This weekend, violinist and vocalist Lili Haydn will help close out 2008’s West Beach Music Festival. There, she will foot and stomp the bill as a featured guest performer and close friend of George Clinton, the ingenious helmsman of Parliament-Funkadelic.
Who would have imagined such a pairing? Haydn is a sensitive and insightful artist. She entices her audiences with a naturally masterful blend of talent, technique, and soul-purging tenacity.
Quite conversely, Clinton is a rhythmic carnivore with funk nuts enough to pummel even the formidable Little Richard. And it’s exactly that blend of soul, funk, and chaos that have come to define both his personality and his legend.
As legend would have it, Clinton refers affectionately to Haydn as the “Jimi Hendrix of the violin.” And it is not simply a concession to her gifts as an artist; it also serves as an acknowledgement of the great volumes of despair that have become Haydn’s muses.
Presently, Haydn is beset by the demons of bronchitis and a faulty air conditioning system in her home. It would appear the central ventilation units have been expelling tiny shards of fiberglass, which have begun to attack her lung and throat tissue. However, the assault on her vocal chops she takes in stride.
“I guess if you are paying attention, and no matter how successful you may be : life has a way of humbling you,” she pondered. “It’s just life. And even if you haven’t personally really been dealt hard blows, there are a lot of people who are going through some really intense things. And by being sensitive and aware of this keeps you human.”
It’s a life lesson Haydn undoubtedly learned from her mother, celebrated comedienne and performance artist Lotus Weinstock. Sadly, Weinstock passed away following a struggle with brain cancer in 1997, leaving only child Lili to pick up the pieces. And it is undoubtedly their relationship that has made Haydn the compassionate-and giving-person she is today. “My mother always taught me to love my neighbors as myself,” she explained. “But with the caveat of, ‘If you don’t love yourself, your neighbor is in trouble.'”
This past April Fools’ Day, in celebration of the release of her fourth studio album, Place Between Places (her first outing for the Nettwerk label), Haydn threw a soiree at Hollywood’s Roxy Theatre.
There, at the epicenter of Sunset Boulevard, armed with nothing more than her gumption and her violin, Haydn did a very human thing; she decided to turn her well-deserved spotlight on Amnesty International. She set up the charity event herself, and even invited her friend Bill Maher, “who was a big fan and a great friend of my mother’s,” to be master of ceremonies.
“Every time I go to the Amnesty International Web site, I cry,” Haydn explained. “Amnesty is doing the work that I would like to do. Don’t get me wrong; a life of service is not without ego. It is just that being a part of something bigger than yourself feels good :”
Explaining her journey, which has taken her from success as a child television star to her current stint in the frays of pop music, Haydn remains surprisingly generous and enthusiastic about the future. “Having been through all I have been through, since I started out as a child with such exuberance. : It still all comes down to inspiration and relating to your humanity and to the humanity of other people.”
If you miss this weekend’s show, it goes without saying that you will be missing the sounds of a truly selfless artist. Haydn’s show is distinctive in its compassion and humanitarian pulsing, and marked by her gypsy-esque convulsions and unrelenting violin work.
As Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once wrote, “Well behaved women rarely make history.” It is a pity she never knew Lili Haydn.
George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic will close out this weekend’s three-day-long West Beach Music Festival on Sunday, September 14. Additional headliners include Natasha Bedingfield, Jason Mraz, and Ziggy Marley. Visit westbeachfestival.com for a complete lineup and ticket info.