Singer brings love home to San Diego with new recording
by Karen Kenyon
Singer-songwriter Chris Hassett, a North Park resident, is dedicating his future to what he says is his true path – the path of music he has followed for 30 years. Only now, that path is clearer and he has a tangible product. Last month on the eve of his 60th birthday, the openly gay baby boomer released his first CD, “Bring Love Home.”
“Bring Love Home” is a 15-song collection recorded during a live performance in May 2009 at the First Unitarian Universalist church of San Diego.
The CD includes many of Hassett’s original compositions, such as “Into the Light,” which captures his bedside goodbye to his partner, Dan, who died of AIDS in 1991, as well as a humorous piece called “El Centro” that is set to the tune of Marty Robbins’ “El Paso.”
A handful of pop classics are on the CD as well, including Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
Hassett’s own lyrics reveal his worldview, politics and personal life.
From 1987 through the mid-90’s he performed a series of “Friends and Lovers” concerts that included other San Diego musicians – Mary Barranger, pianist for the San Diego Symphony, and pianist Kay Etheridge and singer Peggy Watson.
“Working with other musicians is an unrivaled joy in my life,” Hassett said.
Another example of his quite-personal lyrics is found on “A Woman Is My Friend.” In the song he acknowledges that women, starting with his mother followed by girlfriends in his childhood, have always been his best friends.
“Seriously,” he said, “I think gay men have a lot to teach all men about friendship and respect for women.”
One of his current women friends and fans, Nancy Bamberger, who met Chris when both were employed at the Center for Communications at San Diego State University in the mid-80’s, said, “Chris knew back in the 80’s that his real passion was music. Wherever he was he was always singing. … He is the real deal and his concerts bring the house down. He touches my heart each time I see him perform. I’m thrilled with the new energy Chris is pouring into his music.”
Hassett’s musical muses and heroes have included the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, James Taylor, Paul Simon and songwriter John Prine.
These musicians, he said, are “those not afraid to reach inside and pull out veins and heartstrings.”
Hassett grew up with music. His dad, a career military man, was also a disc jockey between World War II and rejoining the Air Force in 1950. The family home was filled with the music of Bobby Darin, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan.
“My earliest memories of music are hearing Dad sing,” Hassett said, “and listening constantly to other great singers.”
Hassett wrote poetry as a child. But it was not until he was around 30 that he started writing words with his music. Today, he said, words and music come to him at the same time.
“Then I’ll reach for a guitar or the piano. Music and melody bring the words alive,” he said.
Hassett studied for a master’s degree in radio and TV at SDSU, and has worked recently in freelance marketing, public relations and writing for the web – skills that are useful to him now as he promotes his own creative endeavors.
He said he sees himself as a modern-day troubadour. In addition to the Unitarian Universalist church, Hassett has performed his own and others’ songs at various San Diego churches. He has done benefits for the Hillcrest Youth Center, a women’s shelter and the AIDS Assistance Fund.
Hassett will perform March 7 at the Universal Spirit Center in Hillcrest and on March 14 at the Orange Coast Unitarian Universalist Church in Costa Mesa.
“This is a time in my life when I’m putting music front and center,” he said, referring to his recent birthday.
Hassett plans to release one CD a year, with a holiday theme and a CD of standards at the top of his list.
“I want my songs to communicate heart to heart,” he said. “A community of hearts can turn the world around. The CD is a tangible product, but a product of the heart – a physical expression of my life.”
“This path is going to take me all the way out – with surprises along the way,” he said.
For more information about Hassett and his recordings, go to www.chrishassett.com.
Karen Kenyon is a freelance writer and author. She teaches at UCSD-X and MiraCosta College.