On January 19, 2013, songwriters lost a good friend. Affectionately dubbed “The Songwriters Best Friend”, John Braheny passed away at his home in the Los Angeles area after an off and on battle with prostate cancer spanning over 12 years. He was 74. After over 40 years of mentoring, coaching, consulting songwriters throughout North America, and releasing what most consider ‘the’ classic songwriters book, John left a big mark on songsmiths of every skill set.
He was a troubadour, a songwriter, an author, a teacher and a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He was an ambassador for the songwriting community. He was active in many music industry and songwriter organizations. This is part three of a three-part chronicle of his life, his loves, and a few of his many accomplishments. This writer owes a huge debt of gratitude to John’s wonderful wife, JoAnn Braheny, for her hours of reflective conversation during writing this article.
If you’re a songwriter, “The Craft and Business of Songwriting” is the Bible. First published in 1988, this value-filled text was one of John’s proudest accomplishments. His “best business card”, he quipped.
John wrote a bi-weekly column called Song Mine, for Music Connection Magazine. These articles, with excerpts from several hundred interviews, were the backbone of one of the most complete publications dedicated to helping the songwriting community. John’s wife, JoAnn, helped with the typing and editing, but it was Julie Whaley, then at Writer’s Digest Books (Cincinnati), who did the final edits and contributed greatly by helping John to weave his magazine articles into an actual text.
The book was adopted (and is still used) as a textbook for many university level songwriting courses, including UCLA, USC, Berklee College of Music in Boston, Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, and Belmont University in Nashville.
“The Craft and Business of Songwriting” offers a practical, street-level look at today’s world of songwriting. It’s essential reading for anyone contemplating a career as a professional songwriter. Read and learn.” – Diane Warren, six-time ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, with more than fifty top 10 hits.
The thoroughly updated third edition, published in 2007 has chapters related to the craft, such as creativity and inspiration, writing lyrics, constructing a song, and collaboration. John discusses at length the business side of songwriting such as, protecting your songs, self-publishing, marketing yourself and your songs, and getting a record deal. John explains how to pick out original ideas and how to use the Internet to your best advantage for pitching songs, networking and publicity. Even six years later (at this writing), The Craft and Business of Songwriting is one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal.
“This book is the first resource our organization recommends to learn the business legalities and creative techniques of songwriting. Our 40,000-plus Just Plain Folks members agree, citing it as their number one favorite music industry/educational resource book.” – Brian Austin Whitney, founder of Just Plain Folks Songwriting and Musician Community
For John, teaching came naturally. He had a gift, the ability to relate simple to complex information to anyone at any skill level. He loved to coach and was mentor to thousands, from amateurs to accomplished professionals, over the years.
He was a 20-year screener at TAXI who hired him early in the company’s history, as their first consultant. He was active in almost all the songwriter’s organizations (on their boards). He took virtually every opportunity to ‘guest speak’ for any group, anywhere.
Songwriters say he is the one who initially gave them ‘permission’ to be themselves, to express themselves in their unique way, and helped to guide them in their writing and performing careers. John encouraged the ‘hobby writer’ as well claiming that “writing is cheaper than therapy”.
Always a student, himself, John interviewed several hundred music industry professionals and those recordings will soon be housed in an online archive, available to us all. Work is also underway to make his book an ‘ebook’ and an audio book… to reach yet more songwriters. When these are ready, announcements will be on his website, http://www.johnbraheny.com. The Braheny Legacy Archive Foundation was formed to support this enormous effort. Donations can be made to the Braheny Legacy Archive Foundation, in care of PayPal.com (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In 2009 John and JoAnn moved their worldly belongings into two storage lockers except the laptop, cell phone, and a few incidentals and hit the road. For two years, the pair traveled the US and Canada speaking at large events. Due in part to Facebook and Email, they were able to schedule local club gatherings, and personal coaching sessions between the major events.
JoAnn recalls a technique the pair used at most workshops. They would draw a large box on the board. John would say, “The top of this square is Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, the Beatles, and so on… and the rest of this box is filled with the many people we’ve discovered as we traveled around the continent. They make a living writing for their church, for schools. They write marching band music. They write jazz, whatever … They make $40,000 a year or $60,000, but we are not going to see their face on People Magazine. There are many people out there that make a good living doing what they love, writing songs.”
Recalls JoAnn, “When John died, I can’t tell you how many emails and phone calls I got from, Croatia, Finland, Ireland, Bermuda, all over the world… I was just overwhelmed with the sense of community he had built and maintained over the years.” Rarely will we find another person who was so devoted to songwriters to encourage them to be able to write what they feel, write what they know, and say the words and write the music that move our planet forward”.
John would simply say, a little teary eyed, “Just use what I taught you”.
Rest in peace.
John Braheny – 1938-2013