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January 30, 2004 - Image 41

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-01-30

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By The Original and Only

Island, started playing piano when he
was 5 years old. He attended a high
school that allowed him to choose his
studies, and he began writing songs
and exploring foreign films.
After enrolling at Carnegie-Mellon
University in Pittsburgh, Gordon intensi-
fied his interest in piano and acting, later
deciding to move to New York City to
advance his professional opportunities.
"By the time I came to New York, I
started to figure out who I was,"
explains Gordon, who earned a living
by providing piano accompaniment
for various signers. "I didn't want to
act, but it entered into my creating
works for musical theater."
As Gordon's sophisticated music
gained attention, he got assistance
with his career from icons in the
entertainment business. Vocalist
Theresa McCarthy introduced his
work to people she knew, and Mary
Rodgers, daughter of Broadway com-
poser Richard Rodgers, helped him get
his first recording contract.
Gordon's efforts brought many hon-
ors, such as the 2003 Carnegie-Mellon
University Alumni Award, the 1991
Stephen Sondheim Award and multi-
ple tributes from the American Society
of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
While opportunities seem to be
soaring right now, Gordon has gone --
through many difficult times, some
chronicled in the book Home Fires
(Random House) by Donald Katz, a
longtime friend of the composer.
Gordon, taunted as a youngster by
peers who did not understand his
introspection, started taking drugs and
alcohol when he was 11. The substance
problems continued until 14 years ago,
when he committed himself to the
tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Gordon's song "We Will Always
Walk Together" was written for a for-
mer lover, who died of AIDS. Gordon
since has found fulfillment in a new
relationship with a travel writer.
"Looking back, I consider my first
love to be poetry," says Gordon, who
had a bar mitzvah, defines himself as
Jewish but is not observant.
"Poetry made me feel at home, a
place where I could find order and
myself. I've always looked to poetry to
feel better. Setting poems to music
helps me work out any personal prob-
lems. I need poetry." ❑

Ricky Ian Gordon performs 8
p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 6-
7, at Kerrytown Concert House,
415 N. Fourth Street, in Ann
Arbor. $15-$30. (734) 769-2999.

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