involved. Anyway, so this is what we do. We create our lives on some level. So of course we connected because I wrote you into my script to be at this time and place, and that we were going to all be friendly. There’s an unconscious acknowledgment of the familiarity of it.

Zimmerman: And what’s making me tear up right now: We all have helped each other in the short time that the three of us have known one another.

Malamet: We’re basically on the same page. I want to help you, you want to help me. I want to be creative with you, you guys want to be creative with me.

Jewell: I have to tell you, that story you told early about The Garry Moore Show is really interesting because my idol wasn’t Barbra Streisand—sorry, Barbra!—it was Carol Burnett! Mom used to say, “I don’t know why you are obsessed with Carol Burnett! The only thing I can think of is that when I was pregnant with you, I watched The Garry Moore Show all the time; you must have heard it from in here!” So when you said that, I was like, “Garry Moore!”


Malamet: So look, we have another connection. By the way, Carol Burnett is a bloody genius.

Jewell and Zimmerman: Oh, yes!

Malamet: You hitched your wagon to a brilliant actress and comedian. She and Lucille Ball were it…period. They’re the queens and everyone else is below. It’s these people who inspire us. God knows what I would have written if I hadn’t heard Babs singing, “A Sleepin’ Bee,” and all her songs on that first record, which was so spellbinding. I walked around in a daze. My mother would say, “Marsha, time for lunch!” I didn’t eat. I wasn’t hungry. Barbra sang over those little speakers and I was transported into heaven.

Zimmerman: When I saw Streisand and Hoffman were to play the parents in Meet the Fockers, I said, “Listen, they must have a role for a cousin somewhere. They must have a wedding or a bar mitzvah or a bris! I’ve got to be in that movie!” And ultimately, I got to play Dom Focker. I was on the set for one day, and it was amazing and wonderful. When I see those little residual checks that say Meet the Fockers, I smile.

Malamet: You set your intention.

Zimmerman: Because I always thought, “I’m the love child of Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman.” (laughs) You have a connection to Dustin; tell us about it.

Malamet: Midnight Cowboy floored me. The pathos of his character, Ratso, made me weep. Dustin is our Jewish De Niro.

Top, Left to Right: Marsha at a songwriting workshop, with the lyricist, Liz Vidal; Marsha, Ru Paul and Diahann Carroll; Marsha and AIDS activist and her, Michael Callen; Marsha with writing partner Liz Vidal; Michael Feinstein, Marsha and John Bucchino; ASCAP event with Rick Shumaker, Les Binder, Bruce Hornsby, and Marsha

Jewell: Maybe 10 years ago, I was invited to a speech Dustin Hoffman gave at UCLA. I got a front-row seat because I’m hearing impaired. He spoke for two hours about his life and career. I just sat there like, “Oh, my God!” And then when it was over— and you can relate to this—my back pain was so severe I couldn’t get out of my seat. Everybody was getting up and shaking hands with him, and I was sitting there, trying to get up, but couldn’t. He pushed through all those people and came over to me and said, “Let me give you a hand.” He helped me up, and I had tears in my eyes.

Malamet: I love that! There’s a humanity about him. The reason why I also have a little affinity for him is that, in 1978, I was hanging out at Catch A Rising Star in New York where I performed.

Jewell: I performed there, too!

Malamet: A lot of us did. So he comes in. I was with friends. For half an hour, he tried to pick me up. He was schmoozing heavily. I thought his flirting was cute. Of course, I knew who he was. He didn’t know that I was gay. If I were straight, we would have gone to a hotel. After that I had a warm feeling for him. At least he had good taste. (laughs) He has this twinkle in his eye, and he’s such a brilliant actor. That’s sexy to me.

Zimmerman: On the set of The Fockers, when they called “cut,” I was in a haze because I had been so focused. And then I heard “playback” of the scene, caught a glimpse of myself, and heard muffled laughter. Somebody grabbed my hand and started shaking it hard. He said, “Good s—, man, good s—!” And I turned and it was Dustin Hoffman.

Jewell: Wow!

Zimmerman: And I said, “Thank you.” I was standing there like, “Okay, I can die happy now.” Such a mensch he is. You know, there was something I wanted to ask you. Tell me about the poem, “Again…”

Malamet: It’s something I’m proud of. I’m not a real lyricist per se, but when I get inspired it comes out. A couple of my records that are—shameless plug— on iTunes, Amazon, and CD Baby, are songs that I wrote the lyrics to. For months I had the melody to that one written, and I wanted to set it with my own lyric. But the lyric wouldn’t come to me. I was sitting there and nothing. When that happens, I give it up and I let my higher self dictate what it is. And one night, one of the only times this ever happened, this lyric, this poem just came to me. I wrote it in an hour, which is amazing for me.

It was about how when you say goodbye to someone you love, and you want to be there but can’t, so you have to do something. You maybe have to go away for a day, a week, a month, the separation is so intense that in my mind, I think, “Oh, if I could just love her again, one more time.” That’s what inspired this lyric. It goes back to ancient times because love has no boundaries. So I think on some level I wrote this song for one of my past lives that was during Sappho, the Greeks, the Romans, whatever, that whole time in history. I really feel that… It translates into the old Celine Dion song from Titanic?

Zimmerman: “My Heart Will Go On.”

Malamet: That’s it. That’s why the song was such a megahit. This is true. Even if we pass, the love is there. It’s real. Because the only thing in life that’s real is love, not hatred and fear. The opposite of love is fear. And this planet is in a lot of fear now. But hold onto your hats, because it’s going to turn around.

Zimmerman: The yin and yang is going to balance out?

Malamet: This planet will balance out soon.

Zimmerman: It’s got to. I remember reading that you opened for Eartha Kitt. I loved her.

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Malamet: That was my big debut at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. There’s a story connected to that.

Jewell: Why does that not surprise me?


Malamet: I had a great fear of performing. I used to get panic attacks while I was showering and getting dressed. My throat would tighten, and I had sweaty palms. By the time I got to the club I was soaked in perspiration and couldn’t talk.

Jewell: When was this?

Malamet: Throughout the ‘80s. I was in therapy at the time. I got booked to open for Eartha, and a wonderful male trio called Gotham. They were all my friends. I was looking forward to it, but of course I freaked out at a venue of 80 seats, and now I was in a Lincoln Center hall with over a thousand seats.

So I went to therapy that week and I said. “Vivian, you’ve got to help me.” She walked me through it. Luckily I had two months. I forgot her process, however, by the time of the performance, I was a chill ball. I was so confident. I was like, “I got this.” And I got up on stage and there was a moment when I saw my background girls, and this amazing grand piano and I sat down, took a deep breath, and went: “Okay, Marsha, this is what it’s all about,” giving myself a little validation. I started playing and got a little nervous. But my therapist told me what to do in my mind. I had the sense to deep breathe. It’s something you can do between the notes, staying conscious of the breath. Luckily it was a ballad and it went flawlessly. I worked out my phobia and my stage fright by playing Lincoln Center.

Jewell: What are the odds!

Malamet: It’s one thing to hear 80 or 100 people applaud, but a thousand is an out-of-body experience. It’s visceral. You feel it in your bones.

Zimmerman: It’s a rumble.

Malamet: And it’s addictive. Who doesn’t want to be applauded by thousands?

Zimmerman: I’m going to say a title, and you tell me the first thought that comes to your mind. “Why Did You Promise Me the World?”

Malamet: I was down on my knees for that one, too. My girlfriend had left me after we were together for close to five years. It was my first big breakup. I didn’t get dressed for a month… So what does a songwriter do to mitigate the pain?

Zimmerman: She writes.

Malamet: She writes. That song came out fast and furious. And when I finished it, it was cathartic because, I said, “At lease I acknowledged myself for the grieving.” When I listened to it, it really helped. And then a couple years later Barbara Cook recorded it. That’s when I knew that my breakup wasn’t in vain. I was thrilled that a woman of her stature would sing my song. Barbara Cook was the queen of Broadway, even then.

Jewell: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Malamet: She used a lot of the new songwriters in the late 70’s.

Zimmerman: So she had heard you sing the song?

Malamet: She used to come to some of my gigs and heard me perform it. Barbara and Wally Harper, her musical director, decided to do a record by the new kids on the block, so to speak. The new writers who were singing their hearts out in the cabarets of New York. She also picked a song by the brilliant Janis Ian. I was in great company.

Jewell: Oh, wow!

Malamet: Barbara did “Stars,” which will make you will bawl. She was so brilliant. I’m very lucky to be on that record. My song has a very bombastic chorus, the queen of Broadway sings like a pop-rock queen. It’s unbelievable.

Jewell: So you had to be in your feelings many times in your life.

Malamet: Many times. I have the scars to prove it. I was scraped off the floor, the basement, walls, everything. I’ve also have had tremendous highs. Now with this illness, I’m not a victim, and I will do my best. Since I’ve had so many good things happen in my life, why wouldn’t this be another good outcome for me? I’m convinced that once I find the right doctor that will make a big difference. It’s been a little tricky finding the right one, because they all have different protocols. So I have to go with my intuition, and do my research. The good news is, I’ve found a medical medium. She’s going to read my body and get in touch with what I really need. I’m looking forward to that.

Jewell: That’s what Edgar Cayce did.

Malamet: Exactly. She’s going to do that for me. I’m going to set up an appointment. It’s time to bring in the big psychic guns. This illness has made me see what’s really important.

Zimmerman: You sure are loved. You know that.

Malamet: I know. I love you.

Zimmerman: We love you.

Malamet: It’s funny, isn’t it? These are tears of joy, a breakthrough of possibility.

Zimmerman: What brings you the most joy?

Malamet: I love when people are real, and don’t have any pretenses. Meeting people who have no agendas.

Jewell: Yes! (claps)

Malamet: When people are authentic, they see me. It’s a two-way street. And any kind of music brings me joy.

Zimmerman: Your music gives so much joy to others.

Jewell: I agree.

Malamet: When you create something, you take yourself into that creation. And you take it and give it to other people. Serve other people. And that’s the miracle.

Jewell: Remember when we talked earlier about spiritual contracts? I believe that we chose to come into each other’s lives at this time.

Malamet: Absolutely.

Jewell: Because this is when we all agreed that we were going to need each other the most. Maybe, had we met years ago, it would’ve been like, “Hello! Hi!”

Malamet: “There’s Geri Jewell and David Zimmerman. Hi, guys!” But this is much deeper.

Zimmerman: And it’s this kind of connection that keeps me breathing.

Malamet: It’s like, “Let’s have a ball. Even with a little disability. Let’s utilize what we came here for.” And I am suffering to a point, but I am more deeply happy in the solar plexus of my body than I ever have been.

Zimmerman: What do you want the most at this moment?

Malamet: I want to be able to get up from this chair without anyone helping me. I want to keep healing body, mind, and spirit. More of an independent life, and to just keep doing what I’m doing, keeping my heart open. Being vulnerable, having dreams, and even accepting the funky stuff.

Zimmerman: It’s the struggles in life that make you who you are. Like, with my heart attack, it changed me. But I got through it and onto the next level.

Jewell: I came into the world with a quote-unquote “disability,” cerebral palsy. I never had anything to compare it to. People have said many times, “That’s so much easier than acquiring a disability later in life, because it’s a whole different psychological challenge.” I would have to say that I agree to a point, but I spent my childhood doing what you guys are doing now, so that I could learn to adjust and accept the beauty of it later. So it is a struggle, you just go through it in a different way.

Malamet: Absolutely. That’s a great point. I really believe, on some level, that I chose a physical disability. I know it sounds crazy. I was forced to pick something that showed my fragility and my vulnerability. There are no accidents.

Jewell: And truthfully, I want to do it right in my own life because I do believe if we screw up radically, we have to come back and do it again.

Zimmerman: Oh, no, please! (laughs)

Jewell: And the thought of me having cerebral palsy twice is like, “No, no, no, no. Once I can deal with, and I’m going to do it right so I don’t have to come back and do it again.” (laughs)

Malamet: Right. But of course, remember, you choose on the other side how you want to work out some karma, learn your lessons. We’re all learning.

Zimmerman: We get to choose that?

Malamet: Oh, absolutely.

Zimmerman: You know, we could have a 20-hour interview; we could keep going for a week. There are so many singers you’ve written for: Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, Patty Labelle, Sheena Easton, Luther Vandross, Peter Allen… Such a history you have!

Malamet: I’ve had so many diverse artists recording my songs, from Meatloaf to Jessica Simpson, and from Chaka Khan to Sesame Street, and Meatloaf and Jessica recorded the same song.

Zimmerman: The same song?

Malamet: Yes. How crazy is that? And then throw in the mix Barbara Cook—may her soul rest in peace—to Judy Collins. The only genre that hasn’t been fulfilled is rap. Any of your rappers out there—

Zimmerman: “Call up Marsha!”


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