Categories: Arts, Psalms
Bob Moline, Songwriter/Composer/Singer, has graced the world with his music. In our interview, he talked about his work with Disney; the idea that artists have to think beyond themselves; the importance of sharing our work, believing in ourselves, and persisting; and what he's doing with the Psalms and musicals he's been writing.
Your music has been central to Disney. How did you end up working there?
I was working at the Newporter Inn in Newport Beach, CA, not far from Balboa Island. One night, Disneyland advertising took over the room for a private party. They liked my music and asked me to write a jingle for Disneyland. They would film people in the park having fun, going on rides, and my jingle underscored it. They accepted my jingle (and most of the later ones) without any changes. It was titled, "It could only happen at Disneyland," and was used on radio and TV. After it ran for 13 weeks, I received a CLIO (Advertising) Award for it. Then, when Epcot center was being built, they asked me to write theme songs for the center. One of the songs I wrote was for the "American Adventure," a very popular attraction. It was later borrowed and used by Disneyland in the attraction called "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln." The song was used for 10 years. They're even using my songs for the new Tokyo Disney Theme Park. In 1988, I did a music campaign for Delta Airlines and Disney to present the history of aviation. It was a lot of fun to work on this project titled, "Dreamflight." Delta really appreciated it.
How do you come up with ideas?
I've been a songwriter for many years, and I've never suffered from writer's block. I just hold the yellow tablet up with a pen in hand and let the ideas flow. Walt Disney Imagineering would give me a storyboard and/or a campaign idea. I'd think about that, look at the pictures, and just come up with the words and music. In the work, I really try to express what Disneyland executives and advertising want as well as what I think will spark interest and, hopefully, reach the hearts of people to bring them to the "happiest place on earth."
When did you start writing music?
I started when I was 17. For several years, I thought all the songs I wrote were really good. However, I had to find out that they needed rewrites through years of getting rejection letters from record companies and music publishers.
How did you find the stamina to keep writing even though you were rejected?
Well, I wallpapered my room with the rejection letters. Then I finally got a "yes." Once I got that yes, I recall having had a greater impetus to move forward. After gaining a greater understanding of God, which I'd say was in my early twenties, I turned to the Bible, mostly to the New Testament, whenever I wanted stability. I loved reading about Jesus' healings. The things he said and did are for all times, which of course, included me and everyone.
When did you get your first "yes"?
In the mid '60s. Even though my own songs hadn't been produced, I stayed in the music industry. I went to Las Vegas when I was about 25 and auditioned for a part in a musical that was supposed to be Broadway bound. I had the opportunity to work with some old-time movie stars, who were brought out of retirement. The gal who played the lead eventually ended up on "HeeHaw." I made it into the Vegas show, understudied, and ended up with a small part. But the musical never went to Broadway. So, I went across the street to the Stardust Hotel and performed there for two years in "The Lido Show," which started in Paris before coming to Las Vegas. It featured different attractions -- animals, big production numbers, all sorts of stuff. I was also playing guitar and singing, and learned a lot about writing. I would look at the popular music and learn more about what made a hit song. All the formulas and structures were there. One day, I met someone who liked my work and presented my material to Challenge Records, originally owned by Gene Autry. I got a manager and got some air play, which was encouraging. I ended up coming back to CA and worked for awhile at various venues. I ended up at The Villa Nova, a restaurant in Newport Beach, and soon was hired away to work at the Dry Dock restaurant, where I was spotted by the general manager of The Newporter Hotel, who asked me to work for him in a room called The Cellar. That ended up to be a 13-year stand. I met John Wayne during those years, and he hired me to sing and play at parties in his home. I did most of his parties for the last 10 years of his life. It was fun. I met many interesting people there, among them Prince Albert and his father Prince Rainier, husband to Princess Grace of Monoco. I continued performing through my 20s and 30s at The Newporter prior to a more productive relationship with the Walt Disney Company and others.
What qualities do you have to have to be a songwriter?
I think you need to think beyond yourself most of the time. You have to think about what others may want to hear and not just what pleases you. I think about what would benefit other people.
Were there any pressures that you confronted?
When doing a project, you start thinking about the end result and setting up studio time. The only pressure is the deadline you set for yourself.
Are there any Bible passages or stories that helped you turn challenges into successes?
One of the stories that was very helpful was the story of Moses and the Children of Israel in the wilderness. In our Bible study group at church, we were looking at all the stops they made along the way. In some cases, they were years and years in one spot, looking for the milk and honey. But they never gave up, and that to me was very helpful. I've also always loved Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want…. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (1, 3). Psalm 91 is another favorite: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (1). There are many healing messages in those psalms.
And you have set some psalms to music. I would think that the inspiration you see in the psalms and your musicality are a perfect fit. How did you decide to set them to music?
I started looking at the words, many of which were very inspiring. I decided to set ten of the King James' versions of the psalms to music, which I could do without changing the words. There are some beautiful lyrics in Psalms. In addition to 23 and 91, I love 19: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork" (1); 104: "Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty" (1); 121: "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help" (1). I also enjoy the idea that King David, himself, was a musician. He performed his psalms on a stringed instrument, probably a lute and probably in a minor key, like most of the songs in those days. And the Bible is public domain.
What's the status of the musical on which you're currently working?
I've finished writing the music about the life of Busby Berkeley, a famous Broadway choreographer and director. He was the one who came up with the "top shot." He would get way up on the crane and shoot down on a line of girls dancing or doing synchronized swimming formations. He did all the Esther Williams shows, directed some great numbers for "42nd Street." Warner Bros. gave him free reign to do the "Gold Diggers" movie series. Right now, I'm just keeping in touch with the man who commissioned me to do the music. He's working with a director who is interested in producing it in NY or Vegas. So I'm optimistic that it will get mounted. I met Busby Berkeley's widow when she was 94. I wrote one of the songs in the musical about her and called it "Etta's Waltz." I sang it to her at her bedside with my guitar, and she reached out and touched my hand. It was a very moving moment. Prior to that, I was doing the music for a musical about the Disney brothers, called "Uncle Walt." I'm looking for opportunities to get the musical produced.
What does music do for you?
Whether I'm listening to something I enjoy or writing, I find music uplifting and energizing. It has a healing aspect to it in many ways. I'm full of gratitude that I've been able to write and sing my own songs, and that God has given me that talent.
What would you tell people who are working hard or struggling to succeed in the music industry -- or any creative industry, for that matter.
Believe in themselves! Study -- either by themselves or with a teacher. I learned guitar on my own. I would learn new keys, chords, and formulas each time I played a particular popular song. You don't always have to be formally educated in everything you do. Talent is within an individual, and there's always a way to explore and develop the talent with discipline. I've been able to share what I've learned in music with others, too. I taught for awhile for Classes Unlimited in South Pasadena, where you can go study with experts in their field. Age didn't matter, although most students were still in their 20s, aspiring to become songwriters. I'm still thinking about teaching music, too.
It sounds like it's very important for you to share.
We're given gifts to share. It's important to do things that will touch and help people. And music crosses over all barriers. By doing concerts in other parts of the world, artists have touched the lives of millions and millions of people.
How has your study of the Bible affected your contribution to the music industry?
Well, I believe that the Bible gives us truths that we can rely on, and I believe in applying them to your life. If we really think about what Jesus said, we can "move mountains." Jesus said: "He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father" (John 14:12). Also, he affirms, "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mark 11:24).
Believing in ourselves, which we can do as God's children, is so significant. It's important for each of us to find something within ourselves that we do well, that makes us happy, that glorifies God. We have to realize that we've all been given different gifts, and it's up to us to be stewards of those gifts, and to help mankind. If we keep that in mind, we can help mankind. I always dreamed that I would write inspirational music. I think the work that I did for Epcot was inspiring and uplifting. I've had the opportunity to work on inspiring projects, such as "Golden Dreams" in Disney's "American Adventure," which is about American history.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
For those who are aspiring to any career, it's helpful to realize that if they've already found within themselves the impetus and talent, they need to persist. Persistence and prayerful work will lead them to the right people and places, enabling their talents to blossom and their careers to unfold.