Miley Cyrus and I have two important things in common.
1. We have the same birthday.
2. We both really like my brother.
My brother is a musician and met Miley when he got a job working as a music trainer for an actor on a film she was filming in Detroit in the summer of 2010. John’s job started out in an empty storefront in a strip mall off set, working with an actor named Douglas Booth, teaching him the basics of playing guitar. John is a straightforward and hard-working guy, and pretty soon he was tapped to buy instruments and other props for setting up the “band” in the movie. Not long after that he was on set and found himself sitting next to Miley, even though he didn’t really know who she was. (He doesn’t have a TV and I don’t think he’s ever read a copy of Star or US magazine.) They got to talking, she discovered that he is a musician and he figured out who she was. They became friends and that friendship has endured.
I’m not even going to pretend that I know Miley. I don’t. But I know this – my brother chooses his friends wisely. And for their character. Without exception his friends are kind, funny, intelligent, fun to be with and many of them have become like family for all of us, not just to him. Before John met her I really had no opinion of Miley. My girls weren’t old enough to be Hannah Montana fans so she was just another person in the pop culture ether. Turns out, she’s just like everyone else aside from the fact that she has hundreds of millions of dollars and her face is on a garbage can in my daughters’ bedroom. She’s been at a crossroads in her life. Her contract with Disney’s music company has ended and she has been uncertain how to take the next step, or whether she wants to take another step in music at all.
That’s when the opportunity came to do a song on the Bob Dylan tribute album being put together as a fundraiser for Amnesty International. Artists like Adele, Pete Townsend, Maroon 5, Sting, Elvis Costello and Johnny Cash signed on, each doing a cover of a Bob Dylan song, including some that were previously unreleased. When the chance to do a cover for this album came her way she took it and what’s more did it as a collaboration with none other than my brother, Johnzo West.
The song is incredible. Moody, moving, simple and shows off a voice I honestly never know Miley had. It’s the voice of an adult and – I think – a bridge to the next phase of Miley’s career and probably a whole new legion of fans. Like I said, I don’t know Miley but I am so proud of her. And so happy that she is getting good reviews of this eye-openng performance. I find that I have maternal feelings for her; I want her to be happy and successful, and to find her way in the world, much the same way I want those things for my own three daughters.
But enough about her. I’m so proud of John that I could burst into flames! Because he’s a big part of what made this song happen and you can see him in the video for their Dylan cover, “You’re Gonna Make me Lonesome When You’re Gone.” And when I say you can see him, I mean YOU CAN SEE HIM! On camera! A lot! You can hear him singing, see him play guitar and he looks cooler than all get out!!! This video is all over the web, it’s been on MTV and several other channels and today I saw the album right there at the counter in Starbucks. Starbucks! Like a dork, I told the cashier how my brother is on this album and she should go home and google Johnzo West to see the video. (She very kindly got excited, probably more because I was so spastically excited than that she actually cared.) My phone has been burning up with a family-wide text conversation about video sightings, how cool we all think it is and what’s going to happen next.
Miley, I doubt you’ll be reading this, but if you do I want you to know I’m proud of you for taking the next step. I’m very interested to see what comes next. And that guy in the chair next to you with the guitar? He’s the best.