Interview: Russell Ruderman

Russell has lived here in the Puna district for 28 years; store owner, senator, musician (excellent guitarist). He’s done a lot including sailing from California to here in a little wooden, motorless sailboat back in nineteen hundred and eighty five (as McCartney would say). During the time of the writing of this book, he successfully staved off a strong challenge for his seat in the Hawai‘i state senate.

ALSTRAND: Everyone (from around here anyway) knows you, but not everyone knows you are a pretty good musician. And a Beatles fan. What is your first memory of The Beatles? How did they affect you?

RUDERMAN: I saw them on their first Ed Sullivan show live, February 1964. I remember so well that it was a couple months after President John F. Kennedy was killed. These two events mark the beginning of the world going crazy, no longer conforming to the old rules. In a few years we saw the emergence of the hippies and the anti-war movement, but it all started with the twin social earthquakes of JFK’s assassination, then The Beatles. The discussion in school and in the press was: Is this a passing fad (most people’s belief) or the next big thing. Turned out to be the next big thing: Bigger than we could imagine. It was not just The Beatles, but the rapid evolution of Rock that followed, leading to the music and the politics of the “Sixties.”

ALSTRAND: What about The Beatles as musicians?

RUDERMAN: In my opinion, Paul McCartney is the greatest all-around musician of our lifetime. Think of the melodic freedom and expression in his singing such as “Penny Lane” or “Lady Madonna,” the raucous, exuberant screams of “Helter Skelter” or “Revolution” and the tender quiet elegance of songs such as “Yesterday” and “Let it Be.” Add the innovative bass lines, his songwriting skill, and adventurousness in so much of The Beatles music. Then add the voice that can rock, croon, sigh or yell, always with musicality and taste. No one can match his contribution to the music we know.

ALSTRAND: How did they affect you as a musician or as a person?

RUDERMAN: The Beatles showed us first that exuberance and fun energy are welcome parts of stage and music. Delving deeper into studio compositions a few years later, they showed us that creativity is possible and welcome in music and life.