In mid-May 2020, Berklee Popular Music Institute (BPMI) founder and director Jeff Dorenfeld received a message from Robert Dippold, partner and president of digital strategy at Primary Wave Music, regarding an idea for an innovative project in which BPMI students would work with Primary Wave to create covers of some of their iconic copyrights and have the opportunity to discuss the original song and new creative processes with the original songwriters themselves.
Watch the video for Jobi Riccio's cover of Free's 'All Right Now,' produced and arranged by Riccio and Jesse Timm.
With all of BPMI's scheduled festivals canceled due to COVID-19, this opportunity could not have come at a better time. Throughout the remote summer semester, students created modern interpretations and videos of some of Primary Wave's most iconic hits, including "All Right Now" (Free), "Why Can't We Be Friends" (WAR), "Three Little Birds" (Bob Marley), and "This Christmas" (Donny Hathaway).
These videos have cumulatively garnered over one million views. We are looking forward to creating more music and videos in 2021.
BPMI students met frequently with Dippold and his team at Primary Wave to discuss ideas, challenges, and feedback on their collaborative efforts to reimagine some of Primary Wave's iconic hits. Paul Rodgers of Free and Lonnie Jordan and Jerry Goldstein of WAR visited class to discuss their writing processes and the significance of their songs "All Right Now" and "Why Can't We Be Friends?," respectively. The videos and recordings for the class were entirely produced by BPMI students, often over Zoom and iPhone technology.
Watch Zabrina Hay featuring BADGÜD cover WAR's 'Why Can't We Be Friends?,' produced and arranged by Justin Pirocchi.
“While we were unable to go to music festivals as a class this year, I am proud of the work our students have produced in collaboration with Primary Wave’s roster of artists, producers, and songwriters, all coordinated during a remote summer semester,” said Dorenfeld.
Students gained experience in project management; A&R; recording and producing both audio and video; working with artists, writers, engineers, and executives; and more, under the guidance of Morgan Milardo. Specifically, students:
- scouted and secured talent including instrumentalists, vocalists, rappers, producers, arrangers, audio engineers, and video producers;
- managed technical specs including all film and audio recording details;
- provided creative direction on both music and video;
- managed all outreach and communication with personnel throughout the duration of the project;
- scheduled meetings across varying time zones around the globe;
- facilitated all contracts, paperwork, and credits; and
- incorporated feedback from Primary Wave executives and the original songwriters in project revisions.
"With all of the students and our artists at home, I thought this could be a unique education experience. Our songwriters met the students on Zoom and discussed the music business and creative process with them. This collaboration has created a one-of-a-kind experience for the students and brought our experts beyond the studio and into the classroom for an incredible summer.”—Robert Dippold, Partner and President of Digital Strategy, Primary Wave Music
Watch Funder cover Donny Hathaway's 'This Christmas.'
“The best parts of this experience for me were interacting with the students on Zoom and learning from them about this new era. And while we are in a new era, they still bridged the gap between what the song was written for back then and how it still applies today.”—Lonnie Jordan, Keyboards and Vocals, WAR
“I was hoping that the Berklee students would take the song and adapt it for today, and that is exactly what they achieved—and they did it very well."—Jerry Goldstein, Original Producer and Songwriter, "Why Can't We Be Friends?," WAR
Watch EduArdo Omondi and Karla Rivera Lozada cover Bob Marley's 'Three Little Birds,' with a special message from the Berklee Black Student Union.
“Wow...Brilliant rendition. The mark of a good song is when it is on rewind in your mind, and Jobi and Jesse’s version of 'All Right Now' does that! After 50 years, so many awards, accolades, and the millions of airplays that 'All Right Now' has had, you have done the song more than justice. You have breathed new life into it. Amazing. Thank you.”—Paul Rodgers, Original Songwriter and Vocalist, "All Right Now," Free
"Getting to work with Berklee students and alumni was an absolute pleasure, and having oversight from legends like Lonnie Jordan and Jerry Goldstein is an invaluable experience. Producing and arranging a reimagined version of an immortal track with timeless themes like 'Why Can't We Be Friends?' was a huge honor for me."—Justin Pirocchi, Producer and Arranger, "Why Can't We Be Friends?," Zabrina Hay Featuring BADGÜD
"Personally, I’ve grown exponentially as a student and professional, having led and coordinated all facets of the production of 'Why Can’t We Be Friends?,' together with BPMI’s brilliant student team, and now my friends for life! This hands-on experience allowed me to really understand the nuts and bolts of the music industry, and I am very grateful for it."—Marcella Nahas, BPMI Class of 2020
“Even though this live performance class was different from what a normal year would be due to the pandemic, my classmates and I got the opportunity to work with artists to make new, reimagined versions of iconic songs for Primary Wave Music. This project gave us the opportunity to develop skills in project management, supervision, and creative direction, thanks to BPMI.”—James McKernan, BPMI Class of 2020