The influence of John Lennon and the messages he shared, including “all you need is love” and “give peace a chance,” still ring in ears around the globe. On Friday, Oct. 9, the world will remember the late John Lennon on what would have been his 75th birthday. The Beatle’s life will also be celebrated during an 8 p.m. performance by Mark Hudson at the Mohegan Manor Ballroom, 58 Oswego St., Baldwinsville.
The evening will feature Hudson’s “Livin’ on the Edge” one-man show, with proceeds benefiting the JDRF/Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Hudson is a type 2 diabetic, so the cause rings close to home. The date also marks 22 years of sobriety for the musician.
Hudson returns to Central New York after headlining last February’s BeatleCuse show. His music credits include writing the Grammy-winning song “Livin’ on the Edge” for Aerosmith, co-writing “The Reason” with Carole King for Celine Dion, and working with acts from Ozzy Osbourne to Hanson. Hudson’s show will bring the audience into his world as he shares stories, anecdotes and impersonations from his wild life.
“It’s an interesting thing: When you’re in the life, you don’t really know what it is,” says Hudson, 64. “You’re too busy living it. Then if you can make it long enough, you look back and think, ‘Oh my God.’ And I’m still doing what I wanted to do since I was 13. I should be pissed off and wanting to retire, but instead I’m still with a guitar or piano. How can that not be happiness?”
Hudson got his first taste of rock’n’roll when his mother saved up enough money and brought him to see The Beatles as a kid. “When I saw that, I went, ‘I don’t know what that is, but I want some of it,’” he remembers. “Then I became obsessed with everything they did. They started influencing my songwriting, but even more than the music, it was the way they looked, the way they thought about peace and love. It was bigger than the music and their music was bigger than anything.”
That influence has carried its way through Hudson’s life. He recalls listening to “Livin’ on the Edge” with Aerosmith for the first time, especially Steven Tyler’s reaction. “His eyes were wide open, almost with tears,” Hudson says. “He said, ‘Lennon’s in the room.’ There was an energy given to me by loving The Beatles.”
But Hudson did more than love the band. As the years went on, he produced eight albums for Ringo Starr, worked with George Harrison and Paul McCartney and became friends with John Lennon.
“When I was singing with Paul and Ringo, it hit me like a wrecking ball,” he says. “I thought, ‘OK, I can get hit by a bus. I got to work with these guys.’ So now it’s like I want to pass that onto the new generation. Music transcends every decade.”
Hudson got to know Lennon well during “The Lost Weekend” that actually lasted from summer 1973 to early 1975. Lennon’s marriage with Yoko Ono was on the rocks, so he spent 18 months with their assistant, May Pang, in New York City and Los Angeles. In that time, Lennon completed three albums and produced records for Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson.
“I didn’t ask Beatles questions or he’d slug me,” Hudson says. “But he did say, ‘Always tell the truth,’ and I didn’t know what that meant at first. But if you tell the truth, you never have to remember what you said. I applied it to my songwriting. He also said, ‘Don’t be afraid of metaphors.’ He was always writing that way. Writing is so much easier if you’re telling the truth. Songs just melt out of you.”
Hudson’s daughter, Sarah, also has the songwriting gene: She co-wrote “Dark Horse” for Katy Perry. “My daughter did it all on her own,” he says. “I never opened a gate. If she asked a question, I had an answer. Sometimes she listened and sometimes she didn’t. That’s what makes me proud. After that song (“Dark Horse”), I wrote her an email saying, ‘Keep writing hits because I’ll be in diapers and need a place to live.’”
Until then, Hudson doesn’t plan on hanging up the guitar any time soon. “I keep doing this because it’s all I’m good at,” he says. “I’m good at kissing and it’s downhill after that. All the other human things, I’m dysfunctional. I’m bad at math. But singing, writing … don’t fuck with the king. I know I’m great at that. Outside of that though, just pathetic. But I’m happy with it.”