Sometimes a song is just a song. Sometimes it's so much more.
Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," John Lennon's "Imagine" and "We Are The World" by Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones are examples of songs that fall into the more-than-a-song category. Each one became an anthem of sorts, promoting a bigger message.
And now Western New York has its own entry in the more-than-a-song songbook with a unique partnership between Buffalo-born, international touring and recording musician Willie Nile and 16-year-old rock guitarist, songwriter and emerging artist Stevie Fleck.
Stevie is a student at Lewiston-Porter High School and the leader of the band Brass Monkeez, two-time winner of the Music Is Art battle of the band competitions.
Nile and Stevie hope to inspire other high school students based on the idea that using music for a bigger cause can make a difference.
Stevie has released a cover of Nile's song "One Guitar" to launch a national food bank benefit called tunes4food, also Buffalo-based, whose aim it is to raise money for Feeding ?America Food Banks in Buffalo, Cleveland and Long Island.
"It means a lot to me when an established musician like Willie Nile really likes what I ?do," Stevie said. "It makes me feel accepted."
Tunes4food producer Bob James remembers Nile being impressed the first time he heard Stevie's version of the song. It was Nile's reaction that inspired James to take this idea out into high schools. In February, Nile had a video conference with a group of students at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts, inviting them to participate in the "One Guitar"/tunes4food project, spreading the idea that teens and music can inspire change in the world.
Stevie, who counts Mozart as one of his musical heroes, recorded the song under the ?mentorship of James, a veteran musician and inductee of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, and veteran drummer Howard Wilson. Along with "One Guitar," there is a song Stevie wrote when he was 14, called "Girl," available on iTunes.
"We never thought the song would go into high schools, but sometimes songs take on a life ?of their own," said Nile. "You never really know where they are going to end up."
Nile and his drummer Frankie Lee first wrote the song about their neighborhood in New York City, but quickly realized it could have a "broader vision" and could be about the world.
"How big a song can get, you never know," Nile said. "That's the dream of the song, to put the word out there, that we can help each other as brothers and sisters on the planet."
"It's not the easiest, especially when you have your own ideas about how you want something to turn out," Stevie said. "But I took a risk and trusted the process. Now things are bigger and better than I could have imagined."
Rainah Umlauf is a junior at Springville-Griffith Institute.?