Whitesnake’s David Coverdale: Meditation, Love + Ritchie Blackmore
There's few things in this world that remain a constant for nearly 50 years. One of them is David Coverdale's affectation for love songs; the other being the unmistakable curls that hang past the shoulders of the ever-charming Whitesnake singer and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
What has changed over the course of half a century, however, is Coverdale's attitude toward the strongest human emotion. In the past, it was about the thrill of pursuing rock 'n' roll women, but, as a happily married 67-year-old, he's focusing on the overwhelming joy that love can bring, as evidenced on Whitesnake's new album, Flesh & Blood.
We spoke with Coverdale on the phone ahead of the album's release, as the singer endured a snowstorm at his Lake Tahoe home, far removed from the rock epicenter of Los Angeles. After decades of interviews, he's still remarkably eager to discuss his life, career and, most importantly here, his new record, which shockingly does not feature the word "love" in any of the songs' titles.
Flesh & Blood is teeming with enthusiasm and really showcases the talents of his pair of guitar players — Reb Beach and Joel Hoekstra. It's a complete team effort, as Coverdale attests. Tracing Whitesnake's discography, the songs mirror events in the singer's life, and it appears he's the happiest he's ever been. Meditation has helped shape and center this 21st century man, which you'll learn more about below, along with his humility in inviting Ritchie Blackmore to join him at Deep Purple's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, despite the mess behind the scenes of that event.
Come 'an get it in our interview below:
The guitar playing on Flesh & Blood is bright and expressive. It seems like it's more of a celebration of love on "Well I Never" and "When I Think of You (Color Me Blue)" versus love being a conquest, whether it's the medicine man making house calls or sneaking through the back door. How has your perception of love changed from 30 or 40 years ago?
Well, it's primary inspiration for me, and I gave up arguing with my muse decades ago. I never sit down to consciously write a love song. I sit down to write, and love songs comes through. But this is the first Whitesnake album to the best of my knowledge that doesn't have love in the album song titles. The first one ever! [Edit: 1981's Come 'an Get It was the first one ever.]
The essence of a good love song is that it's coming from an honest place. Otherwise, I'm not sure it would touch people's hearts. I mean, "Is This Love" started as a song. I'd been asked to write for Tina Turner, and then David Geffen said, "You're not giving that to anyone. You're keeping that." And it became one of the biggest hits in the Whitesnake canon. But the lyric became very personal. And I think that's one of the things that people connect with.
It's what the world needs. There's no question at all. It's what everything is about. It certainly isn't about hatred, bigotry and racism; it's about fucking love. The Beatles were right — they have the best fucking karma in the world. All you need is love.
Whitesnake originated more as a blues-based band and then there was that switch with Slide It In and the self-titled album. Are you ever tempted to return to that older, original Whitesnake sound?
No, no, no. This is the Whitesnake that I want!
I was in such a restricting scenario for those three-plus years with Deep Purple, I felt my writing was going in ever decreasing circles — that kind of hundred miles an hour stuff. The element that Ritchie Blackmore didn't embrace of course was my uttermost love of the blues and soul music, which is what Glenn Hughes and I had in common and still do.
But the early Whitesnake, I wanted free of that absolute tight, scope that I had as a writer. So Whitesnake was supposed to be this really wide umbrella that I could embrace blues, hard rock, soul music, commercial hook stuff — there was nothing off the table. Well, I was scared of ballads cause I was such a fucking hard rocker.
Joel Hoekstra and Reb Beach are unbelievably great guitarists — the ones you want to pick up a fucking tennis racket and air guitar to. I don't ask Joel or Reb to play like any of their predecessors. They're involved with me because they're helping me take Whitesnake up another fucking couple of rungs of the love ladder.
I mentioned that this album is a celebration of love and you seem to be in a very good place in life, enjoying life for what it is. I read that you meditate too. How long ago did you start doing that?
Oh my god, 20 years ago: a life changer. I don’t preach to people, it’s absolutely not interesting, well other than preaching rock 'n' roll, but meditation for me is the ultimate accessory that I have found for my life. It is like the perfect direct connection to spirituality.
It helps me in every aspect of my life being a father, being a grandfather, being a rock musician, being a husband, being a director, producer and writer. No aspect of my life has not benefited from meditation. I won’t take a business call or respond to an email until I meditate in the morning.
You owe yourself a moment, 10 minutes a day just to sit down, breathe in your nose, just soft, and out and disconnect from all the distraction. It’s not a rich man’s exercise by any stretch of the imagination. But it’s an amazing thing for me and every so often me and my wife would be like, "Oh my god, what did we do before meditation?" I said, "Drank and did drugs. Distraction baby, distraction!"
I was watching your Rock and Roll Hall of Fame speech again the other day and you were so congratulatory to everyone and, of course, notably absent was Ritchie Blackmore, and I want to know, have you made any contact with Richie before or since?
It was really ugly what went down. I heard that their manager was doing everything he could to stop Glenn and I from making a speech. Jon Lord's daughter was not there, which we were surprised to see. But when they turned around and refused to go after being announced as inductees if Ritchie Blackmore was allowed to attend, it was just a mockery and if you heard my speech, none of them would have been on that stage without Ritchie.
When I heard this, I called Richie and I said come with me. Part of him didn’t give a shit, but I said, "Come with me, we will walk in together. Nobody is going to mess with you — I will take care of it." Knowing him he would have walked in with a fucking water pistol and started a fight.
But it was an obscenity that he wasn’t there. I know for a fact that Deep Purple would not have been Deep Purple without Ritchie, John and Ian. That was the beginning and should it always be.
It was great to see the guys again and they totally deserve it. And [Dr.] Dre was a doll. My children were going, "Oh dad, Dr. Dre is going to be the there" and I said, "You go to the bathroom and freshen up" and I go to the green room and Dre and his beautiful wife are in there and I went ahead and shook hands. He knew me and I certainly knew him and I said, "Dre, Cindy will be honored if you would be so kind and take a picture with my family." He said oh man I love that. Super moment.
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