Last month I wrote an article on the possible future Canadian members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in the post-Rush-induction world. The piece was only half-serious, as all discussions on official hall-of-fame anythings should be.
That being said, I was wrong for not mentioning Bob Ezrin, the Toronto-raised producer who this past Wednesday was awarded an honorary fellowship at the Royal Conservatory of Music. He was fêted alongside soprano Adrianne Pieczonka and Randy Bachman, the guitarist who takes cares of business, and who, on the strength of Guess Who and BTO accomplishments, also belongs in the Cleveland shrine. There would likely be a long line of those volunteering to usher Ezrin into the Hall, among them his long-time collaborator Alice Cooper, members of KISS and Lou Reed (Ezrin produced his Berlin album). Or, in recognition of his Kissinger-level diplomacy between the warring Roger Waters and David Gilmour during the recording of 1979’s The Wall, perhaps the two would breach their own divide for the cause of Ezrin.
I spoke with Ezrin before the ceremony at Toronto’s Koerner Hall. What are the accomplishments he is most proud of, I asked. The 64-year-old, who studied classical piano and composition at the Conservatory, didn’t mention working with Peter Gabriel on the artist’s eponymous 1977 solo debut. Neither did he bring up his Canadian Music Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2004. Mostly, and with typical humility, he talked about charity and the importance of music education.
On Music Rising, an organization he founded after Hurricane Katrina with U2 guitarist The Edge, Marty Albertson of Guitar Center and Henry Juszkiewicz of Gibson Guitars, which was dedicated to restocking New Orleans professional musicians and students with instruments: “The level of despair and hopelessness was tremendous, except in the areas where there was music.”
The fundraising culminated in a 2006 appearance by Green Day and U2 at the official reopening of the Louisiana Superdome, the focal point of flood-based misery one year earlier. There, during a Monday Night Football broadcast, U2 and 75,000 people sang Beautiful Day. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” Ezrin recalled. “It was life-changing.”
On producing a star-studded version of K’naan’s Wavin’ Flag by the Canadian collective Young Artists For Haiti, following 2010’s devastating earthquake: “They were so gracious and so respectful and filled with such spirit,” Ezrin said of a roster that included Avril Lavigne, Drake, Justin Bieber, Metric, Tom Cochrane and K’naan himself. “The energy in that room was beyond moving.”
On having a Los Angeles radio station in 1981 name Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb – a track he was integrally involved in creating – as the No. 1 rock song of all time: “I stopped my car and pulled over to the side of the road and I bawled like a baby hearing it beat out Stairway to Heaven, which I assumed would win out.”
And on Stand and Be Proud, written by David Cassidy, produced by Ezrin and donated to the Rebuild L.A. group in the aftermath of the L.A. riots in 1992: “It was arranged that every radio station in the city would play the song at 6 p.m., exactly three months to the day that the riots had begun. You could hear it in the air everywhere. It was eerie.”
It was also a seminal and propelling moment in Ezrin’s life, which gave birth to a self-imposed mandate: “If that’s what I can do, that’s what I must do.”
As, according to Ezrin, he had concentrated on what he called his “bawling moments,” I asked if the occasionally difficult Lou Reed had ever caused him tears. “No, he did not,” he said with a laugh. “But the first playback of Berlin made a lot of people cry after they heard it.”