Article: David Foster gets by with a Little Help from his Friends

David and Celine


Story by Jim Tobler

Photography by Jerry Metellus

Most Canadians, thankfully, will not have to experience the dialysis facilities at a major urban hospital any time in their life. That should not diminish the fact, though, that these exist, and are populated with energetic staff and doctors, and a pretty determined bunch of patients, all of whom are awaiting kidney transplants and going through the arduous process of thrice-weekly dialysis treatments, in and of itself a full time job. And there is the major rub, since medical services plans can cover many direct expenses, but cannot (or at this
point at least, will not) cover the purgatorial situation induced by such things as mortgages, travel, out of town accommodation, and wage loss. Then, when you consider what all of this might be like for a young child and their family, you get an even better view of how much funding is actually needed to make this all work in the real world.

There is a famous Canadian who has decided to try and make something of a difference in all of this. David Foster is forever in blue jeans. It somehow speaks to his Canadian heritage, and perhaps to his musical tastes. His abilities as a producer, what Butch Vig (of Garbage and Nirvana) would describe as the mind behind the glass, are pretty much unassailable, but what most folks might not realize is how he recognizes emerging talent and brings it forward. In a big kind of way. A Celine Dion big kind of way. But this is not actually about David, or Celine, or Dustin, or Barbra, or Sarah. It is about a certain group of people, children, who don’t, simply put, have the financial resources to help themselves, and the social support system, including the medical services plan in Canada, don’t provide them either.

For David Foster, it was a pretty straightforward moment, not exactly like Joyce and his idealized female standing in the Liffey with her skirts raised, but you get the idea. “Nineteen years ago, I was in a hospital in Los Angeles,” David says. “I was asked by my mother, in Victoria, to visit a child in hospital here, who was from Victoria. I stopped at her bedside, and we talked for awhile. I asked her what she wanted most in the world. She said ‘I want my mommy here.’ I thought to myself ‘This is crazy. For the price of an airplane ticket, $400, I could make this happen.’” It does, admittedly, take a great amount of extrapolation to go from this defining moment to the remarkable investment David has made in helping children and their families. But should you ever meet Foster, it likely would not surprise you.

He put it together in a unique way. This is about young people who require organ transplants, hearts, kidneys, and more, in order to survive. In most cases, the transplant itself is covered by medical insurance. But there is a rider to this, a practical consideration that no government considers. What are the costs to the family, and how do they bear these costs? We’re talking loss of income for parents who need to accompany their child to the site where the surgical specialist resides, often out of Canada, accommodation for a parent, the myriad unforeseen costs pertaining to such highly specialized surgery. Not to mention the fact that we are talking here about organ transplants. So, the David Foster Foundation was born.

There is a stern logic to this. David Foster is a Canadian, yes, and he to this day follows Canadian talents as they make their way across the Milky Way of the music industry. But he is the person who brought Celine Dion to the world, in terms of her voice, her sound, her fundamental appeal. He wrote the theme for the film St. Elmo’s Fire, and produced a prodigious amount of music for artists of all stripes and persuasions. Listen to the breezy track “Nothin’ You Can Do About It”, by Manhattan Transfer, and you’ll be able to almost instantly earmark David’s style. When we chat about his work with Chicago, it makes him smile, and says “That was a band that needed to re-establish how truly great they were. I guess most people would agree that they were not doing themselves justice there for awhile. But I was asked to do Chicago XVIII, and, you know, I loved Chicago. “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is”, “Color My World”, “25 or 6 to 4”, you know, all that classic stuff. But, when we started to work together, it was funny; some of the band didn’t even remember their early stuff. I looked at a couple of the horn charts, and I just knew it wasn’t their best stuff. I had to remind them, kind of say ‘this was so great, why don’t you give me something like this. Give me your best.’”

This excerpt is from the Winter 2005 issue of NUVO Magazine.  Copies are available at Chapters and Indigo locations across Canada or call 1.877.205.NUVO (6886).

2 Replies to “Article: David Foster gets by with a Little Help from his Friends”

  1. David,

    We at BMK I really like the song I heard at the Olympics. Great job as always! you an inspiration to all of us!


  2. Greetings from Poland. We have a small informal David Foster Fun Club over here and always enjoy the great songs you write.

    Piotr Hinz, Rolnik, Darek Grochowski, Dawid Derdzikowski, Maery Prus, Karo, Samuel and Dagmara

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