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Dr. Christina Rahm dives into music, creativity, and the tough journey it took to become a legendary musician with singer, songwriter, keyboardist and philanthropist Joseph Wooten. Joseph also performs some of his original works and takes Christina through the mindset of creating music and creating a great life.
Dr. Christina Rahm
Joseph [00:00:08] Scientifically Beautiful.
Intro [00:00:19] I hope you guys enjoy this episode of Scientifically Beautiful which is on the Life’s Tough, You can be Tougher network.
Dr. Rahm [00:00:33] Welcome back, everyone to this episode of Scientifically Beautiful. I’m Dr. Christina Rahm and I’m very happy and pleased today and thankful to introduce Joseph Wooten.
Joseph [00:00:44] How are you?
Dr. Rahm [00:00:45] I’m great. How are you?
Joseph [00:00:46] I’m happy to be here. I’m very well. Thank you.
Dr. Rahm [00:00:49] OK, so you’re famous?
Joseph [00:00:51] Well, it depends on who you ask.
Dr. Rahm [00:00:53] And most and we have a lot of people on this show from other countries. You’ve visited a lot of countries like me, but for music.
Joseph Yes, for the most part for music.
Dr. Rahm My mom’s a musician. I may or may not have shared that one.
Joseph [00:01:07] No, I didn’t know that.
Dr. Rahm [00:01:08] Yeah, she majored in classical piano.
Joseph [00:01:11] I like her better already.
Dr. Rahm [00:01:12] Yes. And so I was raised constantly with piano, trumpet, guitar, singing. I was not good at those things like you are. So I sadly disappointed her in my endeavors. But music makes me happy and so many other people happy. And we also know that it impacts people’s health even.
Joseph [00:01:32] Right.
Dr. Rahm [00:01:33] And so I, but the purpose of this is to talk about health and science, as well as people’s lives and how they got to where they are because life is tough, and it takes a certain kind of personality to just keep going and to make it to where you are. And oftentimes when you see someone famous like you, that was in Steve Miller Band and Wooten Brothers, you have your own label, you do all kinds of things. You also do a lot to help people. A lot of times they’ll see people like you and think, well, that journey was easy and he’s very fortunate. They don’t see the tough part and how you got here. So I’d love to start, if you don’t mind, with you telling a little bit about yourself and how you got here.
Joseph [00:02:17] OK.
Dr. Rahm [00:02:17] And also mentioning one or two things that were hard along the way where you didn’t quit.
Joseph [00:02:22] Okay.
Dr. Rahm [00:02:22] Still were able to get here.
Joseph [00:02:24] I can do that. I was born into a musical family, I have four brothers and all of my brothers are musicians. When I was five, ok, let me step back a little bit. My dad fought in the Korean War and they both grew up in North Carolina, both born in North Carolina; in a very segregated North Carolina. My dad was born in 1930, my mom in 1934. My dad fought in the Korean War, my mom and dad got married, my dad had promised her that he was going to retire after the war was over and he got out of the war and switched to the Air Force from the Army, which my mother wasn’t very happy about. Fortunately, she stayed with him. She had promised him that if he hadn’t, if he hadn’t retired, she was going to leave and thank goodness she didn’t. And they had five boys, kept trying to have girls, kept having boys who were born in Air Force bases all across the country. So I’m second to the youngest. I’m the fourth of five. I’m three years older than Victor. My older three brothers, Rudy, Roy and Regi are three, four and five years younger than me, and five years older than me, I’m sorry. So in the mid-1960s, we moved to Hawaii; the Air Force Base in Hawaii, and my three older brothers were in elementary school. In Hawaii the school-issued elementary school instrument is the ukulele and the recorder. And so my brother, Rudy, the middle brother, picked up the recorder. He was instantly good. Whatever he heard, he could play. My middle brother Roy was beating on everything that he saw and he was instantly good. My oldest brother, Regi, took Roy’s ukulele and was instantly good; whatever he heard he could play it. And for whatever reason, this is really the story that needs to be told, ten-year-old Regi said to to five-year-old me and two-year-old Victor: If you play this and you play this, we can have a band and he taught us how to play at the age of 10. I was five and Victor was two, and he taught us well, so we do little concerts in the yard, Regi’s on his ukulele and Victor’s playing a little Mickey Mouse guitar, and I’m playing a little Schroeder piano. But he taught us well to the point that was probably, Victor’s born in ’64, so that was in ’66. In 1970 we open, we had moved to California in 1968 and by 1970 we were at the Big Arena just outside of Sacramento, California. We lived in Rancho Cordova and we were opening for WAR, we opened for WAR, you know, Cisco Kid, you know, Why can’t we be friends? We opened for them. And Victor was only five. Victor had just learned to write his name. I was eight, the older three brothers were 11, 12 and 13, so we were taught well. And two years later, we were on a little mini tour with Curtis Mayfield, and he was singing the whole of the music from the Super Fly soundtrack. And at a very young age, we knew what we were doing with our lives that worked in our favor, that we had focused early. My parents, especially my mom, made sure, wanted to make sure that we were people of substance. So, she made sure one that we made good grades in school. She recognized that the school system wasn’t teaching us very well. So, she went and got flashcards, and she made sure that we knew how to read, write, do a basic addition, subtraction, multiplication. She’d have the flashcards and she would put this flash card up: I need you to be able to tell me the answer, just like you can tell me your name. And then she said, because you know, Christmas is coming, you know, all these flashcards and waiting at Christmas. But she knew how tough it was going to be. I mean, she knew how tough it was for them coming up in a very segregated, tough North Carolina. You know where they go to school on all 12 grades in one room with one teacher? That was them. So, she made sure that we were equipped to be… to do whatever it was that we would need to endure. Now, in terms of… that part of it, it wasn’t easy, but it was comfortable because we were playing, we always had somebody to play with, siblings or parents were at all the gigs. So that part of it was very comfortable. But now, at the age of two, in terms of difficulty, at the age of two, at the age of three, I was told I had gotten very bad pneumonia and pneumonia left me with asthma. So, asthma has been my challenge and I spent a lot of my childhood just struggling and eating the standard American diet, the standard American people-from-the-country diet, cereal in the morning, and you know biscuits, and you know, you can’t have a meal without something sweet to wash it down. So, I spent a good deal of time struggling and as I got older, as my brothers went to college, they found a book called Cooking with Dick Gregory. Dick Gregory was a social activist/comedian who found nutrition as he got older. So, there was this nutrition book, and we really got into that. Now, from there, it gave me some ideas of making my health better with diet. So, I’m kind of, a I’m a bit of a self-taught nutritionist, but the way that I’ve been able to overcome my asthma is with diet and the things that I’ve learned. So, asthma has been my challenge, but it’s also been my teacher because had I not had it, I could… I’m a pretty philosophical guy and I can hear myself going the vegans are going to die, the meat eaters are going to die, you know. Why would I deny myself the thing that I like to eat the most? But when you can’t breathe? When you can’t breathe and you find a way to be able to breathe if you make some changes, it has enabled me with discipline, to have a quality of life that I wasn’t able to have when I was younger. I mean, I’ll be 60 in December. I’m breathing a lot better than I was when I was 50, and certainly when I was 40.
Dr. Rahm [00:09:35] You know, I had asthma.
Joseph [00:09:37] Did you really?
Dr. Rahm [00:09:37] Yeah. And I, you know, people think that because you’re a scientist, with your medicine or clinical or whatever you’re doing, that you know about nutrition. But I actually went back to Cornell to get certified in nutrition because it was important to me. I have to tell you, I grew up in the country. We had butter, you know, and it was, it was really good. But I always tell people, you either live to eat, or you eat to live.
Joseph [00:10:04] Because it’s so important. And I can’t even tell you I make products and people will say how amazing they are. But one of the things I say… and they’ll say it changed their life. But I think it’s not just the products. I think that I also talk a lot about eating healthy.
Joseph [00:10:19] Right.
Dr. Rahm [00:10:19] And cleaning your body and putting the right things in because you could give someone the best products pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, I don’t care. But if their nutrition isn’t good, it honestly affects your health so much. People don’t realize it.
Joseph [00:10:32] It really does it. There’s so much. There’s so much to learn, and I’m constantly learning more. The one that surprised me the most is that oftentimes when you learn in nutrition, you’re learning just the content. You know, how much protein, how much sodium and how much potassium, how much magnesium, et cetera. But the thing that helped me the most is when I learned how those foods function in your body, because some things that are very… have a high nutrition content are very detrimental to your gut lining. And there’s a… once I learned the correlation between gut lining and breathing that changed everything, you know, a lot of the things that I thought I was doing right were very detrimental and some of the things that I thought were really bad for me weren’t as bad as I thought they were. But I’m vegan now, so I don’t eat butter. But butter’s not…
Dr. Rahm [00:11:32] It’s not. It’s not horrible. Grass-fed butter. It’s the microbiome of the stomach. And I was like you, like I really need to understand more about this because there’s the science part, and then there’s the complete eco structure of the body and what you need to learn.
Joseph [00:11:48] That’s right.
Dr. Rahm [00:11:48] So yeah, I think I can see how that was a challenge and…
Joseph [00:11:53] I’m sorry to cut you off, but especially being a singer…
Dr. Rahm [00:11:56] Well, I thought about that when you said singing. It’s interesting because your wife, I, you know, am working with her on a project that has to do with how important the air is. And I think when you have asthma, I mean, I ended up in the hospital numerous times, could not breathe. It’s the scariest thing. But when you talked about asthma, I thought, I bet his experience was harder than mine because you’re a singer.
Joseph [00:12:19] Well, now… So, here’s the thing for me, asthma is so not scary to me because I’ve known it my whole life, right? So, I know what my body does, when I have it. I don’t have any fear that… I’ve never had a fear that it’s going to be the end of me. It’s just a discomfort that I got to get through. But I’ve spent so much of my life in the hospital as a child that it’s not a fear for me anymore, and I don’t have it that much anymore. And if I do, I don’t have it nearly to the severity that I used to have it. But I’ve learned so much. It’s been such… thank goodness I had it, because if I didn’t, there’d be no reason for me to not just keep eating like I ate when I was growing up. And one thing that you don’t really see, you don’t really see old asthmatics.
Dr. Rahm [00:13:15] No.
Joseph [00:13:16] Because it’s so hard on you, on your system. It’s a… it’s a cardiac issue. If you don’t, if you don’t figure something out, yeah, you know, while you still have your youth.
Dr. Rahm [00:13:30] Well, like it turns into COPD, different types. But yeah. I do want to talk to you about the fact that you overcame that, as well as other things to be this famous musician that’s not just a famous musician, but someone that helps people through, and I know, I didn’t mean not to laugh in those pictures. I mean, you are, and honestly, you would never know that from being around you and I think that’s one of the things I always love. People that have achieved… worked very hard to achieve things in their life and feel blessed because of it instead of, I don’t know, you’re just a very humble person, which is another gift I think you probably have to bring to people. But you have not just been a musician that’s made an impact on people, not just started a nonprofit that’s impacted people, but also you’ve been acknowledged and spoken at places like the U.N. and different environments and your wife actually shared with me, I think you were out of the room, but about some of her experiences with you and how you guys were. She was sitting at the table, I think, with the head of the U.N. and didn’t know who that was. And Stephanie, I could see Stephanie because she’s like my personality. Just not that we’re clueless, but we’re like, Hello.
Joseph [00:14:39] “So what do you do?”
Dr. Rahm [00:14:40] “So what do you do?”… She shared that, and I love that story. But you were sitting also at the table, with very prominent people, for a reason, that you were invited. You know, it’s anytime you’re in an environment like that, you have to have something you’re offering where they want you there. And the U.N., would you share with the audience why you were with the U.N. and what you guys were doing?
Joseph [00:15:04] Well, Stephanie always like her clientele, as always, movers and shakers. And this particular person was a billionaire, you know, gazillionaire and one of the people that he was working with was in charge of getting these people from the UN together, so it wasn’t actually at the UN, but it was those people.
Dr. Rahm [00:15:33] Some of the people were there. Yeah, I’m sorry.
Joseph [00:15:34] Yes. No, it’s quite all right. So, we were invited. Now, I didn’t know until later there was facial recognition. So, you know, I’m told “everybody knows that you are a rock star,” which always makes me crack up because I don’t feel like a rock star. I feel like I work for a line, right? I work for Steve Miller, Rock-and-Roll Hall-of-Fame inductee Steve Miller, but I was sitting at a table with Caroline Kennedy, and some other people, and the other lady was, I don’t remember her name, she was the head of AARP. And I remember she was asking me some questions about the effect of music on cognitive decline, health and cognitive decline. And then I remember Caroline Kennedy asked a question that I never got a chance to answer. I was raring to answer this question, but somebody else wanted her attention and she got taken away from the table. But she was saying, like, Who do you think? Who do you think is, like, prominent and kind of a light for the world right now? You know, prominent and upcoming. And I wanted to answer the question so bad, and I never got a chance to. But what I wanted to tell her is that it’s not just one person, it’s a bunch of us. There’s a bunch of women who get up and are like selfless and take kids to school and set good examples. And it’s a… we make a bit of an error. We give… we waste a little bit of our goodness when we wait for the savior. Rather than being one and like, who’s the person? there’s a sea of them, right? I was in Buffalo, New York speaking at schools, and one day it was like a dozen Buffalos wintertime. Snow went up a storm. Yes, and there was this guy with a snow blower. And he snow-blowed the sidewalk for everybody. He’s just a neighbor. Snow-blowed the sidewalk for everybody. He snow-blowed everybody’s driveways and walkways because there were a lot of elderly there. And he did that not because it was going to get him applause or somebody was going to bring him a metal. That’s… there it goes, there’s the answer to that question, there’s a million of us. But too often we don’t value it. Now we wait to give all of our value to the person that cut us off and then we dedicate all the drivers in that city. You know, just like those Nashville drivers, they’ll cut you off at the expense of all those drivers who did exactly the right thing. Truth to the matter is most every driver does exactly what they’re supposed to, but we give all of our attention to the people that don’t do the right thing. And that’s the error that we make, is that we waste goodness giving all of our attention to people that don’t do right, because there’s much more people doing right than there are doing wrong. But one advantage that evil has is that it’s not evil until they act on it. No, but you know what I mean, if I assault you, it becomes evil. Well, goodness is good without action.
Dr. Rahm [00:18:59] That’s true, that’s very true.
Joseph [00:19:00] And too often evil takes advantage of that. We have too many… We, nowadays, we need goodness with action. But we also need to value it.
Dr. Rahm [00:19:12] I love this discussion because I say this all the time. You have this evil and bad that happens, like I even know as a scientist, a lot of people are angry because, you know, technologists like me, right? They blame on different things happening, but they’re also part of the solution. What I always tell people, especially recently with all the things going on in the United States and then everywhere, is we are good people. There’s more good people than bad people, but we’ve got to take action. We’ve got to do things. We can’t just sit there. Right, right. Because you’re right, because there’s so much goodness. But we’ve got to step in and it’s not one person. It’s a lot of people.
Joseph [00:19:54] Yes, it is. And that’s an advantage that music has and that music, when music does the right thing, it’s the end goal without the process. Like, if we can have a conversation and there’s a chance that the conversation might bring us to a mutual understanding. But if I play music and you receive it? It’s instant mutual understanding without us having to go to… I can, I can sing a song, but I’ll show you. So, I was I was talking to a…
Dr. Rahm [00:20:31] I’m going to have Stephanie help me make sure I have the microphone.
Joseph [00:20:35] They’ll be, they’ll be able to hear me. I was talking to, I was with the class and I was telling them how music makes special things out of normal things. Like, there was a girl; I said “I like your hair,” right? Her name was Avigail. I like your hair. I liked her name too, Avigal, as opposed to Abigail. So, I could say, “Avigail, I like your hair.” Or I could say, like [singing] “Avigail, I like your hair and I’m so happy that you’re there. Avigail, I like your hair and I’m so happy that you’re there. Avigail. Avigail. Avigail, I like…” And etc., etc., etc. With music, we can take the average thing and make it something special. That’s what makes it such a powerful tool. But with music, we take what’s good and we make use of it, because music is life as it should be. This is what you make music around [pounding on piano keys]. But that’s a mess with potential.
Dr. Rahm [00:21:55] Right.
Joseph [00:21:56] Right. But to turn that from a mess to music, we do it by applying intelligence to it. And that’s the same thing we should do in life. Too often, though, in life, it’s competition. I’m trying to make you wrong. Or, trying to make you more like me. And that’s not what we do with music. We recognize when we listen to music that it’s life as it should be. Everybody recognizes the goodness of music, but too often we stop trying to make music. Music is just a path forward for our differences, right, from this clash of differences. We use our intelligence to find a beautiful path forward that we can all enjoy. Too many of us stop trying to do that after we take off the headphones, after we walk away from the instrument. Music is a powerful tool. Science is a powerful tool. The key is to inspire people to want more of it, and we inspire people not so much by telling them things. We inspire them more by them watching how we do it—by example. And that’s what I’m trying to do.
Dr. Rahm [00:23:06] That is amazing, OK, that was… I loved hearing that. But I have to tell you something I’ve never said out loud. As a female scientist, I have often been attacked because I make pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals. It can be a threat to powerful industrial people. But I’m like you. It’s been a… it’s become a strength because I don’t think I would have kept going back to school. I don’t think I would have kept doing things, but I get questioned a lot because I will go into a lab and work on a formula. But then when I leave, I give them the same formula. They saw me do it and they can’t make it. And then I have different patents, trade secrets, and they’ll say, “Well, why is it different when she makes it?” So, one of the things I do in the lab because my mother is a musician, I’m an artist, is I will sing and I will hum while I’m doing it. And so, I said this to myself. I think that it’s the energy because I use polarization, I use magnets, I use fracking, I use different… But, music is a science and it’s a beautiful thing. But when I say that, if I said that publicly in front of a bunch of scientists and technologists, they would say, I don’t believe that; there’s got to be something else. And I’ve said this many times. I don’t know why my formulas are different when I make them. But actually, in my heart I go: Do you know why? Because I’m using… I’m taking something that everyone else can do, and I’m turning it into something that’s beautiful because I’m using the energy behind humming and music and the words and the sound. And if there’s anyone that taught me that, it was my beautiful mother.
Joseph [00:24:49] Those moms.
Dr. Rahm [00:24:51] And she would sing to us and hum, and there’s energy and there’s healing in that. And I want to thank you for what you’ve done because you’re helping people.
Joseph [00:25:02] We’re all helping people. Yeah, we’re helping. You’re helping people. I’m helping people. And there’s, to Caroline Kennedy’s question, there’s millions of us doing the right thing. We’re not the only ones having this conversation. We’re not the only ones that are out there doing right. But what is important for us to do is to recognize and uplift those people that are doing right with the same intensity that we draw to the person that just cut us off. Suddenly, that person becomes the subject of the moment and those 100 people that are driving perfectly, we’ve ignored them as if they’re driving the way they’re supposed to. But they cut you off and suddenly become the theme of the day. How come the person who’s not, who’s doing right isn’t the theme of the day? If there’s a… if there is a secret to happiness, it’s recognizing the things that are good while you have them. We’ll all do that. Eventually, when you realize you’ve got a week left, the sunrise will become glorious at that point. How come it’s not glorious today?
Dr. Rahm [00:26:09] Well, you’ll forget the bad things. If you have a week left, that’s not going to work. Yeah.
Joseph [00:26:13] But if there’s a secret to happiness, it’s seeing the good recognized, not seeing them because we are, we see them, but recognizing them for what they are. Every sunset is glorious. Every sunrise is glorious. We have a friend that made a point of seeing every sunrise for a year, and it changed their life. Every sunrise and every sunset for a year. It changed their life. We are… freedom and goodness spoiled, in that we have so much of it, we sort of forget about it. We sort of forget about it. We value our parents once they get sick. When they’re here we’re beefing with them too often.
Dr. Rahm [00:26:58] Yeah, oh yeah.
Joseph [00:26:59] Yeah. The last thing is life. Here’s a statistic that makes you put it into perspective. If you live to be 100 years old, if you’re that lucky—that seems like a nice, long life. That’s thirty six thousand five hundred and twenty five days. That’s… it’s just not… if you had a dollar for every day, you live to be alive to 100, you couldn’t even go get it. You couldn’t buy a home. You couldn’t buy a good car. If you had a million, then if you start doing the math, you’re going to sleep to a third of that. Now that’s 24000 days, and you’re going to waste a good amount of it holding grudges or sitting in traffic or when you’re older and you can’t move around, the sweet spot of life is short. So, get up and see some sunsets. Let people know how you feel about them, appreciate it when people feel good about you, examine the beauty of a butterfly, you know, let your significant other know why they’re special to you.
Dr. Rahm [00:28:05] This is really great.
Joseph [00:28:06] It really is. I mean, I know, like with Stephanie, I know all the little details of why she likes me over other people. She knows all the little details of why I like her over other people, which is, that is priceless. If the bottom falls out tomorrow, I know all the little details of why she likes me over other people, and I’ll be able to endure whatever it is because some people live lives alone.
Dr. Rahm [00:28:37] Oh, yeah, and you love people, not just because of these wonderful things, I say this, I say this a lot. You love them despite, like if you really look at the people you love that you choose to be with, you chose Stephanie, for example, your children, for example, your parents. They have these flaws, right? We all have these flaws. But it’s what makes us so beautiful. And it’s what, if we could just understand that it’s not… we don’t just love someone because of what they do for us or all the… but we love them because despite anything that they are, it’s the little intricacies that are important.
Joseph [00:29:12] But again, goodness needs recognition and it needs to be put into action. It’s good to have respect for somebody, but respect is ineffective until you show respect for somebody. To have it but you still walk in front of your girlfriend before you go through the door… You respect her, but the fact that you didn’t show respect makes it ineffective. It’s time, especially in these days, it’s time for goodness to be followed with actions, and then we’ll be better.
Dr. Rahm [00:29:42] This is Scientifically Beautiful, and we are talking about tough subjects. You did an amazing discussion because you actually helped me realize what was important and what I need to focus on. And I hope that you guys learn from this and can take this along your journey. Life is beautiful. Science is beautiful. This is Scientifically Beautiful, and I will see you guys next time on our next episode. And then, I have to get off right now because I have to try to beg them to be on another episode at some point. Thanks, everyone. Talk to everyone soon.