The Early Days
Even before I’d released my first album in 1975, international performers were expressing interest in my songs. In 1972, when I was signed to RCA as a recording artist, I was introduced to label mate Jose Feliciano at a party in Toronto. I played Mr. Feliciano a song I’d just written, called “The Seed of Music,” which he fell in love with. He asked me to mail my demo of the song to his home address in America, along with any others I felt he might want to include on future recordings. But because I was “hoarding” my songs for my own artistic career, I didn’t follow through on Mr. Feliciano’s generous offer, although British jazz great Cleo Laine recorded “The Seed of Music” in 1973. (My music publisher at the time, had sent my song to Cleo Laine without my knowledge) The song was never included on any of Laine’s albums, but Ms. Laine more than made it up to me six years later, when she recorded “Sometimes When We Touch” as the title track of her ’79 release.
Shortly after singing for Jose Feliciano, I was flown to Manhattan to meet with Harry Belafonte; he had heard one of my demo tapes when performing at Toronto’s O’Keefe Centre (later renamed the Hummingbird Centre and now reborn as the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts). Belafonte had long been a generous mentor to up-and-coming singers, and I’ll always treasure his encouragement. I remember when I sat, agog, in his Manhattan office, while he blasted my songs from his speakers at full volume and sang along with unabashed gusto. Mr. Belafonte was particularly impressed with a song I’d written in the summer of ’73, titled “You Make Me Want to Be (a Father).” I wasn’t willing to give even him an exclusive on that song, however, as I considered it my best song at the time. In fact, I was convinced that it would eventually break my musical career wide open. And, as fate would have it, “You Make Me Want to Be” became my first big single in Canada, ensuring the success of my debut album and laying the groundwork for my future international singing career.