Canada’s Blurred Vision recently performed at the WhyHunger Chapin Awards on June 3 in New York City, and the band’s front man Sepp Osley has shared with us this intimate glimpse into the inspiration and dedication behind their love of Rock and Roll as a means to create peace, love and understanding.
As a band we are in that fortunate place where the music we create, and the songs we write, lead us in our world, and not the other way around.
It’s safe to say that when we wrote our tribute Dear John to our great hero John Lennon, we would never have imagined that two years later we would be standing on the grand stage of the Hard Rock Cafe in New York, in the heart of Times Square. But that’s exactly what happened to us last night when we had the incredible honor of being invited to perform at WhyHunger’s prestigious annual awards show, the WhyHunger Chapin Awards.
When we entered the halls of the legendary venue, we were instantly met with the shining suits of the fab four, polished black pointed boots and all, making us quite aware of the magnitude of the room we were just about to enter. It was as if the great gatekeepers of the kingdom of Rock N’ Roll were standing on guard to make sure that only the strongest would dare take the stage and attempt to inspire. Our instincts kicked in, we were ready!
The evolution that had taken place inside the majestically lit room was nearly overwhelming. Adorning the walls, memorabilia of our greatest idols from Pink Floyd to The Beatles, The Who to Janis Joplin and David Bowie and the list goes on. But within the hustle and bustle of WhyHunger staff, partners and volunteers getting ready for the night, an entire organic farm had been propped front and center below the stage, highlighting the great potential we have in our communities to make sure no one goes hungry, and everyone is fed healthy and sustainable food year round. It was a poignant marriage of what the night was all about, bringing the unifying power of music and the relentless fight to end hunger and poverty together as one.
When we became ambassadors of WhyHunger in 2012 and joined the fight against hunger and poverty around the world, it was because of this poignant marriage that we knew we had to get involved. It is safe to say WhyHunger have become the champions of bringing music and activism together to create real sustainable change in the lives of the people and communities they work for. It is evident in the work they do 365 days a year to make sure that every single person in need in America knows they are not alone, and it was perfectly evident in how much joy was in the Hard Rock last night from every single supporter and partner that in one way or another stands side by side and helps with WhyHunger’s cause.
Before we knew it, we were on stage, sound check underway, and the weight of the upcoming celebration starting to slowly kick in. It is usually at this point that for us four lads, the adrenaline begins to unleash its heart pounding charm.
To start the festivities we were treated to the soulful and whimsical voice of Martha Redbone. A deep soul of a girl that carried her presence out on stage with elegance and power all in one breath. Bluegrass and folk blended with gospel and soul and yes, everything amazing you would expect from that potent concoction was there. It was a truly fitting way to welcome the night with open arms.
The room began to fill up and we were now waiting in the wings, side stage, as the three time Grammy winning songwriter Tom Chapin, the brother of WhyHunger co-founder and iconic singer songwriter Harry Chapin, began to introduce us to the room. It is in these moments that we usually blank out from our surroundings as voices muffle around us until we hear the words “Blurred Vision”. As if a giant hit of adrenaline is pumped into our veins we know our moment to do what we know best is finally upon us. “Time to Rock N’ Roll lads”!
We kicked off our set, which for this night was an acoustic adaptation, by introducing our song as we have known it. “This is our generation’s anthem for Peace, this is ‘No More War’”. The pulsating sound of the drum and instruments began and we were on our way. At this point it is difficult for us to pay attention to what happens in the audience as the music, like a drug, begins to take over all thoughts and feelings and almost meditatively and instinctually guides us through. However on this night it was to be different. With one bellowing voice the song ends with the scream of “No More War” and the reception from the audience lets us know were coming closer together.
As we introduce our next song “Dear John” – our tribute to John Lennon – and I begin to sing “Dear John have you heard the news today? The stench of war is still in the air…” I realize to the left of stage stands the man who is not only arguably Rock’s greatest photographer, but also the man who captured some of the most loved, cherished and memorable images of our hero John Lennon. We have been fans of Bob Gruen’s work and inspired by his eye for Rock magic for many years, but to sing our John Lennon tribute with him in the audience looking back at us brought the weight of this magical evening into perspective. This was indeed a night to be spontaneously and overwhelmingly inspired.
We finished our performance with a song that means a great deal to us and staying on course with the ethos of the evening, it was to be the first time we were to perform it live. “Five” is one of the first songs we ever wrote and we knew with such a momentous occasion, it was the perfect night to share it with a new and influential audience. The song is essentially the story of my brother Sohl and I and our family’s escape from war torn Iran, where we were born, to come to a new world with the hopes of a better, brighter future. However, the song in the bigger picture is the story of nearly all of us whose great grandparents and grandparents and families left their homeland behind in pursuit of a better life for their children. We knew to perform the song in the great multicultural metropolis of New York, where so many shared our story, was the perfect fit for our contribution to this special night.
From that point we had the Rock N’ Roll duty of making friends with the gracious bartenders of the Hard Rock, and the great privilege of watching the one and only Fab Faux perform songs like “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Because”, and “Blackbird” with the grace and perfection one would expect when playing the songs of The Beatles. They were extraordinary, and on this story filled night, they were most fittingly the recipients of the Ascap Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award.
The night concluded with Tom Chapin and his band, inviting us all back on stage to sing the Harry Chapin track “Circle”. To play the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square was a great moment for us in our young career, but to have played it with our WhyHunger family made it a night we will remember for the rest of our lives.