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Mike Love and Feeding America Partner to Fight Hunger

The Beach Boys' singer talks about how his new song is raising money for the organization

Mike Love of the Beach Boys sings at a concert

Getty Images/AARP

Wilma: After two and a half months of staying at home / and physical distancing, we’re seeing the country open up in phases. But has left millions of Americans jobless...and many still struggle to feed their families.

Katie Fitzgerald: We're anticipating another 17 million Americans will be experiencing food insecurity as a result of the pandemic and the economic downturn. And it's at numbers that we've not seen in our lifetime, certainly not in the history of food banking in the United States, and sadly, many of those folks are seniors.

Wilma: We’ll talk to the COO of Feeding America about its efforts to feed the nation under pandemic.

Donations are pouring in...some from famous celebrities and recording artists such as the one you’re about to hear...

The Beach Boys: People are wondering how long it will last, as the saying goes, this too shall pass. Well I believe the best is yet to come, so let’s get back to having, fun, fun, in the sun.

Wilma: Some of you might recognize that voice...Today, we’ll hear from a Beach Boy who’s written a new song to inspire good vibrations during these hard times.

Hi, I’m Wilma Consul with An AARP Take on Today.

The Beach Boys are synonymous with California: Fun, Fun, Fun in the Sun. The group dominated the pop charts in the ‘60s with their catchy tunes about surfing, hanging out, and of course, girls.

Right now I’m so excited to introduce a Beach Boys who was also one of the band’s co-founders, Mike Love. He’s written a new song called “This, Too, Shall Pass” with an important message about dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Love is donating all artists’ royalties to Feeding America's COVID-19 Response Fund. The organization helps fight hunger across the nation.

Mike Love: we are so used to going out and performing, The Beach Boys had our biggest year ever lined up this year, and then everything came to a screeching halt. And so we have had plenty of time on our hands. And so I decided, well, why don't I write a song that deals with the things that we're all dealing with, and yet with a positive look at things, because we will get past this and we will have fun, fun, fun in the sun, as you said.

 

Well, people recognize you as the frontman of the group, the lead vocalist. Right? But a lot of people don't know that you're also a lyricist. You wrote songs with Brian Wilson, like Fun, Fun, Fun, California Girls, Good Vibrations. So writing this song is not new to you.

No, and I've always been known for lyrics because I complimented my cousin, Brian, who was really into the chord progressions and the melodies and structuring the harmonies. No one was better at doing harmonies than he. And so while he's working on the music, I'd be working on the lyrics or the concept. Like I came up with an idea back in 1964, I said, "Well, we got to do a song about a girl who borrows her father's car and says she's going to the library but she doesn't. She just goes cruising with her friends." That became Fun, Fun, Fun. And so he did the track and the amazing falsettos sound at the end of the record, and I did all the words. It was a great collaboration. We wrote a lot of songs together that fortunately for us, became big hits, not only in America, but all around the world.

Wilma Consul:

Now, everyone is working from home these days. What was the process like recording this song? If you watch YouTube, there are so many different people involved in this. How did you end up recording this during this pandemic?

Mike Love:

It was completely different than what we would ordinarily do. Ordinarily, we'd get all the drum, bass, and guitar, and the keyboard in the studio together at the same place and the same time and work out the basic track. And then we'd do the vocals, and then we'd do whatever else we do to finish it up. But in this case, we did this song from seven different locations. I called our keyboard player, who lives in Las Vegas, and said, "Tim, helped me out with this. Get the right key and the right tempo for this song." So I recited the song to him and I sang it to him. He got the right key in the piano, and then we sent it onto our musical director, Scott Totten, who lives in Lakeland, Florida, in his home studios set up. He did the basic track, the drum, bass, guitar, and keyboard and then he sent it back to the keyboard player to do a more rock and roll keyboard because he's a guitarist, our musical director.

Mike Love:

Then we sent it to Nashville where two of our guys live. One sings the high part. His name is Brian Eichenberger. He was 18 years with the Four Freshmen, which is a fantastic group. And then our sax player, Randy Leago, did his part. Then we sent the song electronically to my son, Christian, who sang his part. And then I did mine in Lake Tahoe in my home studio. And then we sent all that to John Stamos, who played the drums and volunteered to do the video, which you can see on YouTube. And John did a great job. He really helped us out a lot by putting the video together. It was so different. But it didn't take all that long. It took maybe three or four days to get it all together, including the... You'd have your iPhone, and you take your photograph of you doing your part, and then send that in. So that's how we did it.

Wilma Consul:

Yeah. See what technology can do these days.

Mike Love:

Exactly.

Wilma Consul:

People will see, and you talk about John Stamos. We are talking about the actor, John Stamos, Full House. He's also a fabulous drummer. And he's been playing with The Beach Boys for a while now. How did that friendship come about?

Wilma Consul:

People will see, and you talk about John Stamos. We are talking about the actor, John Stamos, Full House. He's also a fabulous drummer. And he's been playing with The Beach Boys for a while now. How did that friendship come about?

Mike Love:

Well, before he was an actor, he was a drummer in a three-piece band in Southern California. He was Blackie on General Hospital when we first met him in the mid-'80s.

Wilma Consul:

Oh my God, I forgot about that.

Mike Love:

Yeah, I know. Ever since that time, he would come out, when he has the opportunity, when he's not filming a TV show or a movie, or anything like that. When he has time off, he loves to come out for a few days and play with The Beach Boys. And we love to have him. He adds such charisma and he's just a natural-born entertainer. And of course, the audience loves him. And so, yeah, he's been sort of a part of The Beach Boys entourage for many, many years now.

Wilma Consul:

Now, getting back to the song, you chose Feeding America to be the beneficiary of the artists' royalties. What's your relationship with them? Or why did you pick them?

Mike Love:

The reason I picked them is because there's so many people out of work and funds are scarce. And the food banks across America are supported by Feeding America. They must've done a half a billion meals last year. I mean, they do an incredible job and I think there's nothing more vitally important than to make food available to people who are having a rough time making ends meet. So that's what led me to think about Feeding America, a national organization who's done a fantastic job getting food out to people who are in need, whether they be elderly or children going. And some of them live in these remote places, rural places and yet Feeding America has had many hundreds of volunteers who help get food out to people in need. So I think it's a wonderful organization and very necessary.

Wilma Consul:

Before we let you go, just want to know, are you still in touch with the members of The Beach Boys?

Mike Love:

Yes. In fact, I had a conversation with one of the other guys, Alan Jardine, just a week or two ago, because we were talking about putting together a compilation album, like a box set. And so yes, I'm in touch with Alan. And of course, we had two unfortunate situations because in 1983, my cousin Dennis passed away. And then my cousin, Carl, he left us because of lung cancer, which is really horrible. But it's almost 60 years that The Beach Boys have been going. Our first song came out on the radio, it was called Surfing. It came out in the fall of 1961. So anyway, it's been quite a long career and everything. And we got together and did a 50th anniversary thing about eight years ago, so we're due for another get-together I think.

Wilma Consul:

Sure. The Beach Boys is really a big part of American musical history and it's been part of many people's lives, soundtracks for their lives. So this is a real treat to talk to you.

Wilma Consul:

Mike Love’s new song, “This Too Shall Pass,” is streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, and other music sharing platforms. You can also find the music video in our show notes.

We mentioned earlier that royalties from Love’s new song will go to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.

Joining us now is Katie Fitzgerald, its Chief Operating Officer. The group distributes about four-point-three billion meals each year...a figure that has increased since March.

 

Katie Fitzgerald:

we are on track to exceed, for certain, 5 billion meals that we will need to be distributing through the Feeding America Food Bank Network and our partner agency network for the many, many people who were of course, experiencing food insecurity prior to the pandemic. But our best estimate right now is that we're anticipating another 17 million Americans will be experiencing food insecurity as a result of the pandemic and the economic downturn. That comes to a total of 54 million Americans that we are estimating to be food insecure, that's about one in six Americans. And it's at numbers that we've not seen in our lifetime, certainly not in the history of food banking in the United States, and sadly, many of those folks are seniors.

Wilma:

We didn't have much warning about what was going to happen. We didn't know that shut downs will happen for a long time, and stay at home. Your organization, you had to act quickly, what were the main hurdles you had to overcome in feeding this nation in crisis?

Katie Fitzgerald:

Oh, goodness. So many. So exactly to your point, none of us really had warning, right? And not sure that to whatever extent, however long that warning could have been, but we were responding really in real time. And all the food banks across the nation had their existing inventory, so they quickly and immediately were really pouring through that inventory very quickly. At the same time, we had this tightening in the food supply chain. And so, even when we had some resources through charitable giving to purchase food, we were having a hard time purchasing food because there was not... the supply chain was literally that tight. So most of the challenges in our operating model have been around finding and securing food in large, large volumes and getting that food to our food banks. And we are making good gains there, both in terms of the perishable product and the shelf-stable.

Katie Fitzgerald:

The other part of it was the operating model itself on the ground. So, unfortunately food banks across the nation have a lot of experience with natural disasters. If there's a hurricane or a tornado, God forbid, or some other natural disaster that occurs, our regular way of operating is we bring a lot of people and a lot of food to those situations. Well, of course, in this case, we were experiencing this disaster across the country at the same time. And in a pandemic, we're bringing a lot of people to the problem and volunteering to pick up food and sort food and box it and distribute it, was not a great solution, right, because we wanted people to stay healthy. Most of the volunteers, 2 million on average a year in our network, are older and are at particular risk for this virus.

And so, we've seen an almost 70% drop off in volunteers, and we've had to come up with new methods for distributing food that are low contact or no contact. So that's where you see a lot of the drive through distributions that allow a person to open their trunk, have food put into their car, very little interaction between the people who are distributing food and those who are receiving, to try to keep everyone safe. In our warehouses, we would have warehouses that would move to a 24 hour operation so that the order selectors, the people who are pulling food off of the shelves and getting it prepared to go out to communities, could keep more than six feet of distance between themselves by literally spreading out their shifts and not having to work at the same time as each other and therefore being in closer proximity to one another.

So there's been all sorts of innovations going on, third party delivery partnerships with Amazon or Uber Eats or Door Dash, so that we can get food directly to home bound seniors, for whom is not a good idea for them to come out to a big public distribution. So lots and lots of innovation on the ground to try to change our system, to meet the needs of today.

Wilma:

We see a lot of the Hollywood... we talked to Mike Love just before I talked to you, and we see a lot of these Hollywood celebrities doing events, proceeds, going to Feeding America. How is this helping your funds? What percentage of that helps?

Katie Fitzgerald:

Oh, so there's been, as you just indicated, a tremendous outpouring of support for which we are so grateful. And I'm particularly excited to hear about Mike Love, with what he's doing with the Beach Boys, because back here in Oklahoma, where I lived and worked as a CEO of a food bank, the Beach Boys would do an annual benefit for our local food bank. So their commitment to the issue of food insecurity predates this pandemic and it's wonderful to see them continuing to support it. For us, we set up a Feeding America, a COVID-19 response fund, and right at the beginning we had no idea, like everyone else, quite how significant and huge this problem would become, but we knew that every dollar of that fund needed to go out into local communities, to food banks, partner agencies, and people experiencing hunger, and so that's what we've done so far.

Katie Fitzgerald:

So we have deployed over 150 million in just over eight weeks already out of that fund, that we are taking no administrative costs at all from that fund, to Feeding America, but just passing those dollars through. And we're working very hard on the front end initially to meet the immediate needs that food banks had to help them purchase food locally, as well as what we were doing nationally to help them shore up their operating model given the problems that we discussed, and to get the forklifts or additional equipment that they might need, to practice social distancing as well as move a huge amount more food than they've ever had to move before, as quickly as they've had to move it, so that's where that funding is going to. And as we look toward the future, we know now that this will be a sustained response, and so we're working hand-in-hand with our food banks to make sure that the funding that we have, that we deploy as we move forward, is done in a way that allows them to keep their operating models viable as we go into the summer and the fall.

Katie Fitzgerald:

And most models are indicating we'll continue to be dealing with some peaks in this virus and its impact on food insecurity and our operating model. Food banks are worried about December giving, as usually when they raise their most dollars. And people have been tremendously generous right now, and so that's what they're worried about too. Is, what are our needs going to be five months from now? And we want to make sure that we use these dollars wisely with them to get them through the long road that is coming ahead.

Wilma:

So every little thing helps, right?

 Katie Fitzgerald:

You be., Every little thing helps, absolutely.

Wilma:

And so, how can other people help? How can people help?

Katie Fitzgerald:

So for folks who are listening, of course, people can give to the COVID-19 Response Fund, which folks can find at feedingamerica.org. Just go to that website and it'll pop right up. And again, all of that funding goes directly out to food banks, their partner agencies, and people experiencing hunger. The other thing that folks can do, and it very often may not be something folks want to do, but there are food banks across the nation who have come up with very safe volunteer opportunities that are in accordance with CDC and public health guidelines, that ensure social distance and using a personal protection equipment, et cetera.

Katie Fitzgerald:

And so if there are folks who have an interest or an inclination to actually volunteer at a distribution or assist in some way, reaching out to your local food bank is a great way to do that. And again, if you're not sure who your local food bank would be, you could go to feedingamerica.org

 

Katie Fitzgerald:

I think that the last two things I would say is making sure that folks are doing whatever they can within their circle of friends and relationships to check on others who might be going through a difficult time right now, share their food and their resources, to the extent to which they're able with the people who are close to them. It can be a very difficult thing for people to ask for help, but if you reach out proactively, that can be one of the greatest gifts you can give, to reach out and help someone.

Katie Fitzgerald:

And for all of us, finally, to remember that again, food insecurity is real in this country. We're seeing it at a level we've not seen it, certainly not in my lifetime. But it also is something that people should not be ashamed about. And that when we help people make sure they have access to nutritious food, that is when they're in the best position to be able to do more with their lives. And we want to get our economy back on track. We want to get people back to work. There will be lots of people for whom this is a temporary experience, but there were 37 million Americans who were dealing with food insecurity prior to this, and we need to keep that in mind longterm as we move forward with the nation. Is that this is a problem we can solve if we're just willing to do what's necessary to solve it.

Katie Fitzgerald:

The availability of healthy food for all of us is a big part of how people can achieve health, and we work very hard through our charitable food system to make sure that is a system that is making healthy, nutritious food available to people experiencing hunger. And so, I think that's something I also hope people will remember is that it's important that people not only have access to food, but that we all have access to healthy food, because that's the fuel we need to have health overall at the individual, and certainly community level.

 Wilma Consul:

To donate to Feeding America or learn more about its work, visit Feeding America.org.

If you liked this episode, please let us know by emailing us at newspodcast@aarp.org.

A big thanks to our news team.

Producers Colby Nelson, Danny Alarcon and Paola Torres

Production Assistant Brigid Lowney

Engineer Julio Gonzales

Executive Producer Jason Young

And, of course, my co-hosts Bob Edwards and Mike Ellison.

Become a subscriber on Apple podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and other apps. Be sure to rate our show as well.

For An AARP Take on Today, I’m Wilma Consul. Thanks for listening and stay safe out there.

Many Americans are struggling to feed their families during the pandemic. This week, we hear from Feeding America on its efforts to feed millions, and The Beach Boy’s Mike Love tells us how his new song is raising money for the organization.

For more information:
"This Too Shall Pass" Music Video
Feeding America

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