TJ George and the Heroes & Legends project
Columbus singer/songwriter TJ George created the non-profit Demand Impact, an organization dedicated to recovering lives through music. He's put together a star-studded lineup of musicians that include Michael McDonald, Bill Medley, Richard Page, and Bill Champlin - and it's the first set of what George plans to be multiple compilations to raise money for drug rehabilitation and recovery programs.
A study earlier this year in Columbus examined the unintentional drug overdose mortality in Years of Life Lost among adolescents and young people in the U.S. Years of Life Lost representing the difference between the age a person dies and the expected remaining lifespan, which at the time of the study was right around 79. During a five-year-stretch beginning in 2015, adolescents and young adults lost close to 1.5 million years of life.
Just ahead on Music Journeys, George will share how his own son could have been one of those statistics. But out of the pain and stress, George crafted a project full of love and hope - and his son now helps others in their recovery. You'll hear the story and the music along with a special performance of one of the songs by George.
We'll lighten things up at the end as George takes part in the Fast Five. Thanks for listening.
The versatile Michael McDonald lends his vocals to Sangre, one of the songs TJ George wrote for his Heroes & Legends project. George began compiling a wishlist of the musical legends he'd like to work with, and a dream created the spark.
"I was sitting in one of these legend's homes and spilled wine on the couch," George recalled of the dream. "He wasn't in the room, I'm flipping over the cushion, and it turned into a bad Three's Company episode. I had to tell Michael McDonald I spilled wine on his couch. A year later, I wrote Sangre. About two years later with help from a lot of people, we were able to get in touch with Michael. He was given some songs and sure enough, he chose that one to sing. Michael McDonald sang Sangre on the album and it's very meaningful to me. There's a connection each one of these legends has to the issue."
George's connection involves his son, Zach, who quickly became addicted to the opioids prescribed to him as he recovered from a broken collarbone in a skateboarding accident at age 13. In the years that followed, Zach shuffled in and out of recovery - but the addiction led him astray. George lost contact with his son for two years - until he received a phone call.
"I didn't know if he was alive or dead or where to look for him," George said. "Parents who have gone through that know what I'm talking about. He called and said I'm in Cincinnati, can you pick me up? Here's my address. I said stay where you are, I'll come get you. I remember thinking on the way getting him to rehab and detox and all the steps to help your child recover."
When George reached the location, he thought Zach gave him the wrong address.
"I waited a couple minutes and all of the sudden he came from the underpass and in that moment I knew he had been living there," George continued. "The amount of sadness and pain that causes is unreal. He was a beautiful child and now an addict, homeless, living under there. That's where the music merged with this issue. That's where it began, the non-profit Demand Impact came from that, the making of the album, writing of the songs, recording the album and selling my house to fund the non-profit. I know lots of parents have gotten an even worse call. So that's the mission of the non-profit to make sure we alleviate parents getting those calls."
"My producer Vernon Porter is an incredible bassist who's played for many artists," George added. "He now lives in California but at that time, he was in Columbus and a Columbus native. I gave him a rundown and about five seconds in - he said stop, I'm in. I didn't know why he agreed so quickly. But then he told me an even worse story about how his daughter passed after a drug overdose. There's a story in there for each one of those legends."
Those legends include Bill Champlin, who has been singing, writing, and making melodies for decades through his own band Sons of Champlin, his solo material, and as a former long-time member of Chicago. Champlin released another solo album last year and shared with Music Journeys the struggles his son had with addiction.
"I had a pretty bad year a couple years back," Champlin told Music Journeys in 2021. "I lost my older son, had to deal with cancer and the surgery, radiation, chemo, and plethora of crap with that business, all of which is behind me. There's a song called Another Lie that's basically about my relationship with my older son before he passed away."
Another Lie plays...
"Nobody was an angel, and Brad wasn't either," Champlin continued. "It took me two years to write that song and to be honest about how his life really was. He was a real serious pill freak for years and just couldn't shake it."
For George's Heroes & Legends compilation, Champlin sings and co-wrote the opening track Me Shaped Hole.
Me Shaped Hole plays...
Another deep connection comes from Richard Page. The voice of the band Mister Mister has done several solo and collaborative projects and earned a spot on Ringo Starr's All Star Band. George hoped to secure a spot for Page on Heroes & Legends.
"I've been posting on social media my favorite Richard Page song, and it's called Even the Pain," George said. "I think it's one of the best songs ever written. I've posted it and just wanted people to hear it. Vernon reached out, and Richard said he would love to be part of the project. He's just a beautiful spirit. He said I'd like to contribute a song and it's called Even the Pain - and he didn't know that was my favorite song. So just another moment of pure the right place at the right time."
Even the Pain plays...
Page recently shared why he joined George's project in this touching tribute to his granddaughter Melia Miracle on/through his YouTube channel.
George also performed a special edition of Sangre here at WCBE just for Music Journeys that you can hear toward the end of the podcast along with his responses to the Fast Five.
Demand Impact is a non-profit on a mission to recover lives through music. Through sales of works by talented artists, the organization provides financial support and resources to partners that support youth navigating and recovering from addiction. Learn more at https://demand-impact.org/