SEPTEMBER 23 last year struck like a sledgehammer for Grammy award-winning songwriter Christopher Cross.
It was the night his long-time collaborator and close friend Rob Meurer was struck by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street in Studio City, Los Angeles. Meurer, 65, would die the following day from his injuries.
Almost a year after the fatal accident, Meurer’s death has left a profound mark on Cross’ life and career. So much so that the Texas-based artist says his forthcoming album Take Me As I Am will likely be the last of his 38-year recording career.
“That’s why I say I don’t want to make any more albums,” Cross tells Fairfax from his home in Austin. “There’s a lot of reasons, but certainly losing Rob was a huge blow.
“It was a great friendship and collaboration. There’s a lot of reasons why I say I’m not going to write another record, practical and emotional reasons. We’ll see.”
Meurer played synthesizer and keyboards on Cross’ five-time Grammy award-winning self-titled debut in 1979, which spawned the soft-rock classics Sailing, Ride Like The Wind and Never Be The Same.
In 1987 when Cross’ star had dimmed, the pair began a successful songwriting partnership, with Meurer providing the lyrics for the majority of his subsequent albums.
“Every time I play one that he wrote it’s very emotional and there’s songs that have particular meanings for us,” Cross says. “It’s tough some nights to get through some of them because it’s still pretty fresh.
It’s tough some nights to get through some of them because it’s still pretty fresh.
“Rob was very proud of the work we did and I’m very proud of it and it’s part of our legacy. All you can ask for in life is that you leave the place better off than it was.
“Maybe in some way with the music we have enriched people’s lives. I think we did some great work and I’m very proud of that. I miss him so much, but he did what he loved to do and for anybody you can’t ask for anymore than that.”
The combination on losing Meurer and requests from long-term fans for a guitar-based album, convinced Cross to compose predominantly instrumental tracks for Take Me As I Am.
“They’ve been asking for this for so long that I felt I should give it a shot,” he says. “To be honest, I’m not sure how many it’ll sell with the state of the business. It’s changed so drastically that making albums is quite expensive.
“So I basically spend the money I make from touring on albums, which to be honest, not many people hear.”
Performing live remains a delight for Cross. Even at 66 he still spends a third of the year travelling the world with his band of jazz-trained musicians.
The logistics of travel with long-haul flights and hotel rooms are becoming increasingly burdensome, but the moments on stage keep the self-described “army brat” passionate about music.
Cross, whose last major hit was Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do) in 1981, believes what keeps him relevant is the durability of well-crafted melodic songs. Something he believes is increasingly rare in modern music.
“The song craft has disappeared and been replaced by production-style music,” he says. “What lives on are melodies that stick with you, so I’m not completely surprised [the songs are still popular].
“I’m very pleased. Songs like Yesterday or others by The Beatles have a long life because they’re based on craft, whereas songs today are more based on production and presentation.”
The decline of traditional song craft in the charts has disheartened Cross, but he’s satisfied with his legacy.
“When I was young there was Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman and others and we were all songwriters,” Cross says. “We didn’t want to be rock stars, we just did it because we loved songwriting.
“That has disappeared from the landscape and it’s a shame.
“Most things in life are young people’s things, whether it’s music or sport. I’ve been very fortunate to have a great career and love what I do, so I’m not going to complain.”
- Details: 8pm, Saturday, September 9. Tickets: $69, rootyhillrsl.com.au.