Joe DiPietro and Bon Jovi Keyboardist David Bryan Met in “Memphis”
By Skip Sheffield
Joe DiPietro is one of those rare talents who hit a home run early in his career, than followed with an even more substantial hit.
DiPietro wrote the book and lyrics to “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.” It was only DiPietro’s third published play, written with composer Jimmy Roberts, and his first one actually produced in 1996. The show ran for 12 years Off-Broadway, and has since become a staple of theaters all over the USA and Canada. It enabled him to be a full-time independent writer.
“Memphis The Musical” is another collaboration, this time with Bon Jovi keyboard player David Bryan.
“I gave my script to several rock ‘n’ roll managers because Memphis is about the birth of rock ‘n’ roll and I wanted a real rocker,” he explains. “I got a call that said `Hi Joe, this is David Bryan. I’m the keyboardist for Bon Jovi and I just read your script. I’d like to know how I can write the score.”
DiPietro told Bryan to pick any lyric in the script, do whatever he’d like to it, and write a song.
DiPietro got a CD in a FedEx box the very next day. On it Bryan sang “Music of My Soul,” which introduces the main character of Huey Calhoun. DiPietro had found the right guy.
DiPietro kept sending Bryan drafts of the script, and Bryan would right new tunes in the spirit of roots rock, blues and gospel, and they would discuss back and forth.
Tony Award voters were so impressed they voted “Memphis” Best Musical of 2010, with Best Book and Best Songs. DiPietro feels it is the universality of “Memphis” that gives it such popular appeal.
“Music is an art that really shows our common humanity,” he states. “The birth of rock ‘n’ roll was a precursor to the Civil Rights movement. Dick Clark, who is mentioned in the show, made it acceptable for black artists to perform for white teenagers. We have come a long way with racial relations, but we still have a way to go.”