More on Stax from William Bell (Part 2 of 2)

Continued from Part One

And with music, but I found out early on, when you write honestly and you write about life itself, the generations change and the times around those generations change, but the feelings remain. So, the sadness, the exhilaration, or whatever, all of the other things that we write about, love situations, and all of that, it remains the same no matter what generation you’re in. So, if you write honestly about that and people can relate to it and, even generations down in different cultures…I’ve had the good fortune of traveling to different cultures, different countries, and found out that people are people a world over.

I mean, same frustrations, wishes, desires, and everything else. And, if they can feel something in the music, even though they don’t understand all of the lyrics, but they feel how you express it in the music and everything, they can relate to it.

I don’t follow trends. I try not to reinvent the wheel all the time, you know? If I had a hit five years ago, I don’t try to do the same thing for that. I just take a song and try to write honestly about it. Sometimes it’s my personal experiences, sometimes it’s observation, and sometimes it’s just a hypothetical situation that I write. But, I write in terms of what I would do in that situation or how I would feel in that particular situation, and it’s an honest assessment, so I think people can really feel the honesty in your writing.

William Bell today
I love working with the young kids and letting them chase that dream. We’ve got the Berkeley organization and then we’ve got the Take Me To The River Foundation that works with kids and stuff. So, I love doing that, because people like Rufus Thomas and B.B. King, Bobby Bland, and all those guys took me under their wings and taught me the ins and outs of show business. And so, I love working with kids and letting them chase their dreams. So, it’s very rewarding when I can write something or something that I’ve written, and it’s 30 years old, and then have a rapper sample it or some of these kids re-cut it and have a hit on it, because that, to me, is very rewarding, because it’s also an affirmation for me that, ‘Well, maybe I did something right.’ You know? So, it’s good.

The Stax legacy
I think we were grassroots and, by that I mean, we were working class people, the blue collar workers. Motown was our competitor at that particular time, but they were polished. They wanted to work on the upper class people, and then…But, the interesting thing about it is that most of the Motown acts, they were all from the South. They migrated and, because I’ve worked with a lot of people from Birmingham and Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana. So, I’m saying there was no difference in our upbringing. Some moved north, but still the same…We had the same upbringing, early on upbringing.

So, the voice structure was the same, but they really polished it. Berry Gordy was…He was, I guess, he was advanced enough to really polish it up. At Stax, we were right out of church, and we created as we felt. I guess that’s why they called it soul music, because we never, pretty much, sang the same song exactly the same way twice. We felt it at a certain given time, and that’s how we recorded it. So, it was not all the right grammar or the right whatever but, musically and feeling wise, we were intact. So, that’s what people felt, and we didn’t write parable phrases that people couldn’t understand that you’ve got to think about, ‘I wonder what he meant or what she meant about that particular statement.’ No, it was all cut and dry, just plain old English that we wrote about, and I think that’s why people, to this day, still can relate and love that music.