A Child’s Mind

Music Legend Desmond Child Speaks to SocialMiami.com

Photo by Hellmund

“My induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame is a fulfillment of the American Dream,” said Desmond Child from the South Beach condo of longtime friend, Debbie Ohanian. “I grew up in the projects, close to where Edison high school is. My parents were divorced and my mom spoke very little English. She earned a living by flipping burgers, and that was often our dinner -– leftover, soggy burgers at 10 o’clock at night. To me, that is ground zero. That’s where I started out and that’s where I swore I would never go back to. That’s why I have 70 top 40 hits, because you can be from the ghetto and if you work hard, you can make it to the top.”

And at the top he is. Throughout the past 30 years, Child has grown into one of the most respected talents in the music industry. Blessed with the ability to transcend genres, Child has written and produced music for rock n’ roll, pop, Latin music, movies and musicals. His impressive list of clients include Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Ricky Martin, Michael Bolton, Kiss, Cher, Joss Stone, Hilary Duff, Alice Cooper, Kelly Clarkson and many more.

Child’s ascent from ground zero reached a new plateau when he was recently inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York City. Yet, the seeds for Child’s musical prowess were planted in the very area to which he swore he would never return.

“My mother was a singer/songwriter and there were always musicians around the house,” he said. “Every week there was a jam session. My uncle was also a performer, a singer and dancer at the Tropicana in Havana. He later partnered with the legendary bolero singer, Olga Guillot, and they were a part of my upbringing as well.”

In 1973, Child started his band, Desmond Child & Rouge and eventually moved the group from Miami to New York, where he also attended NYU. Desmond Child & Rouge produced two albums with Capitol Records, but the group quickly disbanded.

“I couldn’t get my solo career to take off,” he said. “I’m too thin skinned. Many of the stars that I work with laugh at criticism that would affect me. But it worked out for the better. As a songwriter and producer, I have been able to plant seeds in so many records and reach many more people.”

Child did not return to Miami until 1994 at the urging of Ohanian. “Debbie always calls it before anyone else,” he said, “and she recognized Miami’s Latin music explosion. She urged me to work with this young soap opera star who had performed on Broadway in Les Miserable. His was name was Ricky Martin.”

Ohanian’s introduction helped to catapult Latin music into the mainstream. “At that time, I had an assignment to write the World Cup theme,” Child explained, “and I convinced Ricky to sing it and we created La Copa de la Vida (The Cup of Life), which reached number one in 22 countries. And that’s the song that Ricky sang at the Grammy Awards, which was the fuse that ignited the Latin music explosion. Would there be a Latin Grammys without that performance? It convinced the American music executives that there really was something urgent and cool about Latin music.”

Child and Martin collaborated on more singles and Child applied his rock n’ roll experience to the Latin music genre. “I never viewed Ricky as a Latin star. I viewed him as a rock star. If I had gone the other way, to what Latin music was with the tingly bells and tons of reverb, we may have not made the music we did.”

Child has strong opinions on musical talent. He credits Steve Vai as the greatest guitar player of all time. He also has an affinity for Richie Sambora from Bon Jovi, Joe Perry from Aerosmith and Rusty Anderson who currently plays for Paul McCartney and played guitar for Livin’ La Vida Loca.

On the fashion side, Child wears a lot of John Varvatos and chooses to have many of his shirts and suits custom made. “I found this great shoe store when I was at the Sex and the City premiere in London,” he said. “Oliver Sweeney. I have trouble finding shoes that don’t hurt my feet, but these shoes are great. I bought several pairs.”

Child’s Oliver Sweeney shoes

When in Miami, Child eats at Ouzo’s, Macaluso’s and poolside at The Standard. His favorite Cuban restaurant is Versailles. “The food is out in three minutes,” he said. “It’s just the best.”

Child also has a place on Fifth Avenue in New York with a wonderful view of Central Park. When there, he frequents Quadronno, Yura for takeout, Sarabeth’s Kitchen, Taqueria El Paso and the closest thing to Cuban food he’s found in New York, Amor Cubano. “They have Cuban waitresses,” he said.

Desmond Child is a Miami prodigy who left his hometown to achieve stardom, only to return and become a vital part of its artistic renaissance. He is currently working in Miami with Latin star Ali Castro -– which is certainly a good sign for Ali Castro.