>> To the danger zone and back, this week on "Firing Line."
>> ♪ Highway to the danger zone ♪ >> His soundtracks defined some of the biggest hit movies of the 1980s, from "Top Gun" and "Footloose"... >> Let's dance!
>> ♪ I gotta cut loose ♪ ♪ Footloose ♪ ♪ Kick off your Sunday shoes ♪ >> ...to "Caddyshack's" "I'm Alright."
>> ♪ I'm alright ♪ >> Singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins has lived a rock-'n'-roll life for half a century.
>> ♪ Even though we ain't got money ♪ ♪ I'm so in love with you, honey ♪ >> Tunes he wrote as a teen, like "Danny's Song" and "House at Pooh Corner" have withstood the test of time.
>> ♪ Back to the house at Pooh corner by one ♪ ♪ You'd be surprised, there's so much to be done ♪ >> Michael Jackson even asked him to join the world's biggest stars for "We Are the World."
>> ♪ And we are the children ♪ >> As Loggins opens up about his highs and lows, he is bringing in a new generation of fans and reconnecting with his roots.
What does Kenny Loggins say now?
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... and by... Corporate funding is provided by... >> Kenny Loggins, welcome to "Firing Line."
>> It's good to be here.
>> Your musical career spans half a century and includes folk, rock, R&B, even children's albums.
You've sold millions of records performing with Loggins and Messina and you sold millions of records on your own.
When you set out to be a rock star in the 1960s as a kid in California, could you have ever guessed what the next 50 years had in store?
You know, when I first started, my business manager told me, "You save your money, because your career will last about three years.
That's the average rock career.
And then you can move on from there."
But she said, "You know, don't buy big things right now.
Just take it easy."
I was living in a half a duplex for $65 a month, and she said, "Stay there as long as you can."
I'm not there anymore.
>> You've written a page-turning memoir called "Still Alright," telling us where you are now and how you got there.
And the title is a play off of your "Caddyshack" anthem "I'm Alright."
You know, the book is -- it's an honest, straightforward account of your rock-'n'-roll career with sold-out shows, chart-topping hits, superstar collaborations, couple of Grammy Awards.
But you also share some of the low moments that happened to you both on the stage and off the stage.
You know, why did you write a book?
>> Well, as you pointed out, half a century is a chunk of time, and it's getting close to a period of time where I think I want to cut way back on the touring part of it.
And so it just felt like this was the appropriate time to start to try and remember things, you know?
My biggest fear of writing a memoir was, "How much can I remember?"
And so we started -- Jason, my collaborator, and I -- we started by interviewing a lot of the people that I'd worked with in the past.
And one thing led to another, and next thing I knew, it was a year later and I had a book.
>> So, Jim Messina was originally going to produce your music, but the legendary president of Columbia Records, Clive Davis, wanted a six-year Loggins and Messina partnership before signing you.
Loggins and Messina sold 16 million records and was the most successful duo of the early 1970s.
But you write pretty candidly about how creative differences took hold in that collaboration.
Why did that partnership, which was such a tremendous commercial success, need a break in the end?
>> Well, it's inevitable.
First reason is, for me, obviously, we both started when we were 21, and I didn't really know a lot about the business, but I didn't really know who I was.
And we were both sort of searching for that identity piece at the same time.
And I think that invariably creates a level of conflict that makes going any longer than that more difficult.
But I think that the key is what you first said, that we came together for Jimmy to produce a Kenny Loggins record.
And so I always had that as sort of hovering over my shoulder, that sooner or later, I'm going to get to make my record.
And so by the time that came along, that six-year commitment was completed, I was really like an arrow pulled back in a bow.
I was ready to go and had already been writing music that would be appropriate for "Celebrate Me Home."
♪ Please ♪ ♪ Celebrate me home ♪ ♪ Give me a number ♪ ♪ Please ♪ ♪ Celebrate me home ♪ ♪ Play me one more song ♪ >> You're going to perform with Messina at the Hollywood Bowl 50 years after your first appearance there.
How do you feel about that reunion?
>> I feel good about it.
It feels like a circle being completed.
Jimmy and I are still friendly.
It's not necessarily a musical partnership that I want to go back into by any means, but it is one worthy of revisiting.
And there's a lot of people out there that have a lot of fond memories around the early Loggins and Messina days, and I don't mind celebrating that with them.
So we'll do that at some point this year.
>> You were just a teenager when you wrote two of your most enduring songs, "House at Pooh Corner" and "Danny's Song."
>> ♪ And even though we ain't got money ♪ ♪ I'm so in love with you, honey ♪ ♪ And everything will bring a chain of love ♪ ♪ And in the morning, when I rise ♪ ♪ You bring a tear of joy to my eyes ♪ ♪ And tell me everything is gonna be alright ♪ >> Talk a little bit about your songwriting method.
>> Well, back in those days, I was 20, 19, and I would just go to my room.
I had a guitar.
I just recently learned to play it.
So, I'd just take a handful of chords and string them together and see what happens melodically.
And, eventually, I would play that for my friends.
So it was -- The guitar, for me, was a way of making new friends.
>> You know, you write in your book about some of your most successful compositions, and the way you described it was, you know, you just couldn't stop.
The music was flowing out of you.
What is that experience like?
Hard to describe.
There's just a part of my brain that's kind of scoring everything.
And maybe that's why when I finally got a chance to write for movies, it became even freer for me, because instead of writing about something about myself or my life, I'm writing about that character and what's happening on that screen.
And it's an extension of who you are, but it's not fully who you are, so there's kind of freedom in that.
>> Of course, one movie soundtrack that became a breakout hit was "Footloose," which spent three weeks at number 1 on the U.S. charts in 1984.
And in your book, you call it, "The most fun song in my show."
>> ♪ I gotta cut loose ♪ ♪ Footloose ♪ ♪ Kick off your Sunday shoes ♪ ♪ Please, Louise ♪ ♪ Pull me up off my knees ♪ >> You write, "It's almost Pavlovian.
Even folks in tuxedos and formal dresses at fancy galas boogie to that one."
You have to get up and dance.
I played "Footloose" just for the fun of it at a friend's wedding the other day, and everybody got up.
I mean, at that point, everybody was dancing from that point on.
>> ♪ Highway to the danger zone ♪ >> Your song "Danger Zone," which you wrote for the original "Top Gun" in 1986, was so iconic that Tom Cruise brought it back for the sequel "Top Gun: Maverick," which has already cracked the top-10 all-time list, domestic ticket sales.
What's it like to have that song back in the zeitgeist 35 years later?
>> It is so bizarre and so amazing that -- You know, I met Tom for the first time about six years ago on "Kimmel."
And we were backstage before we went on, and I said, "So, tell me the truth.
Is 'Danger Zone' a part of the new 'Top Gun' or not?"
And he said, "It wouldn't be 'Top Gun' without 'Danger Zone.'"
And it's really become even more totally connected to that movie now and to that, as you put it, the zeitgeist of what "Top Gun" is.
>> Look, like any good rock-'n'-roll story, you describe in your book, you know, an intersection of drugs and music over the years -- tequila, pot, psychedelics, cocaine.
The drugs and alcohol cost a lot of musicians their careers and even their lives.
But you write about it and it's clear that you figured out a way to navigate these pressures in the music industry pretty effectively and pretty early on.
How did you do that?
>> I think I owe a lot of that to my relationship with my dad.
And I think I've always had a sense of grounding from that relationship where I didn't need to beat myself up too badly with the drugs and alcohol.
Luckily, I don't think -- Yeah, there will probably be people that will argue with me, but I don't think that I've been the addictive personality that would have to drink all the time or between shows or anything like that.
It was just something that I did along the way, and when it came time to stop, I could stop.
And the same with cocaine.
I figured out right away in the '80s that cocaine was really not my drug.
It was -- It started off as seeming like it could be, but not really.
Not for me.
>> Later in life, when you were going through your second divorce, you also write about how you were prescribed anti-anxiety medications and developed an addiction on them.
And I wonder, why was it important for you to share that struggle in the book?
>> Well, benzodiazepines are a very popular drug.
They call it anti-anxiety, but people use it for all kinds of reasons.
And people use it for sleep.
People use it for any anxious feelings they're having around whether it's family or the marriage or whatever.
For me, it started during the divorce because I needed to keep it together.
I had two little ones that I got my turn to be with and I wanted to make sure that I was present for them.
It's a very, very difficult drug to get off of once you start.
And many doctors will say, "Be careful."
But they don't really say, "Yeah, this will get you addicted in a week."
So it's a very dangerous drug.
And I felt that maybe if I talked about it and talked honestly about my experience, other people who read the book may go, "Oh, I get it.
This is what I'm feeling.
This is what I'm dealing with."
Because it makes you different.
It makes you, in some ways, less emotionally responsive.
And so I think it's basically trying to say, "Be careful with this stuff."
>> In 1985, Michael Jackson asked you to contribute to his "We Are the World" recording to raise awareness of famine in Africa.
>> Alright, let me hear it.
>> ♪ We are the world ♪ >> ♪ We are the world ♪ >> ♪ We are the children ♪ >> And we have all seen these pictures of the legends that joined that performance -- Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan.
The list goes on.
Take us into that room and that night that you recorded.
>> Well, you know, Michael had called me and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it.
and, of course, I immediately did.
But I had no idea what scale it was going to be on.
So to walk into A&M recording studios that night and start to see all these familiar faces... >> ♪ We are the world ♪ >> There were so many talented singers in the room.
>> ♪ We are the ones who make a brighter day ♪ ♪ So let's start giving ♪ And I'm thinking, "Okay, how do I want to represent myself?
I have like 5 seconds to hold my own in august company."
And, so, I decided, "Don't try too hard, just sing whatever comes out.
Sing what you're feeling and just be you."
And so that's what I did.
>> Music has evolved a lot since your career began, and when you once used the F-word in one of your songs, your fans were so surprised to hear you curse that they actually laughed.
But mainstream music has become increasingly raw, and by 2017, more than 2/3 of the Billboard 100 number-1 songs featured explicit lyrics.
I want to show you a clip which aired in 1988 with Tipper Gore, the wife of then-senator Al Gore, as she was being interviewed by William F. Buckley Jr., the original host of this program, about exactly that issue.
Take a look at this.
We're going to play it for you.
>> I became aware of this because of my children, because I consider myself to be a rock-'n'-roll-literate person.
I grew up on it.
I love it.
I am concerned about peddling images of extreme violence to kids without their parents' awareness, without a general discussion.
We're talking about the town common here, so to speak, and what is healthy in our culture and what isn't.
>> You know, Tipper Gore was widely ridiculed, but, ultimately, she was successful in getting music with explicit lyrics labeled so that parents could at least make a choice about what they wanted to expose their children to.
I wonder, do you think that some artists have gone too far with explicit content or do you think that this is an evolving part of the art form?
>> I think it's an evolving part of the consciousness of the human beings, that Lenny Bruce said there are no such thing as dirty words, only dirty minds.
So, I get that level of censorship where it's like, "This contains explicit lyrics."
That's cool, because then if the parents want to monitor that aspect of what their kids hear or see, great.
That's their right.
But I also like the idea that words lose their sting if we allow them to.
But I think, in time, depending on the usage and the society that the word is used in, those words can be just another adjective or whatever is appropriate.
>> The Internet and the digital age have reshaped how music is shared, and it's opened the door to performers who may not have broken through before.
Record labels have lost some of their clout.
How does the music industry today compare to when you were coming up through it?
>> Well, I'm more focused on the differences in how the music is made, you know, that technology has really stepped in and sort of usurped the creation of music.
But I think that all comes in waves.
Back when I started, you had to find a band and rehearse with the band and then take the band in the studio, and you'd all record at the same time.
That almost never happens anymore.
>> Are you saying new music is less creative?
I'm saying that new music is made in a different way, where it might be made by the producer more than the artist and that -- >> So the creativity has shifted.
>> The creativity has shifted, I think.
It's really a producer's modality now, as far as I can see, unless you have an extremely creative artist in the -- you know, in the trenches with the producers.
>> Are there any younger musicians that you'd like to perform with?
>> Yeah, we've been -- I've been looking at that now, because I feel like I'm -- Now, with the advent of the book and with "Danger Zone" coming back, I feel like I'm at the edge of wanting to maybe get a little busy with the writing again and see where that takes me.
>> Who are they?
Who do you admire?
>> My 29-year-old is a big fan of hip-hop and neo soul, and so he's turned me on to a number of different things.
Tom Misch is an artist that I like a lot.
He's an English sort of jazz, R&B singer-songwriter, and I like what he's doing.
I really like what Elton John did with Dua Lipa.
I have a feeling that it was, again, a producer's concept and a producer's medium to put those songs together and then to mix her voice in with his.
So there's an area there where an '80s kind of melodic approach can meet a modern technology approach.
>> What advice would Kenny Loggins give an aspiring singer-songwriter today?
>> There are a lot of them out there, and I like to do mentoring.
The thing that I try to teach my children is to follow the fun.
I think if you artistically go where the thing that is inspiring for you, if you go there, if you find the fun in that, if you find the joy in that, then follow that.
>> That takes you into interesting places.
That's why my music became so eclectic, because each time I would make a particular style -- Like, the Loggins and Messina thing was sort of folky, country-rock thing, and then, once I came out of that, I started writing with keyboard guys because I was more attracted into an R&B kind of direction.
And I wanted to see what would happen if I went there.
And so over the years, my music kind of followed its own path.
It made it difficult for my record company to figure out how to market me.
But in the long run, I'm still here.
>> You know, you mentioned how your music evolved.
And there's a newly formed category of music that has exposed some of your catalog to a new generation.
That's yacht rock, this genre that refers to soft rock that dominated FM radio in the late '70s and the '80s.
And the 1973 Loggins and Messina album "Full Sail" may have been the origin.
You know, what do you make of this yacht-rock phenomenon?
>> You know, it doesn't bother me at all.
I know some artists of the same era who are bugged by it, but for me, it's like taking a whole section of the rock-'n'-roll period that I was working in, and by naming it, people then can discover it.
And so, to me, it's just a name.
Of course, the idea of, you know, playing your music on your yacht is slightly absurd, but it works.
You know, it gives somebody a handle they can hold on to and say, "I like that genre.
Let's see what else is there."
And there really is a lot.
I was at the XM Studios talking about yacht rock and trying to do a yacht-rock radio show for them.
And in the process, I said, "You know, you guys are leaving out a lot of music that was the sources of this, the things that really generated it and then things that came after it."
There's a lot more music to it than was defined by the originators of that term.
>> What were the predecessors of yacht rock, in your view?
>> For starters, I think that the whole yacht-rock category is too white.
We were really very much inspired by the R&B of that era.
And if you listen to Chaka Khan and Chaka and Rufus, her band, you can hear those grooves starting.
And then we were all kind of directly influenced by the beginnings of what was -- would be called smooth jazz.
And there's tons of, you know, Grover Washington and people like that that were laying things down in those days that we were then influenced by those grooves and bringing those styles and grooves to the music we were making.
>> Your story is a -- it's an American story.
You know, you came of age during a time of intense political tumult in this country with the Vietnam War and race riots.
Today, America is torn apart again.
You referenced this earlier.
Do you believe popular music has a role to play in healing political divisions?
I think it's an interesting idea.
Music has always had something to do with expressing social unrest and expressing sometimes answers to that.
You can hear it clearly in hip-hop music, you know, about the social ramifications of what's been going on in this country for quite a while.
And different styles of music seem kindred with different political philosophies.
But it'll be interesting to see if the music is then used somehow by somebody to heal and to bring people together instead of underline the divisions.
But I've always been a big one on, you know, telling the truth with art.
So, art is not necessarily -- Its purpose is not necessarily to do any one thing except to tell the truth.
And the division in our country is a glaring truth.
What can be done about it, I think, is going to require a different level of consciousness.
>> You know, days after your 50th birthday, you got word that your longtime record company was dropping you.
And you wrote in your memoir, "At 50, I was just old.
At 60, I was somehow cool.
By 70, I was an icon."
After you turned 70, you said that you realized you needed to redefine success.
So I wonder, how did you define success in your younger years and how do you define it now?
>> Well, that's the thing.
You know, if I'm gonna go back into writing and recording, it better not be too attached to how it does in the marketplace.
For me now, success is getting together with a friend and writing a song that I feel great about that has something to do with who I am at this stage in my life, ideally.
The expression of my creativity is still there.
Each time I sit down with other writers, I go, "Oh, wow.
Here's what I would do, and this is how I would take that."
And that's the fun of it.
That's like painting a picture or something.
It's just -- That self-expression is part of it.
So, for me, to answer your question, the result of the creativity is what success is for me.
It's just being a part of that self-expression.
>> Kenny Loggins, thank you for your music through the years, the joy and the fun it's brought us all, and thank you for joining me here on "Firing Line."
>> Thank you.
>> "Firing Line with Margaret Hoover" is made possible in part by... and by... Corporate funding is provided by... >> You're watching PBS.