Each week we invite music lovers to share seven songs that have shaped their life. This week, we speak to Auckland musician Jeremy Toy, who played in Opensouls and She's So Rad, produces music as Leonard Charles and was responsible for the soundtrack of hit Kiwi film The Breaker Upperers. L.S.D. by the Leonard Simpson Duo, an album collaboration with acclaimed Detroit rapper Guilty Simpson, is out tomorrow.
1. Stevie Wonder - Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away
I grew up listening to my mum's copy of this record. There is no record more important to me. It has brought me to tears more than any other piece of art. "Why can't the light of good shine God's love in every soul? Why must my colour black make me a lesser man, I thought this world was made for every man, he loves us all." Reading that as a child and listening to it all my life has helped shape who I am, what I believe and my wish that every person on this earth is treated equally. If I'm having a hard time in my life, like being run over by a drunk driver or king hit and left with a three-year concussion then Stevie is always there to get me back to the essence. "If you open up your heart you can feel it, feel his spirit."
2. Jimi Hendrix - Izabella (Live at Woodstock)
There is no question that Jimi Hendrix is the baddest guitarist to visit this planet. He is an extraterrestrial being sent here by the universe to spread peace and love through his music. As a 14-year-old watching his Woodstock performance I was completely floored, speechless, overwhelmed yet unable to turn away from the experience. It's not just him either, it's his incredible band firing on all cylinders. Izabella is where they kick their performance into overdrive.
3. Common - The Light
There are multiple elements at play for me with this song. No.1 is Common; I've been listening to Common's music for 20 years. To see him perform at the White House was such a powerful moment (I wasn't there, it's on YouTube). Element No.2 is J Dilla, he produced the beat and is without a doubt one of my biggest influences as a music producer. He is bigger than hip-hop, he is another extraterrestrial soul that came here to change up our perception of music and how it reaches people. Element No.3 is the sample, Bobby Caldwell - Open Your Eyes. It is a beautiful yacht rock masterpiece that is such an unlikely source for a hip-hop masterpiece. The final element is that my wife, Anji, and I had our nephew recite an edited version of Common's lyrics at our wedding, that's how much this song means to me.
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4. Apollo Brown & Guilty Simpson - I Can Do No Wrong
To me, this is perfect hip-hop. Apollo Brown and Guilty Simpson represent the real Detroit sound. There is no smoke and mirrors with Apollo Brown's production technique, it is 100 per cent pure uncut music. The sample is deep, chopped with precision. Guilty is right on top of the beat, he sounds incredible. He places the words right there in your face and there is no arguing back at him, you just have to stop what you are doing and listen. Trust me, his story is worth listening to.
5. Hugh Masekela - Stimela
I knew of Hugh Masekela's music before I met and performed music with him in Cape Town, South Africa, as part of the Red Bull Music Academy 2003, but my knowledge wasn't great. A few years later I read his autobiography and, man, Hugh lived his life to the fullest. The Hugh I met was an experienced human, warm and very generous, ready to share his music with anyone. Stimela has a strong political message as the backbone of the song, it's deeply soulful and as a song really does have its own sense of place as a South African tale. This is the kind of music that moves me. Hugh took us to a pan-African restaurant, which was a controversial decision. He said the band was killer at the spot and we should go and enjoy it. He wasn't wrong, some of the best music I've heard coming from the corner of a restaurant. I also drank the best red wine of my life at that restaurant and when I used the restroom, Crowded House, Don't Dream It's Over was playing on the system.
6. Abdullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) - Cape Town Fringe
Ibrahim called this song Mannenberg is Where it Happens, but for the US version the label called it Cape Town Fringe. This is the version I own. This is a piece of music that needs no lyrics to get across exactly what the sentiment behind the song is, an incredibly powerful song. I first heard this song in the documentary Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony. I met the director Lee Hirsch in Cape Town. Lee taught me to not be fearful of the Cape Town streets, just get out and experience life and enjoy, don't live in fear. We tried to climb Table Mountain together. Lee was like, "Let's just walk and see how far we get." We didn't get that far!
7. Ivan Ave - Running Shoes
This song is released on the same label as our Leonard Simpson Duo album, Jakarta Records. Running Shoes helped get me through my four-week hospital stay when I was run over. This is one of those magic songs that doesn't come around often. I was on some strong painkillers at the hospital and I had this on repeat 10x plus and it never got old, just got better. He also mentions Stevie Wonder and his song Ribbon in the Sky and anyone that brings up Stevie is good with me.