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Martha Johnson and Company – Slow Emotion (Single) (Popguru)

20 April 2024

Martha & The Muffins (aka M+M) began their musical journey in ’77 in Toronto. They achieved success in Canada, where they had several top 40 albums, and their first LP ”Metro Music” (Dindisc, 1980) did well in the US, UK, and Australia as well. In hindsight, they have much to be proud of, having made a strong and diverse catalog of albums, often utilizing well-regarded producers like Daniel Lanois (his sister Jocelyne was in the band for a time) and David Lord. For the un(der)-initiated, their sound fused many of post-punk’s and new wave’s elements. In their crisp, creative art-pop, they were particularly adept at blending electronic, guitar, and R&B elements. You’ll hear everything from Blondie to Missing Persons to Tom Tom Club, and fellow Canadian, Jane Siberry.

The 80s and 90s passed with more music released, but the new millennium brought tough news; singer/keyboardist Martha Johnson developed symptoms and soon discovered she had Parkinson’s disease (PD).

Since then, her disease has progressed and limits her ability to play and perform music, but she perseveres with MatM/M+M bandmate and partner, Mark Gane. While not performing live anymore, she and Mark have continued making music, including MatM/M+M, as well as scoring films and TV programs.

Fast forward to April 11th, established as World Parkinson’s Day, and Martha and Mark along with other special guests released a new single, “Slow Emotion”, as Martha Johnson and Company. The single is meant to bring greater awareness to the disease, which afflicts roughly 1-2% of the population, including musicians Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, Mick Jones, Maurice White, and others.

The song was sparked by a suggestion from Johnson’s neurologist, Dr. Alfonso Fasano, and he encouraged her to collaborate with another patient, songwriter/musician Fabio Dwyer. Johnson’s partner Mark helped to finish the composition, but Johnson didn’t stop there, inviting others with PD to perform on the single, too.

“We wanted to have as many people as possible with PD involved in the recording. Fabio had already collaborated with me on writing the song, and he also played guitar and bass beautifully on the track. I managed to find five people with PD who were excited about adding their voices to the song. The vibe in the studio was amazing, and we were all so proud to have recorded a chorus of voices lifting everyone’s spirits higher.”

Even Dr. Fasano – a talented musician himself – contributed keyboards to the track.

“Slow Emotion” is an artful pop piece that isn’t bombastic. It doesn’t transparently blare a Parkinson’s message. I connect with it for personal reasons, having been diagnosed with PD myself in ’20, but the lyrical message is universally important in these frantic, distracting times: one of taking things slowly and with full awareness. As Martha explains;

“I’m hoping that people are moved by the song to a place of better understanding. Parkinson’s is continuously a life-changing event for me. Beyond that, generally speaking, life is what you make of it, and you’ll have a better time if you just slow down a little and really take it all in. I think that’s relevant to everyone.”

“I came up with the title ‘Slow Emotion’ years ago and it seemed like a good fit with the theme of accepting and adapting to the changes—both physical and emotional—that you go through when you are living with Parkinson’s Disease.”

“One of my favorite lyrics, ‘Empathy not sympathy…,’ sums up the message of the song very well. I also like the randomness of referencing the title of a J.M.W. Turner painting as a line that has so much power in it: ‘No rain, steam or speed.’”

Musically, “Slow Emotion” features elements of MatM/M+M that will be familiar to fans. It has a heavenly airiness that elevates the lyrics, while smile-inducing “la-la-la-la-la” BV’s keep the song rooted on earth. The single was released worldwide on all platforms on World Parkinson’s Day, April 11th, 2024.

It’s accompanied by a “making-of” documentary shot by Toronto filmmaker Jason Cipparrone (and produced with the support of UHN and Parkinson Canada).