One morning last fall, musician Dave Stewart woke up with an idea for a new song. But unlike any of his past material, the tune was about inspiring those struggling with cancer.
“I just had this ‘stand up, stand up, stand up to cancer’ thing going on in my head,” Stewart says of the lyrics, which became the chorus to the uplifting track “Stand Up to Cancer.”
Just days before, Stewart had a conversation with film composer Hans Zimmer, who encouraged him to speak with Stand Up to Cancer co-founder Laura Ziskin about getting involved with the charitable organization. So while waiting for his kids to get ready for school, Stewart wrote a sketch of the track with an acoustic guitar and music software on his laptop.
The song has since become the anthem of Stand Up to Cancer. Now, a video — directed by Jesse Dylan and featuring Joss Stone, violinist Ann Marie Calhoun and celebrities like Rob Lowe and Renée Zellweger — has been uploaded to YouTube as part of the “Up2 You” video challenge. The contest, which ends July 30, invites YouTube users to upload their own renditions of the song. In late August, a voting committee (including Stewart, Ziskin and Dylan) will award a grand-prize winner a Takamine guitar valued at nearly $4,000.
On Sept. 10, Stand Up to Cancer will host a telethon from which all proceeds will go directly to cancer research. The fund-raiser will be broadcast simultaneously for one hour on networks including ABC, CBS and NBC.
Aside from his charitable work, Stewart says he’s been writing songs with Stevie Nicks for her forthcoming solo album. “We’re going to start recording the album … in three weeks time,” he says. And in mid-July, he’ll travel to Blackbird Studio in Nashville to record a new album of his own.
“I haven’t made a solo album for 13 or 14 years,” he says, noting that his new music is reminiscent of Neil Young’s 1972 album, “Harvest.” The new songs “sound like me with a very low voice,” Stewart says, adding that some tracks are “acousticy” and “kind of empty but atmospheric.”
Stewart also points out that the solo album will be released only on vinyl. “But on the cover somewhere on the vinyl, there’s a CD sunk in as part of the artwork,” he says. “So if it was that Van Gogh painting, it would be the sun.”