A rock legend carries on his timeless legacy while also finding powerful new subjects to write about.
By Steve Houk
Of all the miraculous, timeless music Justin Hayward has created – from the wondrous songs he wrote as a member of prog rock legends The Moody Blues as well as his strong solo work – there’s a song he recently wrote and debuted on his current tour that very well might be his most stunning. That’s saying alot from the guy who wrote such rock classics as “Nights In White Satin,” “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Your Wildest Dreams.” But “The Wind Of Heaven” is something different altogether.
Hayward had worked with filmmaker David Minasian on a live DVD of his Atlanta performance a few years back, and recently found out Minasian was working on a new film with a powerfully emotional story. Hayward was so moved by it that he and his friend wrote a song about it.
“It’s the story of a vet who comes back from Afghanistan, and really loses his way and has to find his life again,” Hayward said to the crowd in New Hampshire on the opening night of his current tour where he debuted the song. “He finds it through horses, and the horses give him back his life. We got so carried away with the story that we wrote a song together and we would like to do it for you now. This is called ‘The Wind of Heaven.’ ”
The song struck such a powerful chord that the crowd roared through joyful tears after he finished. A man stood up in the middle of the applause and said, “On behalf of all us veterans in the audience, we want to thank you for playing this song tonight.” It was a moment that even a legendary rock star who’s seen it all must have taken pause at.
Justin Hayward has always written music that has moved and touched people, and as he prepares to turn 70 this year, he continues to write and perform his formidable songs from then and now with that familiar skill, passion and flair, as he always has. His current “Stage Door Tour” comes to The Birchmere on Sunday May 29th.
The name “Stage Door Tour” comes from the childhood experiences that he had hovering around the stage door of the Empire Theater in their hometown of Swindon, UK.
“My brother and I could not afford to go to the shows , in fact, we were regularly chased away from the lavish entrance by the fat commissionaire who stood guard there. But we loved the stage door – we saw many artists come and go – and we believed it was the place the real magic entered and left the building. Which of course, it is.”
Hayward still sporadically tours with two of his remaining Moody Blues mates when they can find the time. “The three of us that are still playing together, we’re so lucky to have been there at the right time and together and to have had success, that’s something that the three of us really treasure, it’s hard to let go of.” But it’s his solo work that really enables him to get to the core of the tunes.
“I enjoy this solo touring as well because it brings back the essence of the songs and it’s the way that I originally wrote them, it’s how they would have sounded in my own home,” Hayward told me from his studio in Italy. “I get to bring my acoustic guitars out from home, the ones that played on the records, so that’s nice too. It gives me a chance to do things that we’ve never done with the Moodys. It gives a different look to the set list and what to play. That’s always interesting, I get to do ‘Forever Autumn’ which was a hit for me as well. I enjoy every moment, it’s very precious.”
Of all the periods in his rich and lustrous musical life, Hayward relishes them all especially those he’s experiencing right now. But he looks back on one time in particular with great fondness.
“Things are always much more interesting when you look back at them,” Hayward said reflectively. “I think the most enjoyable time for me was the mid 1980’s. I wasn’t very much aware of what was happening in the 60’s, I suppose because I was so young. But in the 80’s, to have success with ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘I Know You’re Out There Somewhere,’ it was a real joy to have that opportunity, it’s like a second chance, and to be recognized in the street for the first time, people never knew my name but they’d say, ‘Hey aren’t you the Moody Blues guy?’ because of the videos and stuff like that. It was a wonderful time.”
Justin Hayward performs Sunday May 29th at The Birchmere, 3701 Mt Vernon Ave, Alexandria, VA 22305. For tickets, click here.