89.1 WEMU

creative:impact-The Amazing Journey Of Composer And Singer-Songwriter David Barrett

Jul 17, 2018

David Barrett
Credit Courtesy Photo / davidbarrett.com

Many of you may have heard the song "One Shining Moment" during the NCAA basketball tournament.  IT has been used as the close to the March Madness tournament every year since 1987. What you may not know is the writer of that tune is an Ann Arbor resident.  Composer and singer-songwriter David Barrett talks about his illustrious career with WEMU's David Fair and Arts Alliance CEO Deb Polich in this week's "creative:impact."


Deb Polich, President and CEO of The Arts Alliance

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.   

David Barrett

Emmy Award Winning Composer, Singer, Songwriter

Composer of One Shining Moment

David Barrett
Credit Courtesy Photo / davidbarrett.com

His music has reached millions of people.  Yet he’s always happy to share a simple evening of songs and stories in an intimate folk club.

He writes songs about children.  And criminals.  He writes music about golf.  And Norman Vincent Peale.  He struggled for years, scrapping for gigs (and, in his words, “driving for checks”) only to become the proverbial “overnight sensation” in a field he’d never dreamed of storming.

In the smiling face and renaissance talent of David Barrett, paradox has found a happy home.  “It all starts with a guitar in my lap,” says the ever self-effacing Barrett whose solitary musical musings have brought him into the national spotlight.  That guitar in that particular lap has yielded hundreds of songs—some of which have ended up in unlikely places.

Barrett recalls, “In 1986, I was visiting a friend in New York City who just happened to write for Sports Illustrated.  We were watching the NBA Finals, talking about sports and life and I remembered that I had written this song about sports and achievement, so when I got home I sent it to him.  He took it over to CBS without me knowing, and they called me up out of the blue.”

The song, of course, was “One Shining Moment”—the paean to endeavor that now crowns the NCAA Basketball Finals, dampening every eye in the arena.  The version, sung by the incomparable Luther Vandross, pushes the song’s power to a new height.

That initial coup opened a floodgate of opportunities for Barrett, who now composes regularly for television: the Olympics, the U.S. Tennis Open, ABC, the CBC… but it isn’t all sports events.  He recently won a silver medal at the New York Film festival for a hip-hop song in “Don’t Cross that Line”—a short film about gambling and student athletes.  And he won an Emmy for scoring a PBS documentary on the writer C.S. Lewis.

“I wish I could say it was career planning, but it’s not.  It just worked out that way and I’m grateful,” says Barrett.

Yes, this is one folksinger with the ultimate day job.  But strip away the scores and TV glitz and major networks on phone, and you’re back to basics: a guy singing provocative, hauntingly beautiful songs, and playing the hell out of that guitar in his lap.

That guy’s latest album, It’s a Long, Long Story, is a lot more than a compendium of ten new David Barrett songs.  It’s a crash course in sunsets, innocence and the horrors of child abuse.  It tackles lost love, high comedy and the physics of life.  It’ll take you there and back, cradled safely in melody. The album, (on End Around Records) is quintessential Barrett: beautiful, understated and true.  When he’s not on the phone with major networks, Barrett’s on the road, taking these songs and more to concert venues all over the country.

David Barrett: high-power commercial composer, low-tech folk club songwriter… Hey, what’s a little paradox among friends?

Non-commercial, fact based reporting is made possible by your financial support.  Make your donation to WEMU today to keep your community NPR station thriving.

Like 89.1 WEMU on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu