“Here’s To Life” presents not only the swinging sounds of songs for which Joe was well known, but Keith David as Williams talking about his life, opening a window into his soul and his own desire to seek the harmony in life.
Much has been written about him over the years, some of it true, some of it distorted. Much of the dialogue is taken from his print and broadcast interviews over the years, coupled with literary license and tempered by the writer’s intense desire to stay true to his feelings. Devra Hall Levy felt emboldened to do this based on her close 30-year friendship with Williams. She met Joe when she was a teenager. Throughout the years he offered loving friendship, advice, and introduced her to the man she married. She worked as Joe’s publicist for decades and had the privilege of traveling with him. This gave her a front row seat and she presents Williams’ ups and downs, his strengths and his weaknesses. Williams’ influence on her life continues to this day; and she is not alone.
Actor/Singer Keith David was also touched and inspired by Joe. Keith and Devra became friends in 1991 when he was appearing in Jelly’s Last Jam at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, a year before they opened on Broadway. Devra had long known of Keith’s affinity for Joe and his desire to explore Joe’s life and music. Keith’s thoughts and insights were crucial to her developing this script.
Here is what Keith has to say:
“When I think about Joe Williams… I think about Jazz, I think about the Blues. Not just about the music, but the culture. Joe Williams represents the ultimate in class and style and dignity. His life is a reigning example of what it looks like to turn ones life around. A man who grew up in the center smack dab in the middle of Jim Crow America and rose above the snares and pitfalls that are stereotypically associated with musicians…of any ethnicity.. but particularly assigned to black artist, to become internationally renowned. We need to remember the road from where we came and rejoice in those possibilities. I want to celebrate Joe’s life because his memory, his legacy, continues to give me something to strive for. He taught us to ‘strive for excellence and perfection every night!’ And to ‘play every night like it was Carnegie Hall.’ It’s upon his broad shoulders that I stand as an artist.”
Our greatest singers and musicians have touched the lives of all who have heard them, some more profoundly than others. “Here’s To Life” will touch audiences anew, perhaps rekindle warm and happy memories for those who knew him when, giving them new insight into the man who lived life on his own terms, and loved it.