Dixie Chicks, Russell Simmons Meditate on Rick Rubin's Greatness at David Lynch Foundation Event

2:40 PM PST 02/28/2014 by Chris Willman
Courtesy of Chris Willman

The filmmaker's transcendental-meditation charity hosted luminaries from music and movies at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

It was a benefit for the David Lynch Foundation, the filmmaker's transcendental-meditation charity, but it could have been billed as "A Night of a Thousand Recluses."

Music producer Rick Rubin, who categorically refuses to show up for the Grammys or any other awards shows, agreed to be the organization's honoree at the Beverly Wilshire Thursday night, to the shock of everyone who knows him. The performing headliner, the Dixie Chicks, were billed as not having performed on American soil since 2010. And neither they nor opening act Damien Rice has released an album since 2006. Whatever other qualities transcendental meditation (TM) may or may not have, it does seem to have the power to get musical agoraphobics out of the house.

Said the man who co-founded Def Jam Records with Rubin, Russell Simmons: "I'm amazed that he even will accept any accolades. He's never been to the Grammys. He's never taken a Grammy. … He could sell them and give the money to the David Lynch Foundation! … I wish he could come up here and get the award. I think our job is to bring it to him, is that right?"

Indeed, a condition for Rubin allowing himself to be honored was apparently that he wouldn't have to approach the podium, much less speak. "We're coming to your table!" barked a cheerful Lynch, carrying the trophy to where Rubin was seated in the middle of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel ballroom.

Chicks singer Natalie Maines was also shocked at Rubin's attendance. "The minute they asked us -- usually the answer is no -- I said, 'Is Rick gonna be there? You're certain he's really gonna be there?'… We're happy to be here honoring a man who usually refuses to be honored."

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Lest he appear completely impassive, Rubin did cheerfully pose for photos with Lynch and the Chicks on the red carpet, wearing his finest formal wear: a gray T-shirt, shorts and sandals.

This marked the second time in six weeks that Lynch has handed out an award to a fellow TM devotee at a $1,000-a-ticket benefit, following his presentation of a similar trophy to Ringo Starr at a private concert a few days before the Grammys. If anyone might think that Lynch will soon run out of music figures who are fellow meditators to honor, some of the videos shown during the evening made it clear that there are plenty of other stars left to testify to TM's benefits, including Paul McCartney and Tom Petty.

Even Maines is a TM-er, it turns out. Eighteen years ago, she told the crowd, she and fiddler Martie Maguire went to learn TM together. "They say, 'Whatever you do, don't tell anyone your mantra.' It's the only secret that I've ever kept." Said Emily Robison, apparently the holdout of the trio, "I thought you were gonna say you got in the car and told each other right away." "We didn't," answered Maines," "but even still right now, I want to shout out my mantra and see if you all have the same one."

The Chicks' half-hour, six-song set consisted entirely of material from their Rubin-produced Taking the Long Way, which won a horde of Grammys and ended up being their apparent swan song as a recording outfit. "We asked Rick if he had any requests, and he said, 'Do all songs off of our album -- and include 'Lullaby,' " said Maines.

Although the singer has indicated that she doubts the Chicks will record together or tour in the states any more -- she believes the group's name is "tainted permanently" in America as a result of the 2003 Bush controversy -- they occasionally reunite to play festival dates in other countries, including a country fest coming up at London's O2 Arena in mid-March.

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When the Chicks kicked off their set, it was hard not to notice the height of the heels on all three women -- and Maines actually toppled off her heels onto the stage while rocking out in an instrumental break during the very first number. If there was video of this mishap, someone could have made a small fortune selling it to a right-wing website. Maines took it in, well, stride: "I hit the floor!" she said laughing between numbers. "My whole plan was to kick them off after the first song and say 'If Rick can wear huaraches, I'm gonna go barefoot,' but I never made it that far. These are horrible shoes."

Jim Carrey, a TM aficionado who also showed up at the recent Ringo Starr fete, was the only celebrity to talk to the press on the red carpet, as Lynch, Rubin, and the Chicks all bypassed the chance to tell reporters what the evening meant. Asked if he liked the Chicks, Carrey said, "Oh yeah, I love them -- they're amazing." A moment later, he added, "I just lost the South!"

An all-star video compilation of testimonials from acts Rubin has worked with over the years mostly leaned toward the reverent, with the notable exception of Metallica's Lars Ulrich, who performed a recurring parody of Rubin's production method. Reclining on a couch while looking at his iPhone, Ulrich did an imitation of Rubin barking out orders and complaints: "Listen, guys, you need to go back and write some more songs. We're almost there, but we need a couple more songs, please. … Guys, one more time. It doesn't sound like you're playing together! … Guys, that is like the worst thing I've ever heard!"

The other homages were more blissful, in keeping with the transcendental backdrop for the evening, ranging from Lynch saying that "Rick Rubin has great ears and a great mind between them" to Simmons marveling that he's "the only guy that can produce both Krishna Das and Slayer."

Twitter: @chriswillman

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