A tribute concert at the Regent Theatre, celebrated the life and music of the Mighty Sam McCain. It brought musicians from different cities and countries together for a man who was a special friend to many and a special musical artist.
Net proceeds from the event will benefit homeless veterans and provide housing and services. Homelessness was a very special cause to McCain. John McGah, who produced the show, is a senior associate at the National Center on Family Homelessness in Waltham. He met the Mighty Sam McCain when he was producing a music CD on homelessness. At the time McGah was working with Appleseed Recordings who brought together artists that had experienced homelessness with celebrity musicians. McCain, fell into both categories.
“On my first call with McCain, said McGah, I saw that he was immediately passionate about this project of putting musicians together. He felt we were all in one house. He also got the point of the CD project because homelessness is about disconnection, and music is about connection.”
McGah went on to quote Mighty Sam who said, “We’re all on this earth together.” Then McCain laughed a deep, genuine mighty laugh (that McGah later came to know), and said “We’re all in one house!” More laughter. “We’re all in one room!”
He later learned that Mighty Sam had been homeless as a boy, and as an adult. McCain sent McGah some demos of song ideas for the CD project. He’d been going through them and liking them but nothing jumped out. Then one day driving to the wake of a dear family friend (a few yards from the Regent Theatre), and feeling very emotional, he put in Sam’s demo. The song, “Show Me The Way” came on. McGah was so moved and realized that this was the special song he had been searching for.
The music was written by (Donn) Scott Shetler, McCain’s friend and saxophonist. McCain put words to it, based on when he was homeless, eating out of a garbage can, and stopping to reflect on his situation he said to God, if you see me out of this situation, I will never stop praising your name and speaking out for homeless people.
“We sent the song to Jon Bon Jovi, who loved it (himself a passionate advocate for homeless people),” said McGah. “Mighty Sam and Bon Jovi recorded an amazing vocal duet, with the Mighty Sam McClain Band providing the music. It’s the powerhouse track of the CD, which was called Give Us Your Poor. Among the many artists (including Springsteen, Jewel, Bonnie Raitt, Pete Seeger, Natalie Merchant, Mario Frangoulis, Buffalo Tom, etc.) McCain was the only one appearing on 2 tracks.”
McGah continued, “But, why this concert at the Regent is so special for me? I’ve been in an amateur band, the Wait, for 20 years with my best friends. In 2010, we had a Christmas show to benefit homelessness with comedian Jimmy Tingle and Mighty Sam McClain. Singing with my best friends, to an audience of friends and family, in a theatre I loved and grew up down the street from, and sharing vocals with the Mighty Sam McClain on “Merry Christmas, Baby” is one of the musical highlights of my life. I felt like an alter boy serving mass with the Pope, and he was so welcoming, supportive and generous. A Mighty Heart!
After some of these projects slowed down and time would pass, I’d occasionally get a call out of the blue, “He John how are you brother, I’m thinking of you and hope you are doing well.” It meant the world to me and was very indicative of his connection to people, loyalty to friends, and his capacity to love. Or he’d make sure we got together for lunch.
There have been live shows in support of this project in Boston, New York, New Orleans, Washington D.C., and now in Arlington. Before McCain’s passing, he helped McGah at every turn with this project.
Here are some photos from the event at the Regent Theatre.