“My wife and I were in our hotel room in Miami where we were attending a music conference when she announced the big news,” explains DARRYL TOOKES, recalling the moment he first realized that he’d soon be a Father for the very first time. “I was really surprised, and after the initial moment of being caught off-guard, I quickly realized that it was time! When this happens, you just get ready. I think I was able to reassure Donna that we would be fine, and that we were going to have a great time being parents. She was a little concerned that we had not planned to start our family yet, but I was happy that the little guy was on his way. I guess Donna wanted to be sure we had the chance to be a young married couple for awhile, and I would say we did.” Tookes, an accomplished pianist, composer, arranger, educator and humanitarian, has an astounding resume that includes performances and recordings with Sting, Paul Simon, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, George Benson, Diana Ross, Leonard Bernstein, Burt Bacharach, Carly Simon, Luther Vandross, Laurie Anderson, Dave Grusin, Patti Austin, Steve Tyrell, Nile Rogers, Lesley Gore, Blondie, Natalie Cole, Todd Rundgren. Now, with Rock Father’s Day 2014 nearly here, he’s taken time to discuss music and Fatherhood as a certified “Rock Father.”
LISTEN: DARRYL TOOKES and JOE BECK – “Daddy’s Always Here”
Name: Darryl Tookes
Offspring: Son, Christian (27), Twin Daughter Ryann (25), Twin Son Channing (25), Daughter Tessa (19)
Musical History: Solo and feature artist, multi-instrumentalist, first artist signed to SBK records.
CURRENT PROJECT: New album with Joe Beck, PRECIOUS CHILD: LOVE SONGS & LULLABIES, available this August.
JAMES (THE ROCK FATHER): Was there ever much concern about balancing your music life with your family life?
DARRYL: It is always a concern when you are person who has been accustomed to having order in your life. My wife is a well-planned lady. I on the other hand am much more impulsive. So, even though it would have been smart to have my professional world in perfect shape, I was so keenly focused on my artistry that the ultimate gift – our baby – would only enhance my resource of creative force. So I never worried about that balance. Of course there were times when I would have liked to be a more stable husband in the financial category, but fortunately for me, my wife never let me look back at other business choices. Besides, being a father is the best! It’s my number 1 priority.
JAMES: What is the connection between your children and your music? Have they had much exposure to it?
DARRYL: I’m very lucky in that my children and I have very good connections. We express our ideas, and for the most part everyone has the chance to process thoughts and share as we do. Doing so, my children all seem to really “get” who their dad is as musical artist. They are of course much smarter than I, and only my experiences are able to allow me to bring (hopefully to their benefit) a uniquely informed view from what I’ve learned through the years. That said, yes! My children are keenly, intrinsically, spiritually, supernaturally connected with my creative output. They are all very fine artists in their own right. I do think they consider their father to be a master at what I do, a hard working person. Christian often speaks to how prolific he thinks his dad is; Ryann – herself a solid pianist – looks at me as a monster musician. She works with my manager, Brian McKenna who represents some very talented young jazz players. So it’s quite a compliment coming from her. I even got to write arrangements for her a cappella groups when she was in high school and college.
JAMES: Did becoming a parent change your creative output at all?
DARRYL: Family is my grounding. I may have my head in the sky, but with feet on the ground (by necessity) that puts my heart right at the center of things. I learn from my children as well. Their musical interests are a part of our dinner table discussions, and I also get to hear their tastes when we are on long car rides. It’s fun. They are my friends at this point. All young adults. All four have different aesthetics. Of course being a father has transformed me for the better. I am certainly a better educator for it. In fact, experience as a parent informs my pedagogical method.
-WHAT FATHERHOOD MEANS-
JAMES: How have you gone about introducing music to your children?
DARRYL: Music is pervasive and ever prevalent in our home. There has never been a day in our family life without it. My maternal grandmother, Benveneta Washington was a Broadway star. In fact she had a leading role in a Pulitzer Prize-winning play called THE GREEN PASTURES. My mom (her daughter), though uninterested in a show business career, had all the gifts. Perfect voice, pianist, etc. She had the voice of a songbird, very interpretive. So the apples have not fallen far from their maternal grandparents’ tree! I sang to the unborn babies while Donna was pregnant, and lo and behold when they were born, they seemed to recognize my voice and the songs. After all, I was so excited, and maybe they had been trying to sleep! Interestingly it was “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star” that I often sang for them in utero, and now after so many years here we are with TTLS as the first track on PRECIOUS CHILD! Joe Beck … I really miss you, brother.
JAMES: What are some favorite artists, or music that you’ve enjoyed as a family?
DARRYL: It’s interesting to hear my kids begin to discover music … particularly Steely Dan, which is a recent fascination of Christian and his closest friends. Of course they always knew Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and James Brown. Christian and I attended Michael Jackson’s funeral together, a poignant moment to share with my eldest – a very talented singer/songwriter himself. I love to hear what Channing is listening to. He has always had very eclectic interests. Advanced. He is a great dancer, very exciting to watch, and a fine artist as well. Some of his works are on display in our home. I even got to sing with Tessa at a school coffee shop performance. She has a really cool sound, very much an artist in her own right. So her tastes are often a reflection of the newest discovery on YouTube or some other medium where I might not have caught on as soon had it not been for having young people in my life. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot to mention the obvious: Though the Tookes children seldom sing together these days, when they do, it’s a beautiful blend.
JAMES: What’s the most “rock and roll” thing you’ve done with your kids?
DARRYL: Donna brought the family to London to hear me perform with Sting at Royal Albert Hall in 2001. That’s pretty high on the list. Some of us have also hung out at other concerts like hearing Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Crosby Stills and Nash at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Another really cool experience (especially for my sons) was sharing an elevator ride with Jennifer Lopez in the hotel where we were staying en route to the Grammys. Yes, the green dress!
JAMES: Throughout this series, I’ve been asking everyone to give me some favorite toys, since we’re knee-deep in toys here at Rock Father HQ. Some of yours?
DARRYL: I really don’t have any special toys anymore. I used to play basketball, so basketball.
I also used to like to windsurf, not much time for it lately. Those were good activities. I do swim nearly everyday. My sons and my daughter Ryann are gamers. Christian is an avid video gamer. Ryann has a few scenes she interacts within the genre. She is the master of the Sims universe. Channing and Christian are big on graphic novels. Christian has always been a player and trader, baseball cards, etc. He’s also really keen on power Monopoly and all that. Tessa is more like me in this way, no real consistent games/toys. I think the boys got it from their mom. I do still love to dance.