Lili Haydn has taken the traditionally classical violin and introduced it to completely new musical genres, including pop, jazz, punk, and rock, resulting in a use of the instrument that is both diverse and original.
Haydn was born in the early 1970s in Wyoming to comedienne Lotus Weinstock and underground filmmaker David Jove. Her mother was best known as a member of the musical trio Lotus, Madonna, and Spring, while her father is best known for New Wave Theater on the USA Network. Both parents led unconventional lives. Haydn told Los Angeles Magazine that her parents never lived together during 18 years of marriage. She explained that during her unconventional childhood she was given choices that most children don't have, such as choosing her own name. At one time, before settling on Lili, she called herself "Helicopter."
When Haydn was three years old, her mother used money earned from a songwriting deal and moved to California with her daughter. They moved into a commune called The Brotherhood of the Source near Los Angeles, which was connected to The Source, a famous vegetarian restaurant on Sunset Strip. Haydn was called Cherub while she lived at the commune, where she was exposed to varied types of music and art. Later she and her mother moved to the old Houdini mansion in Laurel Canyon, outside of West Hollywood. Despite her unusual upbringing, Haydn never thought it was anything but normal. "It's like someone from a single-parent home being asked what it's like to grow up without a father. You don't have any other point of reference," she told Paul Freeman in the Bergen County, New Jersey, Record.
Haydn began her acting career when she was seven years old. She started by appearing in Jack in the Box and milk commercials. At age eight she made regular appearances on the NBC series Kate Columbo, which paid her $1,500 a week. She also played Rodney Dangerfield's daughter in the movie Easy Money. "There wasn't a lot of money around," Haydn told Freeman, "so my parents thought that acting would be a nice way for me to pay my way. Sure enough, I paid for my violin lessons. I paid for college myself. I started paying rent at seven."
When Haydn was eight years old, she decided that she could learn to play an instrument. "I had a dream when I was eight that I could play violin," Haydn told the Fiddlechicks website. Her mother had a similar dream that someone in the family would play the violin. When she heard about her daughter's dream, she bought her a violin. Haydn used some of the money from Kate Columbo to pay for her lessons. It was soon evident that she was becoming a talented violin player. She told Freeman, "I just had an affinity for it. My heart was connected to the instrument."
As a child, Haydn attended chamber music camp, which she loved. "That romantic music thrilled me beyond belief. I would just sob at this beautiful music. In fact, it frightened the teachers. They thought I was disturbed, I was so emotionally affected by the music," she told Freeman at the Record.
Haydn developed her considerable talent quickly. By age 15 she was performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. "I loved the idea of being a soloist—but soloists practice at least eight hours a day. I couldn't make that commitment. There were too many other things I enjoyed and felt I was good at," she explained to Freeman. While continuing to study music, Haydn also attended Brown University, earning a bachelor's degree in political science in 1992. After the graduation ceremony, her mother picked her up at the airport and took her directly to a club where a friend was performing, and Haydn had a chance to sit in on the musical session with her violin. Soon other groups were asking her to join them, and her popularity grew.
Opportunity knocked when Haydn was asked to join former Led Zeppelin rockers Robert Plant and Jimmy Page onstage. She jumped at the chance, and impressed the crowd with solos on Page's signature song, "Kashmir." Plant and Page then asked her to join them as an opening act on their U.S. tour. Soon she became one of the most sought-after professional violinists in the Los Angeles area. "I jumped on every stage that would have me. My thirst for performing was insatiable. When I first started to play with people, it was like getting to kiss everybody that I wanted to kiss in the whole world," Lili told Fiddlechicks. "I remember my mother calling me a 'jam slut,' and it was true."
Haydn formed her own band with two cellos, bass, guitar, drums, percussion, and keyboard. In 1994 the band began a two-year residency at the Viper Room in Los Angeles, where the band worked with her original material. She also spent time playing with other well-known musicians including Paula Abdul, Air Supply, Tracy Chapman, the Rolling Stones, B.B. King, and Hootie and the Blowfish. Before long she had signed a contract with Atlantic Records, and in 1997 she released her debut album, Lili. Freeman at the Record praised the work, stating that the album "showcases Haydn's compositional daring, emotion-packed violin playing, and plaintive, little-girl vocals. She seamlessly entwines rock, classical, and Middle Eastern influences." The debut album was released shortly after the death of her mother from a brain tumor. "My whole life is so laced with her philosophy and teaching," Haydn told Freeman. "To distill it into one phrase, it would be 'Compassion is the sweetest of the passions.'"
Haydn has continued to act, sing, play the violin, and write music, performing with a varied collection of musicians, from Sting to Christina Aguilera to Whitney Houston. While working on her second album, she played her new songs at Ghengis Cohen in Los Angeles and asked the audience to comment on the music, in what she called a "campfire test." In 2003 she released her second album, Light Blue Sun. She told Private Music online, "I hope to bridge the art world with the mainstream, pop world. This record has more artistic integrity, yet more commercial potential than anything else I've done. I want my music to be inclusive of my own artistic soul as well as my love of the pop world. I think that I have accomplished that."
For the Record . . .
Began playing the violin at age eight; performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at age 15; began performing steadily following college graduation, 1992; formed her own band and started a two-year stint at the Viper Room, 1994; released Lili, 1997; released Light Blue Sun, 2003.
Addresses: Record company— Private Music c/o Arista Records, 6 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019, phone: (212) 489-7400. Website— Lili Haydn Official Website: http://www.lilihaydn.com.
Jazz Review called Haydn "accomplished" and "extraordinary," describing her work as "thinking person's pop, a musical stew blending drum and bass with Dvorak and the traditional music of India and China." Haydn's skill and broad musical abilities have impressed many people. Her unconventional childhood has led her to an unconventional life, and she is unwilling to be labeled in any particular category. Her versatility on the violin would make it appear that Haydn has the potential to do almost anything.
Lili, Atlantic, 1997.
Light Blue Sun, Private Music, 2003.
Daily News (Los Angeles, CA), August 29, 1997, p. L21.
Interview, September 2003, p. 116.
Los Angeles Magazine, June 1997, p. 24.
Record (Bergen County, NJ), January 2, 1998, p. 10.
"Featured Artist: Lili Haydn," Jazz Review, http://www.jazzreview.com/cdreviewprint.dfm (November 4, 2003).
"Lili Haydn," Atlantic Records, http://www.atlantic-records.com/lilihaydn (November 4, 2003).
"Lili Haydn," Fiddlechicks, http://www.fiddlechicks.com/players/haydn.htm (November 14, 2003).
"Lili Haydn," Private Music, http://www.privatemusic.com/artist/artist.jsp?id=240908 (November 4, 2003).
"Lili Haydn," The Iceberg, http://www.theiceberg.com/artist/9774/lili_haydn.html (November 4, 2003).
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