Legendary Music Producer Has a New Song With a Mission

Jack Douglas and electronic band Braves envision a world where wild elephants live in peace.

(Photo: Courtesy 'Gardeners of Eden')

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Jun 19, 2015· 3 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

The grisly images of slaughtered African elephants in the documentary Gardeners of Eden is more than enough to awaken dormant activism in the average citizen. When music producer and engineer Jack Douglas watched the haunting movie, he was no exception.

“I thought that this problem was primarily over,” Douglas told TakePart. “I was really, really shocked by the fact that it’s a still huge problem. In fact, it’s worse than it’s ever been.”

Poaching has reached an all-time high in the past two decades. With an average of 96 elephants killed daily, they’re headed toward extinction within the next decade unless action is taken to end the lucrative trade in wildlife products.

Gardeners of Eden follows actor, philanthropist, and producer Kristin Davis as she works with Kenya’s David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to rescue and care for the hunted species. (disclosure: Gardners of Eden was Licensed by Pivot, the sister company of TakePart.com and a division of Participant Media.)

After seeing the film, Douglas wanted to help in any way he could and offered up his expertise to create the score. For the film’s ending, he thought a lyrical piece would create a memorable moment for audience members.

Braves' Jericho (Left) and Thorald of the Wood (Photo: Anders Krusberg)

“When you’re leaving the theater, you should be hearing a song that really ties it up instead of just music,” Douglas explained. “It makes much more of an impression, especially if the lyrics are great.”

Douglas turned to burgeoning Los Angeles band Braves. The three men who make up Braves—Jericho, Thorald of the Wood, and Johnny What—were more than happy to oblige. In part, they jumped at the opportunity because when someone like Douglas calls—he’s worked with John Lennon, Patti Smith, and Aerosmith—you pick up the phone. But the band was equally moved by the film’s message and Davis’ passion.

“We knew we wanted to end Gardeners of Eden with a song that captured the sense of loss of these magnificent animals but also spoke of the hope that together we could prevent their extinction. The Braves song ‘Crush’ just nails it. Their beautiful voices blend perfectly, and the song brings an emotional connection to the end of the film,” Davis said.

Told from the perspective of a dying elephant, the song asks poachers what their body parts are worth.

“It’s their dying words, as heavy as that may sound,” Jericho told TakePart.

The song is being heavily promoted on both Spotify and Crowdrise in an effort to raise awareness about both the film and the issue of elephant poaching.

"We’re blown away by Braves,” said Robert Wolfe, CEO and Co-Founder of CrowdRise. "Their music, their passion and their relentless pursuit to give back. It’s all incredibly inspiring to us at CrowdRise and we're so so psyched to help ‘em every way possible."

As music platforms and organizations are eager to add their support to end the inhumane poaching, the heartbreaking image of an elephant meeting its demise has greater implications. The animals are also vital to Africa’s ecosystem. They spread seeds, open up grasslands through their heavy footsteps, and are prey for lions and tigers; the looming extinction of elephants goes beyond a single species.

Although the sale of new ivory is banned in the U.S., we’re still one of the largest importers—second only to China. A loophole allowing for the sale of antique ivory encourages traders to make new tusks appear aged and continue to sell knickknacks and jewelry containing ivory.

Douglas eliminated all ivory from his music equipment—older guitars and pianos are known to have ivory components. The members of Braves do not own any such instruments, but one bandmate realized he was unknowingly in possession of a few items made of the materials he’d come to despise.

“I realized that there were like a few little trinkets that had ivory in my house, and I got rid of them. I just didn’t want them around.” Jericho said. “I devalued them.”

That’s the purpose of the "Ivory Crush" event in Times Square on Friday, in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with conservationists, will crush one ton of seized ivory. By destroying objects made with ivory, the USFWS is sending a message to illegal traders: These actions will not be condoned or supported. Without a consumer base buying the products, ivory loses its value.

While “Crush” is Braves’ first foray into activism through music, the band hopes to continue to promote social change; a song about rhinos is in the works.

“I’m indebted to Braves, who wrote the song after seeing the documentary, and Jack Douglas, legendary music producer, who guided the overall score,” said Davis. “In fact, the band was so moved by the poaching crisis and finding their own way to give support, they donated proceeds on the purchase of the song to the David Sheldrick Trust. I’m so touched and honored to work with them.”

Editor's Note: The original version of this story incorrectly identified Jack Douglas as the producer of John Lennon's 'Imagine.' Phil Spector produced 'Imagine.'