Believe in Me

06 Sep 2017

Graham Taylor explains the story behind charity single "Believe in Me", released this month in aid of Bloodwise.

I first met Paul Johnstone in July 2011. We were at a song-writing workshop in London

He was very talkative, and extremely enthusiastic with his acoustic guitar. I, on the other hand, am the quieter type. Firstly I don't play a musical instrument, and secondly I'm a bit backward in coming forward (particularly when I don't really know what I'm talking about) - I prefer to listen, and then ask questions. Song-writing was much newer to me than to Paul, and I was on a mission to discover the secrets that successful writers clearly knew (and I thought I didn't). We were both excited to be learning from Green Gartside (Scritti Politti).

Despite being opposites in many ways, Paul and I struck up a friendship immediately.

Over the course of a couple of days each attendee had to write a song, and then record it in the studio. My daughter Natalie sang mine for me. Paul heard it, and joined us in the studio when we were making final edits.

He really liked Natalie.

Very early on in the workshop he decided it would be worth our exploring a collaboration. He asked me if I'd listen to some basic song ideas he had recorded into a sequencer, and write lyrics to them or revise what he had come up with at that point in time. I happily agreed. 

I visited his home and listened to what he had, and was immediately taken with one song in particular. It was a kind of pop/rock idea, and I said I'd tweak the lyrics where that was appropriate and think about song structure and the song's arrangement, which I did. In its very earliest form, I knew it had the potential to be something special.  

Life unfortunately has a habit of getting in the way sometimes though, and things (including developing the song any further together) got put on the back burner. So it wasn't until many months later that we met up at his friend's place near the South Coast.

Sitting outside in the sunshine I asked Paul whether he and Natalie could do an impromptu acoustic version of that same song, much reduced in tempo. Without any rehearsal at all, it was like magic - it sounded so good.

We agreed we'd look at developing it further much more seriously...but then once again Paul had stuff going on in his life (work, family etc) that got in the way a bit, and I was very busy with my own work which could involve quite a bit of travel, and so we didn't get very far.

And then in 2012/2013 Paul started to be plagued with what seemed to him to be minor health niggles. He saw his GP often, over a period of quite a few months, and he was prescribed various pills which he thought were of some help. But he never fully got rid of his niggles and I remember chatting with him on a number of occasions about getting a really comprehensive check-up to make sure there was nothing more sinister going on. I'm not sure about detail at this point, but his GP surgery eventually organised this for him, and after various investigations, he was told he had a 'lymphoma'.

He said the doctors were optimistic about the disease going into remission with chemotherapy, and a few months after starting the drugs he did indeed go into remission. Everyone was pleased with his response to treatment, and Paul was optimistic about moving on with his life. He was convinced he would be cured, and decided to focus on things like nutrition, regular exercise, relaxation and other lifestyle stuff. And when he made his mind up to do something, he did it.

But despite all of this, the tumour unfortunately returned - with a vengeance.

The drugs hadn't worked, repeated chemo' didn't help, and the doctors were running out of options. They tried a couple of other chemotherapies but they too didn't work. I well remember Paul asking me to have a chat with his cancer specialist to see if there were any new drugs he might be able to take. I'll never forget that conversation in the summer of 2014. His doctor told me that the tumour was one of the most aggressive he'd seen, and that it was extremely unlikely that anything could be done to halt its progress.

Paul asked me to join him for his consultations at the hospital from then on. He was concerned he might not fully understand what they were telling him about his treatment options, that he might forget to ask them what he wanted to ask, and that once he had left the doctor's office he would be unable to remember what the doctor wanted him to do once he got home.

Paul slowly deteriorated over the next 12 weeks. He never lost his spirits, never gave up his fight, kept looking after his nutrition, tried to exercise as best he could, and kept playing his guitar.

In the last couple of weeks before he eventually passed, Paul phoned me. He was very tearful. I imagine that he must have resigned himself to the fact that he wasn't going to make it after all. He asked me if I would make him a promise. He told me that what he wanted as much as anything else was for me to add whatever final touches I wanted to the lyrics and tune of the song he had asked me to tinker with soon after we first met, for Natalie (NTG) to sing it, for it to be arranged and 'orchestrated' as I wish, and for me to 'produce' and 'release' it. Most importantly to him, he wanted any proceeds due to him to be donated to a 'lymphoma charity' of my choosing.

I made him that promise.

It's taken over two years to get to this point, but now we are here - and the song is going to be released very soon. It's called "Believe in Me".

All net proceeds received from downloading the digital version of the single on its release on World Lymphoma Day 2017 are going to be donated to Bloodwise.

In fact, all net proceeds received from downloading this release of the single in its digital format will be donated directly to the charity but it's particularly important to buy it on World Lymphoma Day 2017 for the single to have maximum impact.

Quite apart from his wish to be able to give back in this way, and that was the way he described it to me, the world can now know that Paul Johnstone had some terrific song-writing ideas. We should be inspired by his optimism, and his commitment to improving his well-being while facing a very serious illness.  And even when he knew he was losing his personal battle, his burning desire was to be able to do something to help others with lymphoma. He was a super bloke.

So Paul, from now on, "Believe in Me" will live on forever, and it will be heard by people far and wide. And your dream of fundraising for a wonderful lymphoma charity is going to become a reality. 

And to you dear reader/watcher/listener, please put 15 September 2017 in your diary, and please download 'Believe in Me' on that day. 

My personal goal is for a huge number of people to download it, because that will mean a huge amount of money for a superb charity, money that I know will go towards funding many incredibly valuable lymphoma-related activities.

From me, and NTG, and of course Paul, and on behalf of 'Bloodwise', thank you so much.

By Graham Taylor

Believe in Me Single Release

Pre order "Believe in Me" for as little as 99p from:

Find out more about this month's musical celebration in memory of Paul Johnstone.