It is his birthday today!
All photos & videos by Paul Zollo/American Songwriter
JANUARY 18, 2021. Today in a luminous holiday of poetry and joy, it is the birthday of the legendary poet-songwriter-painter-visionary-friend-spiritual advisor-pacifist- mensch Stephen Kalinich. He’s written beautiful volumes of poetry – including many of the poems recited in videos below – as well as a bounty of great songs. Add to this a universe of beautuifully chromatic canvasses of vividly whimsical-sorrowful paintings of great poignancy.
He was good friends with all The Beach Boys. Mike Love said he considers him to be the real Stevie Wonder. Brian loved his poetry and spirit. But it was Dennis with whom Stevie was closest, a love that is beautifully alive in Stevie’s poem “Dennis,” which is also below.
Together Stevie and Dennis wrote the beautiful “Little Bird,”(a song Tom Petty adored). They also wrote “All I Want to Do”, “Be Still,” and “A Time to Live in Dreams.”
With Brian Wilson he created a magical album of poetry and music called A World of Peace.
He also wrote the lyrics for the Brian Wilson-Paul McCartney duet, “A Friend Like You”, on Wilson’s 2004 solo album release, Gettin’ In Over My Head.
His songs have been performed and recorded also by Paul McCartney, Rumer, Brian Wilson, P.F. Sloan and many more. Recently he’s collaborated on a great bunch of songs with the brilliant Neil Rosengarden.
One of the fun parts about being a POS (pal of Stevie) is that everyone lights up with joy when they see him, including numerous icons. I have witnessed this first-hand many times. Both Quincy Jones and Donovan were delighted when Stevie appeared backstage at a show in L.A. Within minutes Stevie and Donovan were regaling everyone in the dressing room with many spirited songs.
When I conducted a live interview with Beach Boy Mike Love at the Songwritiing School of Los Angeles, I invited Stevie as a suprise guest to open our show with poetry and love. The hope was that his presence would make Mike Love happy. It did. Beyond happy. Stevie’s good that way.
He’s the kind of guy who likes to do special things for people, but doesn’t speak of it. It’s not for self-glory; it’s about the warmth of love and friendship. When our friend Zak Nilsson got ill, Stevie reached out to a friend of his who was also close to Zak’s dad, Harry Nilsson, and asked for a little note for Zak. That friend was Paul McCartney, who promptly answered the request.
Stevie let me know, but told me there was no need to tell anyone else. It was just for Zak. (Sorry to tell everyone, Stevie – but it’s a great example of your essential Stevie-ness).
Back before our long season of lockdown began, I’d make the trek often to West L.A., where he lives – often accompanied by my son Joshua, who loves Stevie also (and it’s mutual.) We’d usually get lunch at Factor’s Deli nearby – where Stevie is like the mayor, knowing and being known by everyone.
After our nosh, we’d head back to his home of art and I’d usuallymake a little video of Stevie talking of art and spirit, answering my queries, or reading one of his poems. We’re happy to bring you a selection of those videos today, in honor of the birthday of our good buddy.
The man is a true poet. Some call themselves poets, but do not live inside art, and create a life of poetry. He does. And he remains a luminary of true shimmer, one of the brightest and most beloved lights to ever shine in this town. When people speak his name, it’s with a smile.
The Days of Life
By Stephen Kalinich
The days of life
So quickly pass
Through muted time
Through the endless stillness of space
Through gentle joy and bitter pain
Silently they slip away
Each step we walk
Each breath we take
We can live love
We can bring peace
We can be kind
The little things we do each day
To help someone
Like drying tears with hands of love
Can mean so much
Can heal a wound
Can sometimes save a life
So each night
Before we go to sleep
Think of the feelings we can share
The lives we can touch with hope
The words of tenderness
That we can speak
To one in need
Think of the good that we can do
Through the days of life.
` Copyright 2017/ Stephen Kalinich