This week on the music beat

Stranger Than Fiction (Music - Various Artists)

BUY GEORGE Billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, apparently miffed that no one recorded a ”Candle in the Wind ’97” for his son Dodi Al Fayed (who died in the crash that killed Princess Diana), has commissioned jazz guitarist George Benson, 55, to write and record a tribute to Dodi. On Aug. 19, Benson cut ”My Father, My Son,” a string-soaked tearjerker honoring Dodi, and the equally maudlin ”I Will Keep You in My Heart (Diana),” and hopes to release them by the Aug. 31 anniversary of their death. Benson met the elder Al Fayed (apparently a huge fan) while signing autographs at Al Fayed’s London department store Harrods in July. ”He invited me up for tea,” says Benson, ”and we found we had something in common: I lost three sons myself, so I know what that means.” (One of Benson’s sons was murdered; the others were lost to crib death and kidney failure.) Al Fayed asked Benson if he’d write ”something for Dodi and Diana.” The guitarist is pleased with the results: ”I see an opportunity to get airplay that I would never have gotten if it wasn’t for this scenario.” Makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over, no?

WRITERS BLOC Back in 1956, Chuck Berry dismissed the idea of writing a book as ”too much monkey business.” But some wordsmiths are apparently eager to monkey around with music, as attested to by Stranger Than Fiction, an upcoming album featuring songs from Norman Mailer, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, and 30 other star authors. The project was the brainchild of Kathi Kamen Goldmark, who organized the notorious lit-rock band the Rock Bottom Remainders in 1992. ”The Remainders were a wonderful show, but not a very good band,” laughs Goldmark, who recruited ”real musicians” to back the scribes for Stranger. Goldmark plans to release the album this fall on her ”Don’t Quit Your Day Job” Records label and hopes to net a distribution deal soon. Pick hit: ”Alimony Blues,” Mailer’s debut as a singer. Asked when he wrote the tune, Mailer says: ”It was so many years ago that I can’t really tell you the date, sometime in the late ’60s or early ’70s. The lyrics are funny, and it is sung with the unmatchable authority of a man whose voice has never been known to hit a single note on pitch.”

Stranger Than Fiction (Music - Various Artists)
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