San Diego jazz crooner recalls his journey from dark to light
"I got sick. I went from being able to run a million dollar show to not being able to add two numbers."
Peter Marin thinks that the singing of jazz music has brought him back from the brink of wherever it was that his depression was taking him.
"Four years ago, I couldn't find my way home." He says he's better now. He has coping mechanisms.
"But I still get lost a lot." He says he found it hard to agree with the diagnosis at the time. "I'm the happiest depressed guy you will ever meet."
He'd like for other people who find themselves in his condition to know that it is possible to find hope and a cure. "Not too long ago, the world was really black." Not so much any more, he says.
As a teen in Los Angeles, Marin (he was born Peter Marino) was tutored by a couple of major pop stars: Johnny Prophet, and by the man he caddied for, Andy Williams. Marin himself began singing at the age of 15.
"The first time I got handed a twenty dollar bill for singing, I was 11."
The boy's first serious stage time was with Prophet. That connection came about because Marin was playing in a garage rock band with Prophet's son.
"I got paid in cases of Lancer's wine. They'd put a case in the trunk of whoever's car I arrived in, being that I was still underage." He laughs. "You know, Lancer's, that wine that came in a brown bottle?"
But Marin, who now lives in Pt. Loma with his teenage daughter moved away from the live stage and on to show production and management. "I produced shows for a couple of decades, until '02. Licensing, contracts, events."
Then came the crash, during which Marin spiraled completely out of the music business.
"One day, someone said to me, go get yourself a Real Book (essentially, a spiral notebook full of sheet music) and get back to music." He did. "It took me days to get back to where I could perform a song that I'd done a thousand times before. But," he says, "I got a lot better."
As a performer, Marin rarely strays from the Great American Songbook. "I'm a torch carrier. Why? Music from that era is so well written," he says.
The Great American Songbook is in truth a fairly subjective representation of the songs that are considered to be the best things written during the 20th century, from the 1920s into the 1960s.
He calls the stuff in the songbook jazz, "even though it was the pop music of its day." We sit and trade stories about composers whose work graces the songbook, standouts like Johnny Mercer and Billy Strayhorn.
"You know he was 16 when he wrote "Lush Life?"
No, I did not.
"And "Sophisticated Lady" -- that was about his mother," Marin says. "That was her nick name."
Marin is a graying version of Henry Winkler, roughly the same size, with a trim goatee and moist eyes and a ready grin. Minus any trace of self pity, there is a strong sense of irony in the telling of his stories. He calls his debut CD Overnight Success.
"I found something I could put my energy into," says Marin, "and it gave me hope. I saw some dark times. I'm not what I used to be, but I'm viable."
Peter Marin: Saturday, February 9, Andiamo Ristorante Italiano, Tierrasanta, (858) 277-3501, 5pm to 8pm. With Barry Farrar on drums and pianist Richard James.