Michael Monagan

Artist Photo

Michael Monagan

To illustrate just how varied and wide ranging Michael Monagan’s music is all you have to do is look at two musicians from opposite ends of the musical spectrum who’ve praised his work: Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson. After seeing Monagan perform Dylan immediately called his label to send someone out to see the next show and Jackson called Monagan on the phone after hearing his songs to personally tell him how much he liked his work. The songs here are categorized not only by style but also by time and place. Monagan’s career began when he started the pivotal reggae band in Boston called Jamaica Way. Co-writing and producing their album with Trinidad’s Rolly Grey, the band played sold out shows throughout New England in the late 70’s. In addition, Monagan worked on a solo project known here as the Boston sessions with “Drowning in Your Love” generating the interest of Felix Papalardi in New York. With a move to LA in the early 80’s Monagan began work on songs that are the Valley Studio, Sycamore, and 808 sessions. Michael Jackson was enamored with the “Love Won’t Change Me” and “Your Love (Makes me the Man I Am)” from the Valley Studio sessions. “Open Your Heart” from the Sycamore sessions was performed by Jennifer Warnes who said of the song, “Everyone in the world should hear this!” And it was about this time that Freda Payne demoed the song “Wildest Dreams” that Monagan wrote with Sammi McKinney (hit songwriter for Anita Baker). “I’m Just Wishin” is another song that McKinney and Monagan wrote for the Hollywood Records teen group The Party. Never to be pigeonholed Monagan also wrote folk songs. “Galway Bay” is performed by the traditional Irish group Cuchullain and “Open Your Heart” is a favorite of American folk singer Penny Nichols. Monagan has always been a teacher at heart and he created a songwriting class at a special ed. school in LA that became the Kids of Widney High. Their first record on Rounder won awards such as the National Library Award and as the sound became a little harder edged Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle) took notice and signed them to a deal. Jackson Browne jumped on the bandwagon and provided studio time that lead to a second CD with two more CDs to follow. The band and two of their songs, “Pretty Girls” and their special ed. reworking of the classic “Respect” were featured in the Johnny Knoxville, Katherine Heigel, Farrelly Bros. movie “The Ringer.” Fans of the Kids have been Marilyn Manson, Smokey Robinson, and Kurt Cobain. Other film and TV work includes another artistic stretch from the Roger Corman horror flick “Slumber Party Massacre II” all the way to the PBS American Masters Series feature on the photographer Annie Leibovitz with a couple of Henry Jaglom films, “Déjà Vu” and “Festival in Cannes”, in between. Becoming a father naturally moved Monagan to write an album of children’s songs. “Where’s Mambo?” is a collection of skills songs such as “Every Day” (sequencing the events of a day), “12” (months of the year), and “Look Both Ways” (crossing the street) that caught on with many teachers in the LA school district. A highlight of working with his young children was when he accompanied them in a command performance at the Clinton White House. Monagan is at home with any number of musical styles and the width and breadth of his catalogue surely has something for everyone.