Johnny and June Carter Cash, Sonny and Cher, John and Yoko, Ike and Tina Turner, Steve and Eydie, Richard and Linda Thompson, The Captain and Tenille, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill; this is just a partial list of famous married couples who sing together. In addition to being famous on their own merit, their union singing together has become a part of their renown. While divorce has sundered a few of these unions, and assassination one of them, a few continue to enjoy conjugal careers as well as bliss. Missing from the above list is Jules Shear and Pal Shazar, two artists who enjoy a huge cult following, but have not yet taken the spotlight of the world stage. Together, this married couple has produced over twenty albums between them, and now have just released their first record together under the eponymous title, ‘Shear Shazar’.
Shear is best known as the songwriter of the Cyndi Lauper hit single, “All Through the Night” and The Bangles hit “If She Knew What She Wants”. He is also credited with conceiving the idea for MTV’s hit show “Unplugged”, and was the host for the first thirteen episodes. His discography lists thirteen solo studio albums, as well as one album with his first band, ‘The Funky Kings’ and four with his group, ‘Jules and the Polar Bears’, as well as three compilation albums. He is adored by the music press and has a following that spreads across the globe, yet his work still goes largely unrecognized by the world at large. And this is the world’s loss, truly, because to hear Shear sing the lyrics to one of his own songs, as he does with “All Through the Night”, on his 1991 Polydor release “Unplug This”, is to understand the major disconnect between pop music and true genius. “If She Knew What She Wants”, sung by Shear as he accompanies himself on guitar, for which he employs a unique sort of upside down playing style, is to hear a song laden with the pathos of an Ibsen drama. And this is not a bad thing. It is very true and very real.
Shazar is an equally compelling artist. Her discography of eight studio albums is full of songs that describe the flawed beauty of existence. Her cerebral and literate songwriting has earned her a fiercely loyal and devoted fan base that is as far reaching as her husband’s. Her live shows at intimate downtown venues are jammed with fans, some of whom have been following her since the earliest days. Those early days saw Shazar as one half of the duo, with Andrew Chinich, ‘Slow Children’, the name of which was inspired by a line in Nabokov’s novel “Lolita”. That fact alone gives insight into Shazar’s writing style and inspirations. Shazar is also well known for whimsical and innocent paintings of animals and people. Her colorful compositions of lovely young women and sweet creatures draw the viewer in to reveal a forlorn quality of innocence trapped in a sometimes indifferent landscape. There is a sense of innocence lost in her songwriting, as well, and the artist has claimed to be very influenced by film and books.
Shazar says “Throughout our marriage we’ve done all this work” referring to their combined discographies, “and we’ve never collaborated on an album together.” “Over twenty years together and twenty albums between us, we wanted to create something that would be about what it means to be together and stay together.” Indeed, ‘Shear Shazar’ is a collection of ten duets that chronicle the raw work that goes into maintaining a union between two creative souls. With titles like “Beauty to My Bones”, “One More Heartbreak”, and the track that accompanies their video, “See That Star”, the spectrum of enduring love is well covered. All the songs were composed by Shear and Shazar, and Shazar said “over the course of making this record with Jules, I have learned the importance of allowing one’s partner to reveal parts of their personality that only come out through work, and I really had to grow up and respect his serious work mode.”
In a twist worthy of their oeuvre, when it came to recording the album and finding the right producer, Shear and Shazar were introduced to Julie Last, whose studio is a mere 15 minutes from their Woodstock home. Last cut her professional teeth assisting in the recording of one of the most iconic husband/wife albums ever produced, “Double Fantasy”, the collaboration between John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Shear said “it is terrific that our producer, Julie, has her own studio so close to our home. At the end of each recording day we could drive home to our dogs, Cosmo and Kareem Abdul Shazar.” “Shear Shazar” is a “celebration of staying together, to paraphrase Al Green,” says Shazar. “We have had such great feedback, since we released the record last month, from people who tell us the album gives them hope, that it is possible to go through the tough times together and stay together.” Shear and Shazar always perform Roger Miller’s “Husbands and Wives” whenever they appear together at a show. Miller’s ode to keeping it going through the ups and downs is a Shear favorite, and their first record together carries on a well travelled journey of love found, lost and regained.
Watch the video here: www.shear-shazar.com