|Ben Babylon pens musical tribute
Thursday, June 10 2010
When the 52-year-old Guy Babylon of Agoura died last September of a heart attack, Elton John proclaimed him “one of the most brilliant musicians I ever knew, a true genius.”
Guy had been Elton's keyboardist and arranger for 21 years, performing on such albums as “Sleeping With the Past,” “The Lion King,” “Made in England, “Peachtree Road,” and “The Captain and the Kid,” as well as Elton's Broadway musicals “Billy Elliot,” “Vampire Lestat” and “Aida,” for which Guy won a Grammy Award for producing Best Musical Show Album of 2000.
Now, Babylon's 12-year-old son, Ben Babylon, is following in his father's footsteps under the tutelage of Elton John himself. Already an accomplished pianist and a member of the A Jazz Band at Lindero Middle School, the younger Babylon composed a tribute song to his father titled “Goodbye Superman,” which he’s performed at various venues, including the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks and the House of Blues in Hollywood for the Shredfest cancer fundraiser.
On July 8, 2010 Ben will perform his song again at Yoshi’s in Oakland with jazz artist Kathryn Keats and her band. He recently played “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” at The Canyon club in Agoura Hills. Inspired by the Elton’s classics “Funeral for a Friend” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” Ben Babylon's “Superman” features a somber and stirring musical introduction that beautifully conveys the songwriter's sense of loss.
The chords are complex, and Babylon pounds them on his keyboard with an intensity learned from watching his father and Elton John perform together, beginning when he was 3 years old. “There are two versions of the song, and each one has a different feeling,” says Ben. “The piano and vocal version means that I am sad that my dad has passed away. The orchestrated version is more powerful. It means I am mad that he is not here anymore. I really did think of my dad as a hero. I still do.”
Ben Babylon wrote “Goodbye Superman” within three days of his father's untimely death, performing it for the first time at the memorial service. His mother, Kathy Brown Babylon, initially thought that her son had composed an instrumental piece, and was surprised and deeply moved when the boy began singing. “For one thing, I was amazed that he could perform at all, given the circumstance, and then when he started singing, I just could not believe the maturity of those lyrics,” Kathy Bayblon said. “He sang everything we were all feeling. When he finished, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.”
Ben Babylon recorded two versions of his song, each available on iTunes and other MP3 stores. One is a piano-only version and the other is fully orchestrated with all instruments played by Ben, who also does the vocals. Assisting him in the recording were Jesse Johnstone and Grammy award-winning engineer and producer Greg Penny, who also worked with Guy Babylon when he recorded and produced Elton John's album, “Made in England.”
A friend to the Babylon family for many years, Elton has remained close to Kathy and her three children since Guy’s death. He has given musical advice to Ben, going so far as to invite him to hang out at the recording studio while Elton was working on his latest album with Leon Russell. According to Kathy Babylon, Elton told Leon Russell, “You better watch out for this kid. He can really play.”
Ben and his fellow players from the Agoura Hills music school Rock Nation will be performing “Goodbye Superman” June 18, 2010 at Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks. More information about the music of Ben Babylon and Kathy Babylon is available at www.BabylonMusic.biz. Ben Babylon performances can also be seen on YouTube.
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