Chuck McDermott: The Importance of Having a Dream
Photo Credit: Shefik
Over the last 40 years, Chuck McDermott has left his musical mark on audiences on both coasts of the United States. Over the last few decades, he has devoted himself to energy and environmental policy issues, and working in government.
My name's Chuck McDermott and I'm a singer-songwriter of the Americana genre. And if you're a writer, probably in any form, you're probably pretty fascinated by what makes us tick, what in the human spirit makes us unique and in my case, I've been at this for literally about 50 years, playing music and writing, and along the way I had the incredible good luck to stumble into having a mentor, a person who was highly accomplished and became my friend and my teacher and his name is John Stewart. Now, John as a very young man was a member of what at the time was the insanely popular group The Kingston Trio, but he went on to have a 40, 50 year solo career in which he really has claim to being one of the founding fathers of folk-rock, or the Americana music genre. He was a prolific, prolific songwriter. A theme that turned up in his writing a lot was the importance of dreams and it wasn't so much interpreting our dreams at night, our dreams in our sleep, it was the importance of having a dream, an ambition and a goal to go after with a vengeance, and so the word dream turns up in a lot of his song titles. The one that is no doubt the most famous is a song he wrote called Daydream Believer, which was a huge, number one hit for a group called The Monkees and then many other artists have had chart topping renditions of the same song and you can go into any karaoke bar in any city on the planet and there will be somebody who will sing Daydream Believer. I had the good fortune of singing it many nights with him, with the composer of the song and, you know, John told us two stories about that song, one of which was, on a given day, this would've been in the late '60s, he sat down to dinner with his wife and she said, "honey, how was your day?" and he said, "I don't know, "I just wrote one song today, Daydream Believer." Which turned out to, of course, be a big event for him down the road. The other one was, when the producer for The Monkees came to him and said, "John, we're doing this TV show, "would you have a song for his group?" He suggested Daydream Believer and they came back and said, "the band loves the song, "the label loves the song, the TV people love the song, "but there's a word in it you can't use." And John said, "what is that?" And he said, "you say, 'funky.' "You say 'now you know how funky I can be.'" And John said, "well, what do they want to change it to?" And they said, "now you know how happy I can be." And John said, "oh, that changes "the whole meaning of the tune! "That's terrible." And the producer said, "John, if we don't change it, "they're not gonna use the song." And John said, "I kinda like 'happy.'"
Last Updated: September 10, 2021