On a warm summer day, ABILITY’s Geri Jewell and David Zimmerman arrived at songwriter Marsha Malamet’s quaint bungalow, which boasts a view of the world-famous Hollywood sign. The host and her tail-wagging pups, MacDougal and Mikey, greeted them. As they settled in, Zimmerman pulled out his notes for the interview as if he’d been studying up!
Marsha Malamet: You have notes!
David Zimmerman: We’ve got notes!
Geri Jewell: (to Marsha) How did you and David meet? I never asked.
Malamet: I watched a video that he was in with Roslyn Kind. This fellow on this web show, Tony Sweet, interviewed you and Rozzie, and you spoke of your project.
Zimmerman: My Next Breath.
Malamet: Right. After that I looked you up online. I remembered Stanzi [Stokes] had pictures of you on her Facebook page. So I said, “Well, he can’t be all bad if he’s friends with her.” I knew I wanted to get involved with that project in some way and connect with you. And then I saw Geri, and said, “Oh, my God, Geri Jewell, are you kidding me? I’ve got to connect!” I told David: I’m newly disabled, and I have to be a part of your project.
Jewell: Oh, wow!
Zimmerman: I went, “Oh, my God, she’s messaging me!” Because I knew your work.
Malamet: I forget that sometimes people know me. And of course I knew of Geri’s work. Who doesn’t know Geri Jewell? I was so excited that she reached out to me via Facebook. So here it is, the triad.
Zimmerman: You said you reached out, in part, because you were newly disabled…
Malamet: I was diagnosed in January 2015 with early stage Parkinson’s, and then a year later Lyme disease, with co-infections. The doctors said my Parkinson’s symptoms are due to the Lyme disease, and that Lyme disease mimics neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, MS, Alzheimer’s, and even ALS.
So I didn’t know what to pursue as a treatment, Parkinson’s, Lyme… In the last two and a half years I’ve been going back and forth. The Parkinson’s symptoms are much worse, as you can see. I have good days and bad days. The good days I can get up from a chair, if I concentrate. But on bad days I can’t, and [my caregiver] takes care of me. If I was 50-percent disabled before, now I’m, like, 75-percent disabled, because I need a 24-hour caregiver. But I’ve got my eye on the prize. I’ve found a great doctor, and I know I can reverse the symptoms.
Zimmerman: Yes, you will. The power of the mind is so amazing.
Malamet: The power of the mind is key.
Malamet: Managing stress and maintaining a peaceful mind is also important. Stress is a killer; it makes all your symptoms worse.
Zimmerman: Being so connected to music as a songwriter seems like it would be healing for you.
Malamet: Yeah, for sure. I’ve been blessed to have many of my songs recorded in a spiritual context. I feel very lucky and grateful. And one of my faves being my Streisand cut.
Zimmerman: Yes! “Lessons To Be Learned!”
Malamet: “Lessons To Be Learned,” which I co-wrote with Allan Rich and Dorothy Gazeley. This is a cute little story: In 1995 I wrote a song called “I Am Blessed.” It was recorded by an English group called Eternal. They were popular like the Supremes in the 60’s. But I didn’t know what had had happened with the song. Remember, this is 20 years ago, and the Internet was in its infancy.
One day I called an English company about a business matter. I said, “Hello, Ma’am, I’m calling from Los Angeles, could I please be connected to So-and-so?” She gave me the worst time, put me on hold, and then came back and said, “Who are you?” I said, “Ma’am, my name is Marsha Malamet. I’m with Famous Music. Could I get some assistance?” Then she put me on hold again.
Zimmerman: Not again!
Malamet: And then the light bulb went on, because I knew my song was making waves in England. So when she comes back on, I say: “I have a top 10 song in your country right now.” And she said, “Oh, what is it?” I said, “ ‘I Am Blessed’ by Eternal.” And then she said, “Oh, my goodness! It’s all over the papers!” I said, “What?” She said, “The Pope requested them to sing that for a private audience with him, and then in a concert for Christmas at the Vatican.” I said, “Well, if it’s all over the papers, could you fax the articles to me? So she faxed me from, like, 10 papers. And there it was…the group Eternal in the company of Pope John Paul II. How many songwriters get to experience that?
If they only knew that two queers wrote it, the Vatican would be turning in their robes right now! (laughter) Two gay people wrote the song that the Pope requested personally. If that isn’t spiritual in a way—
Zimmerman: Oh, my goodness, yes!
Jewell: All your songs come from the heart.
Malamet: Thank you. Remember, now, I don’t write many lyrics. It’s my music. It’s my chords. Some songs I write the melodies. Other songs I’m just writing the chords and the arrangements. But the vibe is there. And my collaborators are all sensational. They write great lyrics. It’s my path, what I pre-birth decided, would be my path.
Jewell: How old were you when you realized that you had a special talent for music?
Malamet: I used to visit my paternal grandma every Sunday. She had a piano, and I’d make a beeline for it, and I’d sit there, fiddling around and coming up with little melodies. I must have been all of 7 or 8. My parents never noticed it. They just went into another part of the house, while I’d sit at the piano, improvising.
Fade out, fade in and I’m like, 10, 11. My father has an accident in a taxicab in Brooklyn. There’s an out-of-court settlement, so he has extra money. His brothers, who were in the house hearing me tinkling the ivories, called him and said, “Lou, with this money you must buy Marsha a piano. She has some sort of talent. You must.” ...To read the full article, login or become a member --- it's free!