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H I S    T E E N S:
The diagnosis of death at the age of 14
the director that would inspire him to live through it and alter his destiny.

By the time his teens rolled around, Joshua Crawford’s homelife would be nothing like the one at Signature Place, nor would his ambitions be anywhere near what they would later become; that of a driven individual against all odds. He claims he suffered from emotional distress during these years, that cornered his free will, and implanted in him a hatred towards alcoholism and what it often did to children that were raised around it.

            Much had been made of the fact that he had been given a camcorder for his 14th birthday, in which he had used to experiment with angles and plot scenarios on a think-up-on-spur-of-the-moment type premise, but as the summer of 1989 progressed, a hidden battle would began inside his body that would soon leave his parents puzzled, his doctors angered, and his spirit shattered. Yet strangely enough, his motivation to overcome such obstacles would come by way of the most prosperous director of motion pictures in the entire history of the industry itself; Steven Spielberg.

            Thinking he merely had the symptoms of the flu, in August, he paid a visit to his doctor … who thinking he might have pneumonia (which Crawford had twice suffered from during his parents’ divorce), took a chest x-ray, only to uncover a shocking discovery; his heart was five-times larger than would it should be. The doctor was in complete awe that the young teenage boy was even standing. Immediately, he was airlifted to St. Luke’s Episcopal hospital in Houston, Texas (The Texas Heart Institute) … where a team of the world’s top cardiologists (12 of them to be precise) mandated a heart-transplant, or he would soon succumb to death instantly; as a mysterious yet-to-be-known virus had attacked his heart, massively irritating it in the process, causing ‘Cardiomyopathy’ (which means “enlarged heart.”) Though Crawford’s particular kind, had deemed him “the youngest to have ever gotten this enlarged, and this deadly.” He allegedly slept at a pulse rate of 191 beats per minute (when normal was 70-80), and sat up a rate of 250; often awakening with his face being covered by a paper-bag; as when he did sleep, he would hyperventilate in his dreamstate.

            In an odd twist, after much consideration between Crawford and his parents, the 14 year old decided against a transplant. Learning, that if he survived one, at this time in modern medical history of the late 1980s, he would have to be injected with anti-rejection serum that would begin to kill of his immune system for life, so that his body would not reject the new-heart; often allowing the patient to live life with a new heart … but for only a certain amount of time before another transplant would be deemed needed. (In 1989, the maximum number of years a patient was usually given before other complications from the transplant arose, was 5-8 years; the patient would then need another transplant; with an even smaller chance of surviving that transplant.) His doctors were shocked at the decision. Deeming him an individual too young and too immature to ever make any logical sense for his own welfare.

They were wrong.

            Upon checking into the hospital, the fourteen year old had been give a miniature metal cross to hold onto in good faith, which he had clung to tightly. When one morning, Crawford awoke to find the cross had fallen out of his grasp during his sleep and was thought to be missing, after a team of radiologists wheeled in an x-ray machine to take his weekly x-ray (he was too ill to be moved into a radiology room, thus an x-ray machine had to be brought to him), a miraculous revelation was soon uncovered: 

            Having to slide down a lead-plate under his back while lying down in order to hover the machine over his chest to take such an x-ray, once the radiologists were developing the film in their darkened rooms, a nurse had horrifically noticed that embedded into the film itself, was a translucent cross.

            The nurse, knowing Crawford had lost the cross, assumed he had swallowed it, and it had thus gotten caught in his stomach, irritating his already enlarged heart even more so; which would explain how it could ever get caught in an x-ray. (For a moment, a few nurses standing by, who knew not of Crawford’s missing cross, thought his heart condition might’ve been caused by his accidental swallowing of it!)

            What in fact had happened, was something of a medical paradox, as well as a scientific and even spiritual revelation. Having found the cross stuck to his back with perspiration shortly after the x-ray had been taken (he guessed he had loosened his grasp of it in his sleep and had then turned over on it in his bed), Crawford and his doctors gathered that it must have stayed stuck to his back, even after the lead plate had been slipped behind him to take the x-ray, which would explain its embedment in the actual film. What his team of doctors and nurses couldn’t figure out, however, was the defiance of science that this obvious realization meant; as allegedly, the cross should’ve burned though him like acid since it was being radiated … in which of course, it didn’t.

The cardiology center of the country (Houston, Texas) … was simply stunned.

Still very much near death’s door and in quite a bit of pain, one could hardly blame him for wanting to finally go home and be with his Maker.

But he had just one regret.

He had never gotten to meet, or work, with Spielberg.

            And in addition to a tremendous amount of prayer in which the young boy was allegedly anointed by seven different denominations and their leaders, he soon started to think of Spielberg, and began willing himself to live.

Within hours of the extraordinary x-ray film, his heart began to shrink.

            Though the medical-field still pressed him and his parents for a transplant (a shocking revelation was later made by his mother that the doctors were even going so far as to suggesting she sue her ex-husband for custody of the boy, so that she could then turn him over to their care, which would then allow them to perform the transplant on him), upon seeing that the boy had gained back his appetite, they eventually discharged him, and was glad to do so; thinking he’d merely go home, and die a quick death.

            Being placed on several medications and steroids, which for a few years, altered his appearance, he was deemed too ill to attend school, so he spent his freshman year being tutored by a homebound teacher at his father’s new home; an isolated house (with hardly a neighbor in site) 10 miles outside the city in which he had grown to be so much a part of. Due to the many side-effects of the medications cross pollinating with each other and causing a tremendous amount of headaches, he also lived in sunglasses because of the nausea that could be evoked when adjusting to lighting. (Another characteristic that might’ve paved way for his nocturnalness and his ability to comprehend more in the dark. In Signature Place, the young boy is often described as being caught between the “zebra” stripes of the light that shines in through his Venetian blinds which guard his window like a prison on one hand, but allow him to serve witness to everyone else’s window on the other; specifically to the young four-year-old who lives across the street in which he soon aids and becomes a role-model to; never quite revealing to the reader upon first glance whether or not it is day … or night, since the bright moon in the novel, is just as strong of character as the sun is … with this sun often being nicknamed “the yellow star,” and a website, baring this same name, being granted years later in order to serve as a list of the many musicians and motion pictures that are referenced in the novel and are so heavily incorporated into its plot.)

            In the winter of this year (1989), upon the release of Spielberg’s Always (the director’s remake of A Guy Named Joe), Joshua began to write the director, asking to meet him to not only study his craft, but thank him in person for inspiring him to live. What his reasons for living were exactly, weren’t quite known at the time, as he was years away from writing his first song, but only six months away from utilizing his time on the outside of society, by beginning his first novel. 

            When the summer of 1990 rolled around, and he found himself prepping to finally get back into school the following fall by attending summer-school to make up for some of the lost credit he had received due to his illness, having acquired his hardship driver’s-license at a relatively young age, while driving on Midland’s well-known city loop and coming to a crossroads stoplight near the local mall and Bennigan’s tavern & grill (which had been a haven for his baby-booming forefathers at the time, who often took their young thrillerbabies to eat their and play video-games in the 1980s), he happened to notice that he was oddly the only vehicle on the loop, even though it was summer and in broad daylight in a town well known for its busy corporate traffic. At this precise moment, the 1983 song, True, by the group Spandau Ballet, began to air over the car radio, reminding him of his younger and simpler years as a child at Signature Place (his father began to rent the condo in 1983). Years which would now sadly remain part of Crawford’s previous past life; one with no heart condition that would require maintenance from here on after for the rest of his life. (Sixteen different medications a day was common for him at this point.) This simple reflection on his distant past as a pre-teen, would lay the groundwork for what would come to be known as his first novel in which he would spend five years writing as merely a hobby, to get him through this time of isolation; True

            Considered to be somewhat profoundly mature to have been authored by a fifteen year old, True (a novel which has never been made available to the public, even on the underground, unlike Signature) tells the story of three preteens (a boy, his older sister, and a friend) who are raised in a bar in which their parents own (the parents of the boy and his sister), and the affects that this has on all of them later in life. When the children have finished a typical school day, instead of going home to await their parents’ arrival from work, they are instead, brought to “the bar” along the side of their working parents, where a circular bar counter (such as the one featured in TV’s Cheers) has been uniquely carved out, and made into a playhouse “fort” of sorts, for the children to spend their time in until the bar’s closing hour; often late into the evening, or early into the midnight hours of the morning. School nights included. The counter is made even more unique by containing air-vents which allow air inside the fort to keep the children ventilated. And through these air vents, the children can often peer out into the bar’s many customers, who are often unaware that actual children lurk behind every move they make, and every conversation they utter; making for a rather compelling read, as nothing similar has ever been brought to the page of American literature, even since the novel’s completion; allegedly Dec. 4th, 1995 ; just a day before its author would turn twenty-one; the legal age to enter a bar himself.

            The story opens in Roswell … but concludes in California, following the children into their parenting years. Somewhat of a precursor (or “prequel”) to Signature Place … which opens in California, but concludes in Texas (yet has a chapter in Ruidoso, New Mexico). Like Signature, however, True is also an epic which spans several hundred pages and is devoted mostly to the views of children and the formation of their personalities. Also like Signature, it accordingly has a large soundtrack from the vault of Crawford’s record collection as a young boy. (A jukebox sits in the bar, and then in the boy’s apartment as an adult.) But where Signature takes place in the mid 1980s and then jumps to the year 1997, True begins in the mid 1970s and then moves forward to the early 1980s, then jumps to the early 1990s; which is the reason why it is often referred to as Signature’s prequel, even though each novel has nothing to do with the other. Yet two single characters do co-exist in each story; a waiter named “Mick” (who is a strong supporting character in True, and only a waiter in one brief scene in Signature), and “Peggy Light” (who is a briefly mentioned bank-teller in True, but a key supporting figure throughout Signature). Neither is related to the other, and only when one reads True (which has been registered with Library of Congress along with Signature), are they made aware that Mick is an African American. Though his lines in Signature are very brief, they are very memorable and leave room for speculation that one of Signature’s main father characters (the nine-year-old’s father named Chase Stevens) might’ve been a waiter in his youth before becoming a manager of Toys R Us.

            Although two “Andys” exist in each novel, they are neither the same character, nor the same sex; Andy is a supporting male character in True, where as “Andy” (short for “Ondrea”) is a female child character in Signature who mimics Madonna, and like the nine-year-old boy, has also lost her mother to death … which causes the boy to immediately take a liking to her.

            On Oscar night of 1990, prior to Crawford’s epiphany at the crossroads stoplight near Bennigan’s later that summer (an Irish establishment that although it now allegedly stands deserted, this very tavern obviously launched two epic novels), to his own surprise, a response to his many letters to Spielberg was tossed his way in the form of a phone call from Amblin Entertainment; Steven’s self-created production house on the back lots of Universal Studios, California. Though it was made clear to him by one of Steven’s representatives who had made the call, that young Crawford might never meet the director or watch him work (which somewhat puzzled the young man with the big heart), a movie poster of one of Spielberg’s films was offered to him. Appropriately, he chose Close Encounters. And the poster was then sent to Joshua. 

            Though enduringly grateful for such a generous gift, Crawford was far from giving up his strong persistence in pursing Spielberg’s attention, so that he might greet the man in person, thanking him for inspiring him to live though astronomical odds.

            With the months that followed, Joshua did manage to gain some momentum in his recovery and re-entered public school (now a sophomore in highschool), but for only half a day, as to not overdue it. Yet he found his peers had changed (or he had!), and now no longer had any interest at all to assimilate with them; as most of them seemed to be infatuated with proms and parties (and the alcohol and drugs that came along with them), which Crawford, a man who had accordingly embraced his first French-kiss in the third grade and had grown up with alcoholism, found so amateurish, he detested it. The rest of his days were either spent working on his novel, or contemplating scholarships to various film schools; with AFI (the American Film Institute) being at the top of the list. And he skillfully sought out old VHS copies of Hitchcock films in order to study their themes and angles at a time when the Internet was a few years from existing in a major way, where such films could be easily found on eBay. (His house in the country did not have cable-television, which made acquiring such films very difficult in Midland, Texas; which was 100,000 in population at the time, before it merged with Odessa, Texas, a sister city just 15 minutes away, at the turn of the 21st Century; now making both cities metro-capable.)

            In the summer of 1991, having come across his address in the back of a Premiere Magazine (a magazine at the time that talked about the behind-the-scenes world of filmmaking but sadly went defunct in 2007 upon its 20th anniversary), he began to write legendary actor Jimmy Stewart:

“Directors weren’t known then, like they’re known now; other than Hitchcock. Even with Steven, it took Schindler’s List to make him a household name enough to where my grandparents understood that I had a true career-goal. Other than The Wonderful World Of Disney on Sunday nights, there were rarely ever shows on TV that displayed such an art, but I remember being really taken with this show on Nickelodeon called Standby: Lights, Camera, Action! which my dad sort of led me to and always happened to know when it was coming on. It was hosted by Leonard Nimoy and I just loved that show as much as I loved Winnie-the-Pooh and Mickey Mouse. Naturally, I was very grateful to God when I happened to be in a Walden’s book store in August of 1987, and was handed out the first ever issue of a new magazine called Premiere that allowed me into the brains a little more of the people I loved. I was a subscriber from there on after until its sad demise in 2007. It led me to Jimmy Stewart, whom without his letter to me, two novels might not exist.”

            Jimmy Stewart, the famous George Bailey for Christmas lovers all over the world in It’s A Wonderful Life, had always reminded the young boy of his father’s father who was now deceased; particularly in a film which had had a rather profound affect on Crawford (as so many films did) that featured Stewart playing a grandfather of a two orphans (one of them ironically named Chris, the name Crawford’s parents almost named him); 1978’s The Magic Of Lassie; a film Crawford would years later, go to bat for (along with several others) in trying to get it released to DVD. Marking one of a handful of films that the author would take such a strong stance with in attempting to get a release for the public. Though this classic version of Lassie had been issued to VHS twice, it’s been out of print for over twenty years, causing the public to be rather unaware that it ever existed; making it a ‘newbie cult film’ for thrillerbabies like Crawford, who often harbor a love for such films … often because they’re being denied proper re-release to future generations for whatever reason. (Many times, it’s because of copyright issues. It’s been reported here and there that Crawford’s personal contact with the Jimmy Stewart museum has concluded that copyrights must be an issue to have harbored a film from the public for so long, particularly for such a legendary actor whose death marked the end of the “golden age” in American cinema.)

            To Crawford’s own astonishment, after so many months had passed that he nearly forgot he wrote the letter, Stewart, perhaps the most recognized actor of all time, wrote back. Something that even Spielberg has yet to do.

            In a letter, he thanked the young aspiring filmmaker for his generous compliments about the actor, and hoped his health would only progress, closing the letter with a simple but compelling and inspiritive request for the struggling fifteen year old who had conquered death; “have a wonderful life.”

            Crawford was deeply moved by such a bestowal of thanks, and even more honored, when he discovered that the letter came enclosed with a personalized autographed photo of Stewart, at the age in which Crawford had written him. (Crawford is well known both in and outside the industry to be a sincere strait-shooter and a lover of genuine authenticity. This is perhaps why. As he was obviously already corresponding with the best of the best in Hollywood, all at a very young age, without having ever been a part of the industry itself … yet. He supposedly also called the White House at the age of ten to speak with President Reagan, and shocked his father when Reagan later sent him an autograph as well.)

            As a token of indebted appreciation, just a year into writing True, Joshua made a conscience decision to create a character in the novel for James Stewart to play, once the book got translated into a movie. This character is thought to be “Rick” (loosely inspired by Bogart’s character in 1942’s Casablanca); an often unseen club owner of a posh 1980s restaurant called The Sad Café (named after the song by The Eagles) where Jackson Browne often hangs out on weekends to perform gigs for fun. Rick often watches his customers from behind the scenes through a hidden surveillance camera inside a disco-ball that hovers over them (very similar to the children raised in the bar that only see the outside world of adults though an air vent), never revealing his face to these customers, due to a much speculated belief that he has a phobia of people; perhaps due to a love gone wrong. Though because of his wealth, he often serves as a benefactor to the young boy who grew up in the bar (named Sam) and is now a young student at college (strong elements of Dickens’s Great Expectations), often without the boy aware of such aid. In a sense, controlling his destiny. (It is gathered that he has such a strong token of care for the “boy from the bar” because he reminds him of himself, and often wants to prevent the boy from making the same mistakes that he once did, which thus caused him to go into hiding from the outside world; paranoid of the world around him … unless it’s through a crystal ball; the disco-ball.)

            Fascinating stuff, coming from the mind of not only a first-time author and his first-ever novel (and an EPIC at that!), but one that again, was shockingly put together by a mere fifteen year old that’s never seen the light of day, nor was ever attempted for publication, unlike Signature Place, whose publication was attempted before the book was ever completed, to which everyone denied of course:

TRUE was my little hobby to kill time that unexpectedly grew into a baby epic. And one that might never see the light of day, but something in which I’m definitely proud of and perhaps I’ll show my grandchildren towards the end of my life. As it is too bittersweet to look at it often. I boxed it shortly after a series of events caused me to.”

            These events Crawford is talking about, have never been made too clear to the general public, but they are events that apparently include both Stewart … and Spielberg; causing a surge of curiosity from those that are fond of Crawford’s work, both as a novelist and as a singer-songwriter, and desire to have a look at this early massive (5 years in the making) piece of Crawford’s life; as unlike Sig, he began writing True years before he ever wrote his first song, and finished it after he had already been to Spielberg’s on his eighteenth birthday, and had returned home a songwriter, instead of an inspired director; representing this precise massive ‘change’ in Crawford’s life, that literally took him from one medium … to the next; obviously without intention:

“It began as just a hobby.”

Or so he has often said. Which only fuels more interest, since that hobby allegedly includes Spielberg, himself, as one of the book’s real-life characters! Something Amblin was allegedly very proud of, and honored by, if not a little fascinated.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

            An avid reader of Marquis WHO’S WHO series of books, documenting the world’s most influential and prestigious minds (such as Who’s Who In America, Who’s Who In The World, and Who’s Who In Science And Engineering), in which Crawford would often read these massive encyclopedia books just to pass time (as these very large books, that devote an entire book to letters of the alphabet chronologically, are meant more for reference, than for reading), Crawford (whose own father has been in the books for years as a successful oilman … probably the cause in which might’ve driven the young boy to read the books), had already found a way in which to contact Spielberg, and several other celebrities, through their affiliated connections in the industry, long before the Internet. Though with Spielberg having not yet made contact with the musician/author himself (who at this time, only wanted to be a director like his mentor), and with Spielberg’s designated representative already having told Joshua that he might never meet or speak with the man due to his busy schedule (Hitchcock had thrown Steven off the set of one of his films, due to Steven merely wanting to pick up a few pointers early on before he made it on his own, and Crawford had known this), Joshua, fueled by a burning desire to shake the hand of the man who had inspired him to live, began to devise a way in which he might be able to acquire a phone number for the director, so that he could merely call him and speak with him personally; realizing this desire might appear strange to the wrong people who might misinterpret it to be of a stalking nature. (As the call from Amblin on Oscar night existed right before the worldwide implement of “Caller-ID” which had not yet been made available to the public, so there was no way of getting the number for Amblin itself.)

            On a whimsical wild hair, Crawford, knowing the Amblin logo often followed Spielberg’s films through such motion picture studios such as Universal Pictures, he one day dialed the number for Universal, and merely asked an ordinary receptionist how one could get a hold of Steven Spielberg? She immediately patched him through to Amblin (which Crawford did not know existed on the back-lots of Universal at the time), and Crawford was then able to get an address, but no phone number. But he made much use of the address, when after two letters from Amblin were sent to Crawford, (stating once again that "Spielberg was busy"), he decided he would mail Steven a birthday gift (both men’s birthdays occur in December) … which would then might cause the director to reach out to him.
The idea worked.

            Though what sort of “gift” it was, has never been revealed to the general public, a letter of thanks was soon sent to Crawford’s address on “Amblin stationary” … which motivated the young man to call it, and thank the office for thanking him. And once he did, he got hold of Spielberg’s executive secretary at the time, which struck up a unique phone-buddy relationship between the two for several years. Crawford has often claimed that these brief conversations, which were timed precisely to occur on the 15th of every month, are what got him through his difficult days of high school and not fitting in with those his own age who often misunderstood him as being a rather dull and uneventful student who hated to have a good time:
 “This was what enabled me to get through that zoo called high school.”
(Little did they know, he would soon write a book, documenting their entire generation!)

            During the end of his semester upon his Junior year in high school (1992), it was revealed to him by his principal at Lee High that because of the credit he had missed his freshman year, he would have to repeat his upcoming Senior year in order to graduate with a diploma in 1993.

            Crawford, already having a hard enough time staying in the social circuit of his peers as it was, was horrified. Especially since he had gone to summer-school in 1990, and thought such credit had already been made up for. When he somehow discovered, however, that to get into college, all one needed was a General Education Diploma (or GED), he thought such information was too good to be true?

            After learning one had to be at least seventeen years of age in order to obtain their G.E.D. (which Crawford had turned the prior December, just four months earlier), he took the GED test at the local Midland College, and immediately passed it; somewhat having the last laugh on his high school peers unexpectedly, having now obtained his diploma an entire year ahead of everyone else his age!

            Within the same year, Crawford’s father shocked his son with his own birthday present. One in which he’d never forget. His father had secretly made a call to Spielberg’s secretary, which led to an invite from Amblin to Joshua, to come up for his eighteenth birthday and tour the director’s facilities; Amblin itself. Though it was made clear that the director would not be in town (as he was busy doing post work for Jurassic Park, and pre-work for Schindler’s List, with neither historic picture yet released and slated for opening in theaters the following year; 1993), Crawford and his father flew out to Amblin, and were delightfully astonished to see its Mediterranean/Spanish decor, which reminded Crawford of his New Mexico roots. They were also shocked when on the closing of their visit, they were allowed into Spielberg’s private office in Amblin itself; something that to this day, is considered relatively unheard of. Particularly because the director, himself, was allegedly not even there. After being given free passes to tour the studios, the two flew back home to Texas, and something unique happened.

To put it even more sternly, something awesome happened!

            Though Amblin had encouraged Crawford to keep making films and that he would eventually be working for them, upon arriving back in Texas, he oddly found himself at the piano, writing his very first song from thin air. One in which many music producers consider astounding, considering it was his very first musical piece ever written that would lead to hundreds more; Sing Along; a six and a half minute opus of a ballad (that is almost three songs in one) which tells the story of a man torn by such emptiness over the loss of a relationship, that he “can’t even cry anymore”, much less, “answer the door.” With the two-worded title of the song, mentioned only as a final lyric in a complete reverse-psychology twist, the storyteller reveals that when he hears the song he’s currently authoring himself, he unwillingly finds himself “singing along” (even though he desires not to) because he now understands the song’s true meaning of what it means to have loved, then lost.

            The song is of key interest at tracing Crawford’s origin to Amblin at the time, because of its second set of lyrics which state, “I don’t talk to anybody no more. I’ve got writer’s-block, I don’t know where to go from here … my dear … I’m living in the dark, alone and helpless … in Jurassic Park … without you!” Jurassic Park being a film not yet even commonly known to the mainstream public (as the song was written in January of 1993), but would be an epidemic movie of historic proportions by the end of the summer, based on a best-selling novel by Michael Crichton, launching three sequels (one in which has yet to be filmed).

            Crawford thought penning a single song was just a weird fluke, until he one day drove to the airport to pick up his father (February of 1993), and while doing so, started to write another song in his head; Cryin’ Party … a toss back to the waltzy 1950s-swing, revealing yet another relationship gone awry. Not even knowing which keys he plays in (as he plays based on his baffling memorization of their shape and color, not their octave), this song marks the first song that he would ever play in the “black keys” as he calls them. Like Sing Along, midway through the song, an abridgment occurs, followed by a modulation (or octave change), which then ends the song after a few more repeats of its rather catchy chorus. He has often revealed that although the song sounds simplistic, for many years, it was one of his most difficult to play because of the fact that for many months that followed after writing it, neither hand could reach the desired key he heard in his mind, and he was often stretching each opened hand to the max, in order to get the job done of acquiring such a unique sounding chord with his left hand. Unlike Sing Along, Cryin’ Party approached more adult oriented lyrics which stated, “So who you gonna see once you’re over me and you’re feeling lonely? Will he measure up to all the pleasure we had waking up in the mornings?” The song is most unordinary in the sense that it is able to cram an entire chapter’s worth of lyrics into only five and a half minutes, stating the lyrics so fast (yet still decipherable), that the singer often sounds as if he’s speaking a foreign language upon a first listen. As there are very few pauses or breaks between each set of lyrics. Yet it somehow works, and by its melodic ending, usually has one humming it for days because its chorus is so catchy. Couples can also two-step to it, because of its retro-1950s-like pace that often sounds as if it could’ve easily been featured on a soundtrack to a movie like Grease.

Again, he thought this second song was just another fluke.

And then came the big one.

            Though his third song consisted of taking one of his father’s original melodies that he often had played for his three children in their youth (back when he used to put them to sleep), and had set words to it that were based off his own flame he once had in the third grade, whom he had to sadly leave behind once he made the transition from New Mexico to Texas, because this reworking was not his own original melody and because it was never officially recorded (even though if it had, it would’ve most likely been one of Crawford’s most personal songs ever revealed), his third “fully original” song is officially considered to be Play Me; the song that would make up the title to his desired future album, (if not one of the most downloaded songs of all time by seekers of unique independent music), and one that would compel Crawford into believing that maybe … he had a strong knack for songwriting, and that he thus might be capable of accomplishing this knack rather well, which would cause him to leave the director’s chair to Steven, and opt for being a musician instead.

            Play Me is considered, by many accounts, to be a rather great piece of powerful melodic work, that like his novels, works on many layers of allegory storytelling and has been analyzed and dissected often, by not only Crawford fans, but by those in the industry and several judges of some of the most prestigious songwriting competitions throughout the word, even though it has never won a single one of them. (Though it has come extremely close!) So known it has become, all without having ever appeared on a major-label album or even a soundtrack, that accordingly, other desperate-to-make-it pop singers and jealous music managers, have offered to rip Crawford’s name and voice out of it, in order to cash in on the song itself. As like with his other two songs, it is ultra catchy and interestingly, begins (and ends, even after modulation!) on the key of C; one of Crawford’s most favorite octaves, much less, the first letter of his last name. (This might have much to do with The Entertainer, which was done in the key of C as well, and was the first song Crawford ever learned to play; so perhaps he grew comfortable with this certain sound?).

            A clever “sentence with a verb” for a title in itself (perfect for the name of a struggling artist’s demo, as it tells whoever comes across it, to “PLAY ME”, in addition to causing a unique wordplay for its listening audience who, when calling a radio station to request it, often ask, “would you please play Play Me?”, causing them to repeat the word, “play,” twice to get their point across), the song stands out rather prominently in Crawford’s now vast catalog of several hundred songs for having a unique history behind it like no other. As it was written in just five minutes, all in his head, up in his bedroom (in March of 1993) from start to finish, without ever playing it on the piano. When he did play it however, it was in front of his father, at night, and with the lights off; as the writer was allegedly worried that he might offend his rather strict dad with the song’s rather suggestive sexual nature in its lyrics that for years, were once thought to be easily interpreted as the author talking about infidelity, and knowing that a relationship had ended, was begging for one last night of sex before abandoning the relationship altogether, and finally calling in quits.

            Recently, however, just within the past few years, the song has taken on a new light, due to its longevity of somehow managing to hang around on the subconscious in the underground of the very dizzying field of independent musicians; especially since the song has come so very close to winning major songwriting awards; causing even more in-depth studies of the song, in addition to Crawford, who was all of eighteen when he wrote it (and most likely was far from being mature enough to have such a serious relationship as the one the song suggests) and what he might’ve been trying to say, perhaps even to his own unawareness.

            Some now speculate that he wasn’t talking about infidelity at all, but instead, was talking to his piano directly, beckoning it to keep giving him songs, so that he would know whether or not to go to work for Spielberg (?) … or go another direction and become a songwriter.

            Here are just a few lines of its lyrics that continually get brought up by those familiar with the song and Crawford’s unique life, who have studied the song more thoroughly than perhaps its author intended:

Row row your boat, up and down the stream, if only my life were but a dream.

So now I’ll go, but before I leave, let me lay you down, and for old time sake, just … play me.” 

As one can see, the song works off the old nursery rhyme, “Row Row Your Boat.” (Which has to Crawford’s own surprise, caused it to become a favorite amongst children who often have it on their iPods, apparently unaware that it might be adult in nature!)

But, “the stream” has now been loosely thought to be “the industry” … “so now I’ll go” has been thought to be Crawford’s wrestling with the decision to work or not work for Spielberg … “but before I leave, let me lay you down” has been thought to be Crawford questioning himself if he was capable of “laying down another riff or song” to see if he could continue on being a writer of songs (or were his three songs just three flukes?) … and “just play me” might be Crawford telling both mediums (film and music) to tell him which direction to take?

Quite interesting, to say the very least, considering he has yet to be recognized as a major artist, and that these three first-ever songs, which are over a decade old, are still often surfacing to new audiences who come across them, and are often astounded to learn that they are as old as they really are, due to their rather ageless sounding polished production value.

            After first performing the song for his father in the dark, once the lights were turned on, Crawford’s father found himself taking his son over to Lubbock, Texas the following fall (home to Buddy Holly of all things; another outsider musician whom Texas initially rejected until he became a legend after dying), and they spent the duration of eight months, forking over what few hundred bucks they could afford, in order to get the songs professionally recorded in a studio; Jungle Studios, a division of Don Caldwell Studios on the famous Q-street, under producer Mark Murray, who naturally allowed the young boy to co-produce the songs with him, given that Crawford knew so much of what he wanted the end results to sound like, and knew precisely which points in the song needed certain instruments to achieve “the sound” he was looking for. 

            To Crawford’s good fortune, the session-players he hired and designated parts for, adhered to Crawford’s request of using only authentic instruments, and no electronic instruments whatsoever, with the small exception of a few “strings” on Sing Along. This profound hindsight of Crawford’s, is probably what would save the songs from ever sounding dated; an effect he never thought he would need at the time, but as time as progressed, has served him and his songs quite well; proving he indeed does have a “very ageless sound.” As many people often remark how fresh the songs truly sound, believing them to have been recorded recently, not 1993 and ‘94; beginning in reverse order; Play Me, then Cryin’ Party, then Sing Along. (The later supposedly has Mark Murray playing electronic strings, though they hardly sound electronic in nature. This would mark the one and only time Murray played on any of the pieces.) *Many have wondered if this final song recorded (Sing Along), which Crawford had no idea would be his last for several years, was recorded LIVE and in one-take, because its original unedited album version ends with a series of applauses.

Crawford has never made the answer known. Adding all the more mystique to his already mystical music. Only saying:

“To my surprise, Murray liked it more than Cryin’ or Play Me. Finding it very original for a guy my age I guess. And seeing as though we couldn’t find anybody at the last minute to play strings, which I had already designated a part in the song for, nor could we really afford it, he kindly obliged us with a simple few bars along with my main chords, in which he played, yet was able to push the record button on his tracking-machine at precisely the same time because I didn’t know how to work it and there was no one else in the studio other than me and my father. It was very tricky, but it worked. I get compliments on those strings all the time. Many people think it makes the song sound even more deep. I’m very proud to know that sometimes the most spontaneous thoughts, are what turns a song from silver … into gold. I love Play Me, and Cryin’, but Sing Along was where it all began. And because of its tie to my visit to Spielberg’s which I had just come off of and wouldn’t really know would alter my ambitions to be a director until later, it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s my baby that birthed everything else. I had only written about 10 songs when we recorded that notoriously most-passed-around-demo-in-the-biz, not several hundred. Sing Along would later lead to those several hundred. I just didn’t know it at the time. I often wish Steven knew what he did to me. But I don’t think he ever will.”

            Perhaps the most shocking revelation of all, is to know that Crawford had yet to even learn how to use the vibrato in his voice when the songs were recorded. Though he had been in training for over several months with a vocal coach, with an attempt to learn this technique in time for the recording sessions that had already been scheduled months in advance, his voice wouldn’t be able to accomplish the maneuver until shortly after the final song was already recorded; Sing Along. So all three songs that exist today and are considerably well respected, are truly songs where Crawford’s voice is at its most rawest, to say the least. Many, however, have credited this as the reason that the songs sound so “ageless.” As because of their edgy or sometimes “gruffy” sounding vocals (“gruffy” or “gritty” being a word some Crawford fans have often used in order to describe how his voice and lyrics sound to them, if they have to use only one word) don’t conform to a time and place, even though they were, to the shock of many, recorded during the peak of the grunge music scene that had been popularized by Nirvana, yet had dwindled by the turn of the 21st Century. Which might explain the reason why the songs were so turned down by everyone in the biz upon their initial submission to labels in the mid 1990s.

            By February of 1994 (the month in which the final song, Sing Along, was completed, though it was the first song he ever wrote), somewhat of a tricky and clever maneuver was taken to get several hundred copies of the demos passed several prestigious front-desks of several record-labels.

            Crawford had known, from the start, after digging through so many records he owned, and discovering that some of his most favorite stuff, was on the Arista label, that music-mogul and humanitarian “Clive Davis” (who would later start “J” records, based off his middle-name, not Crawford’s as some have wondered) would be the target to aim for first. And in a very massive way:

            Having done things of an unusual nature to get passed the industry’s ever frustrating “unsolicited material will not be accepted” policy (meaning, unlike the old days, a musician can’t just send their music to a label anymore, unless it’s through someone that the label knows and deals with, in which Crawford, growing up in the ever untapped middle-America, knew no such person who could do this for him), he allegedly sent out 100 cassette-tapes of “Play Me” (as recordable-CDs had not yet been released for home use at the time) to various well known music moguls, record labels, and even some Hollywood tycoons such as Quincy Jones; producer of Thriller itself. (Crawford was 3 years from diving into writing the novel that he would name the “ThrillerBaby” generation.).

            What’s interesting though, is that these notoriously known first 100 copies of the Play Me demo, were sent to these addresses, accommodated by a purposeful “wrongly addressed cover letter” that began its opening paragraph with, “Dear Mr. Davis”, or “Dear Clive” … and even had Davis’ CORRECT address typed on the cover-letter itself. Mostly known only to those that have watched Crawford rise to a “cult artist” over the years, he did this in order to get those prestigious people who opened up the package (which consisted of easy-to-rip-open manila envelopes) to see the original cover-letter-to-Clive, and mistake it that Crawford had somehow accidentally placed the wrong letter in the wrong package, which would then cause them (merely of out professional courtesy) to place the demo and its cover-letter into one of “their own” packages (since Crawford’s original easy-to-rip package had already been not only postal-stamped, but OPENED), then re-mail the demo to Clive themselves; thus, now with an outside more widely-known packing label of its own, which allowed it to get passed the industry’s “no unsolicited material policy” that Crawford always hated, because he felt it blocked the truly untapped artists throughout middle-America from ever knowing how to get their authentic music to the right persons(?).

            This “rather clever” trick, had been rumored to have occurred throughout the industry before, when Crawford had sent Star Wars director George Lucas a package with a cover-letter saying “Dear Steven” attached to it, which has often been guessed at was the reason Steven ever first became familiar with who Crawford even was; as Crawford (knowing Lucas and Spielberg were best friends) had sent the letter to Lucas, on Oscar night of 1990 … which many believe had caused Amblin to call Joshua the very first time, when they offered him a movie-poster, thus indicating to him that his attempt to contact Spielberg (whom he didn’t have an address for at the time) through Lucas (who he DID have an address for at the time, perhaps due to reading all those “Who’s Who” books?) had, indeed, worked. As Steven, even to this day, along with 99 percent of the entertainment industry, will not accept unsolicited material either. Jimmy Stewart (whom Crawford’s “awe shucks” and optimistic candor is often compared to), had been a rare exception.

        The goal was to get 100 demos sent to Clive from his various well known and respected colleges and peers throughout the industry. Which would make such an impression on Davis, that he would find it hard to NOT call the young and ever driven Crawford, merely to see who this tenacious young man was?

And it worked.


       To the surprise and bafflement of Crawford, what had turned out to be the case with many of these “first 100”, was that although some had made it to Clive, most of them had been opened by their original designated receivers … and in Crawford’s favor, KEPT! Since Crawford had wisely used one of his father’s attorney’s stationary at the time to write the cover-letter (thinking it wouldn’t matter in the slightest bit of way, but only doing so to ensure the letters were indeed taken seriously by a very serious musician), it seemed only practical that such recipients, would opt to hold on to Crawford’s work themselves, and never even get it to Clive, fearing Clive might sign someone whom THEY might sign if they heard more of his work in the near future and liked it as much as the 3 recordings:

The next thing I knew, I was going to the mailbox, and opening all these wonderfully fascinating letters from all these well known bellies of the industry, personally writing my father’s old attorney, thanking him endlessly for optioning me to their label, but many had to pass, since “GRUNGE” was the dominant force at the time, or, they had liked me so much, they wanted to hear more of my music. I had none. And had no more money to make any more of it. So on one hand I was flattered they had praised much of my work even though I had supplied them with only 3 songs, but on the other, I was crushed, because none of them, and we’re talking hundreds here, wanted me enough to sign me. And though I’ve heard rumors that Clive does have quite a few copies in his files, he never contacted me like all the others; which had been my goal to begin with. But you live and learn, and try things here and there, just to get your stuff heard by the right people. And I learned one thing from doing that little adventure. I learned the industry was very selfish. So selfish they were, that many weren’t even mentioning to Clive that they had allegedly “accidentally received a letter addressed to HIM!” It’s still kinda funny when you think about it. I think like only 10 or 20 copies made it to him, because some of those did come back one day in a package with no return address I believe. I was smart enough to number the demos, so I knew who had received what. But it was just such a shocker to me, and quite an honor in an odd way, to see all these well-known guys and gals, open my demo, then KEEP it! Yet no signing ever occurred. Again, I truly blame this on “grunge” music being the dominant force at the time. Adult-Contemporary had oddly shrunken, with the exception of few artists like Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. I can’t think of even one piano-guy who was putting out stuff in the mid 90s, except for the wonderful Brian McKnight. I truly wish “I had been THAT PIANO GUY”. I think I would’ve excelled well, even in grunge, because my lyrics are somewhat dark and punky. But I just couldn’t get anybody to see that at the time. They all wanted more Smashing Pumpkins, Counting Crows, and Spin Doctors. And bands who were so famous at the time, but who I’ve never heard about SINCE the 1990s. The music industry is very strange. Very few times do they ever take the time to see who truly might have such enduring songwriting skills with decent melodies, that they might be worthy of signing, simply to make an entire cashload of a career for themselves, AND the artist. It’s an even stranger industry today. Most labels seem to want artists who are willing to do anything and everything to get famous. I’m willing to do a lot of things, but I won’t just do anything. I’m in it to influence and inspire. And to do that, it seems one has to have a little bit of fame. But Alice Cooper would probably agree with me on this. You can have all the “fake fame” in the world, marketed by the deep pockets of a label to try to make a rock-star out of some unknown half-dressed kid, but if your songs suck, you’ll get dumped after that first album. I have enough material for probably 30 or 40 albums at this point, but labels don’t seem to be realizing that right now. They want artists who are already famous before they sign them. It’s very sad. Because I think a lot of good music has been lost due to the laziness of the labels not really nurturing a gifted artist anymore who can actually write the songs they sing, that need several albums to build, overtime, into a legendary career. Thank God for Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, John Mayer, and Jewel, but truly, we need more than just those four. For now, they seem to be all we have for adult-contemporary for my ThrillerBaby generation. Everybody who was a star just a few years ago, have all faded. It wasn’t like that in the 80s. People who were popular in the 80s, are still drawing crowds even now. Sting, Joel, Springsteen … I think it’s because labels were really looking hard and deep to find those guys. They don’t look hard enough anymore. They look in LA druggie-clubs, Austin’s yearly overpopulated beer fest, Nashville’s very overpopulated country wannabes, and NY’s new trendy bar for the week. That leaves about 46 other states untapped that have these great storytellers who, like me, have often lived much of what they’re singing about, and not trying to understand what lyrics some label has given them in order to try and crank out one more hit from them before dumping them. Yet here I’ve been in their files for nearly two decades. Go figure. I’m not the greatest singer or even piano player or songwriter in the world, but gosh, compared to what’s out there today, I’m certainly not the worst either. You would think the industry would have woken up by now, but they haven’t. And perhaps never will. Yet still, because of my health, I need their marketing power. And I’ll probably try, for rest of my life, however long that life may be, to get someone to sign this guy who has all these songs, all because of a trip to Spielberg’s. It’s been a very strange life, but I think I’ve learned to love that about my life. I never thought I’d be ‘so well known’ on the underground for simply ‘not being known’ yet by a mainstream audience. And we’re talking about just the music side of my life. I seem to suffer the same situation in the book-publishing worlds as well. Another entire story altogether. This is the reason, and I get asked about this often, that I decided to shelve the music for a while. I was trying to land a record-deal, and finish my first novel at the same time, all while begging the government for disability so that I could afford to keep taking my medication. I knew if I didn’t, I’d die. Then it would all have been for nothing. I didn’t even own a car. So after a close call with Amy Herckerling, and then Steven himself, I shelved it. And patiently waited for ‘grunge’ music to die down a little. When Norah Jones swept the Grammys at the turn of the century, I knew that finally, new blood, was arriving in the industry. I hope it won’t be too much longer now. My generation are parents now. We need some good love songs. I’m good at those. Or so I’ve been told. And new fans who come across my old stuff, still believe the songs were recorded just yesterday, not years ago. In a very strange and unpredicted way, I have learned that I have staying power, simply because of the songs, themselves. Something I never even considered when I was singing my heart out on those songs so many years ago and couldn’t seem to get the vibrato in my voice to even work. But then again, that never seemed to hurt Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, or Bob Dylan.”

            Who Crawford is referring to here is movie director Amy Herckerling. While moving out of his father’s house and into an apartment, attempting to complete his novel True, in the spring of 1995, he came across an Entertainment Weekly cover-story featuring actress Alicia Silverstone for an up-and-coming movie that had yet to be released; Clueless. Not uncommon for Crawford, he knew that Heckering, who had first gained fame in the 1980s for directing the now classic Fast Times At Ridgemont High, was working with Paramount Pictures to release the film. So he simply called up Paramount, asked for Heckerling, and got her executives who, to Crawford’s surprise, gladly wanted a copy of the notorious Play Me demo to consider it for the movie; as the film was just entering post-production where its soundtrack would be put together for its final touches. “I hoped and prayed. And the longer it took for them to get back with me, the stronger my hope grew. As I knew what having a song on a soundtrack to a Heckerling Highschool Movie meant for artists and labels who might then sign them, because of my strong love for the Fast Times soundtrack which had sold several million copies and had launched several unique singles, yet strangely at the time, remained unavailable on the CD format; as it, and coincidentally, Urban Cowboy (both produced by Irving Azoff) seemed to be tied up in legal battles regarding the use of their music, which is so ironic since Fast Times and Urban so heavily inspired the flavor of Signature.” (Both soundtracks would finally be released, side by side, onto CD in the late 1990s.) “Anyway, Toni Braxton, who was big at the time, had been discovered from her one song that had appeared in the Eddie Murphy film Boomerang, and I was hoping to be graced with the same fate. Obviously, that didn’t happen.”

Once again, grunge was still the leading force at the time, and Clueless was aiming to please its teen audience.

Crawford got a rejection letter in the mail a few months before the film’s release.

“I was sad. I won’t lie. I wept. But I saw the film the opening night, and truly. I noticed that there just wasn’t a place for any of my work in it, except for the fountain scene; which is ironic, because they used Jewel’s cover of Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself”, which can not be found anywhere, and on any album, not even on the soundtrack itself. She was just months away from becoming a household name then, but that was proof that once again, adult-contemporary artists were few and far between in the 1990s. And yes, I did bat an eye during this fountain scene, when Silverstone’s character yells ‘Oh my God? I LOVE JOSH!’ It only made my loose connection with the film that much more ironic. As I had not read any kind of script before entering the theater, and knew not any of the characters’ names. It’s a decent soundtrack. But launched very few singles, and most of the bands featured on it, I hardly hear of anymore. Hardly any of them lasted. It was nothing like the Fast Times soundtrack where everyone sang a pretty memorable and melodic song.”

            To realize Crawford had just turned twenty years old at the time he was tossing his name out there in such a massive way and in such a very unheard of fashion (all while writing an epic novel he had began at 15), is quite miraculous in itself, considering he had virtually no industry connections (other than Spielberg, which we’ll get to later) and that just 6 years earlier, had been told he would surely die if he didn’t receive a heart transplant. Much less, had in his custody, one of the most talked about chest x-rays in the history of mankind.
(The hospital, itself, supposedly doesn’t even have one for their own records.)

Devoting eight entire years at documenting his generation, however …
was right around the corner.
As was death … once again.
And this time, Francis Ford Coppola would be involved.
Someone who, of all things, has a son named Christopher.

(Continued by clicking on  HIS  TWENTIES )