Tony Jazz makes music for Barack Obama
French musician at work on the US president’s campaign
Just how did an unknown French musician named Tony Jazz become a potential songwriter for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign? It’s the kind of success story that could only happen in America, but it all started in Bordeaux.
Up until 2008, Tony Jazz was a producer working with artists from the Bordeaux region and a few Canadians. Then the last American presidential campaign sparked off his imagination and he wrote a piece of music praising the country’s first black president. “I thought Barack Hussein had no chance, it was a no-hoper. There hadn’t been a black man so popular since Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. It made me want to do something, but I wasn’t sure what. His election in November 2008 brought tears to my eyes. I listened to his speech and decided to set parts of it to music and the result was Change Has Come”.
Tony perfected the song and then put together an amateur video clip with the On Air Agency, a sound design company that he’d recently created with Mathieu Billon. Since the word everyone was putting into their Internet search engines was “Obama”, the video got noticed. Tony met some young Democrat party members who told him how much they liked the piece, and the buzz surrounding Change has Come filtered through to the White House, culminating with Tony meeting Charles Rifkin, the US ambassador to France.
Not long after, Barack Obama’s team contacted him. “I knew they were starting to get things together for the next campaign. I told them that the first time I’d done a song after the election, but this time I’d rather do one before and give it to them. It would be theirs to do as they liked, and if they chose to use it then I’d be pleased. If they found an occasion to give it to the president himself, it would be the gift of a lifetime. That was before summer 2011.”
Things started speeding up in 2012: Tony Jazz finalised a first version of what may well become the official tune of the campaign to get Barack Hussein Obama re-elected. Some press articles have announced that the track will be called What More, but nothing has been decided yet: “It’s one of those media simplifications. When I was asked what the track would be like, I said it would be a mix between contemporary hip hop and classic soul, something like Al Green. I could have said Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder, it was just to give an idea. But because there’s an Al Green track called What More Do You Want From Me… At the moment we’re still choosing between several versions, one in which Americans are describing the mandate, and another with highpoints from Obama speeches. We’re testing out several different options, we know that there’s a lot at stake so we want to get it right.”
Does that mean Tony Jazz is outdoing Will.I.Am? "Not at all! In any case, Obama’s official composer is John Williams. Will.I.Am does the same thing as I do on a voluntary basis. In any case, Obama and the Democrats will be the first to hear the track and no one will get a listen before it’s been approved. Out of respect. In any case, like every musician, I rarely show my work before it’s finished!"