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From W.H y y in Philadelphia, I'm Terry Gross with Fresh Air. Today, the man John Grisham describes as the dean of all innocence advocates over 40 years ago when Jim McCloskey was a seminary student at Princeton. He became the student chaplain at a prison. His experiences there led him to abandon his plan to become a minister. Instead, he's dedicated his life to seeking justice, freedom and exoneration for men and women on death row or serving life sentences for crimes they did not commit.
McCloskey founded the group Centurion Ministries, which has succeeded in reopening many cases leading to exoneration. But he says his faith has been shaken many times. He's written a new memoir. Later, rock critic Ken Tucker reviews the new album by Hyam. A group of three sisters. The album includes songs about depression, loneliness and dealing with condescending journalists. My guest, Jim McKlusky, is part detective, part man of God, while studying at Princeton Theological Seminary, planning to become an ordained minister.
He did field work at a prison there. He met a man serving a life sentence for murder, a man who convinced McCleskey he was innocent. McCleskey took a leave from Princeton to work on this case and somehow succeeded, although he had no legal background. It led McCleskey to found one of the first innocence projects Centurion Ministries, dedicated to reopening the cases of men and women unjustly convicted of murder. John Grisham calls McCluskey the dean of all innocence advocates.
The exonerated and McCluskey's new memoir, When Truth Is All You Have. He writes about his life, the cases he's taken on and how his faith in God was sometimes challenged, and how his faith in the justice system was shaken by police who lied on the witness stand. Prosecutors who knew and judges who turned a blind eye to the whole thing. Jim McCluskey is now retired, but still serving on the board of Centurion Ministries and still working on cases.
He's a lay minister. Jim McCluskey, welcome back to Fresh Air. It is such a great pleasure to talk with you again. And I love your new memoir.
Well, thank you, Terry. It's great to be here. I'm happy to have returned.
So you are very religious as a child, and then you headed in the opposite direction. You became kind of wild. You served in the military. You had a good paying job as a consultant at a consulting company. Still, you. You went through these different phases of your life, but then you decided to go to Princeton Theological Seminary in around 1980. Why did you make that shift in in your life?
Well, you know, I was 37 years old and I had been in Japan in business for a number of years. And when I came back to the United States and began working for a Philadelphia consulting company by the name of Hay Associates, and things were going well there. But throughout the 1970s, when I was in my thirties, I became disillusioned with the business world at my place in it. I didn't find the work to be fulfilling. I didn't feel as if I was leading a real, authentic life.
I wasn't serving anyone other than the corporation and myself. And I went back to church for the first time in 14, 15 years, and I went to Peyote Presbyterian Church in. And I really was impressed with our minister, Dick Streator, who was a large a large suburban congregation. He was really touching the hearts and the souls of his congregants. And I looked at myself and I wasn't touching the heart and soul of anybody, really. And I also at the same time became very serious and and took a deep dive into the scriptures.
Next thing I knew, I was feeling a call to leave the business world and go into the ministry so that I, too, could serve the interests of others in a real significant fashion and maybe help change lives like Dick Streator was changing my life. So I decided to go to someone to give up the business world and go to summer and become an ordained Presbyterian church pastor.
That's not exactly what happened, though, because you took a detour for your field work. You asked to be placed at a prison, you became a prison chaplain, and there you met the first person who led you to do innocense work. And he told you he had done bad things, but that he hadn't committed murder. He was convicted when he was 28 and was serving a life sentence. Why did you believe him? Because a lot of people say everyone in prison will tell you that they're innocent.
Well, I'd like to put that canard to rest. That's not true in my experience, anyhow. What? I was a student chaplain trend state president ADMET, who are Hadelich starters. For the first time, there were 40 inmates in each of them in their respective cells. So I was I was ministering, if you will, to 40 different inmates and only two were claiming to be innocent, to my surprise. A number of them were telling me what they did.
So most people in my experience don't see the RENNISON, although somehow that that has come to be believed by most almost everybody. But anyway, Horthy, we call it his nickname, was Chivvy S.H. ISEF, i.e., and as soon as I met Mr. Delius Artosis, the steward chaplain, standing before his cell, he claimed to be an innocent man of murder. And I. I didn't believe that. I thought, come on. That doesn't happen in America.
We are the best criminal justice system there can be. And if there. Are any innocent people in prison? It's certainly an aberration and an isolated case. But there he was. Every time I would come by his cell and we would chat or he would talk about was was his innocence and he didn't do it. And over the course of several months, I came to be provoked by his cries of innocence, thinking to myself, could this really be.
Is he what he says? He is an innocent man. And then it started from there. And he told you that he believed in God, but if God was going to help free him, he would have to be through you. You seem to take that very seriously.
Well, here's what happened up. You know, I started the student chaplaincy work in September of 1980, and by Thanksgiving of that year, I was provoked by his cries of innocence. So I got hold of his trial transcripts. A lot of documents about the case, some 2000 pages. And that's what I did over the Thanksgiving holidays. I read all the transcripts. So now I had the state's case and I had his viewpoint of of his conviction, how wrong it was.
So I asked him a ton of questions. And over time, you know, I have to say that I was pro. He was. He was convicted based on what was a obviously, even in my early experience, an unreliable eyewitness account, plus a jailhouse confession where a career criminal had told Mr. Dallas on this jury that that the defendant confessed to him while they were in a county jail. Finally, when I came back from Thanksgiving and he said, did you read the transcripts?
And I said, yes, they did. He said, Is there anything that I've told you that's not true? I said, no. He said, You may asked me a million questions over the last several months about my case. Now, I want to ask you a question. And I said, oh, boy, well, wonder what this is going to be. So he said, Do you believe I'm innocent? And I said, yes, I do believe you're innocent.
He said, What are you going to do about it? I said, What do you mean, when am I going to do about it? I don't know, Arthur. I don't know. I don't know. I mean, there's nothing. What can I do, Chief? I've I've never had an experience of the criminal justice system at all. I'm just a seminary student down the road here. He said, well, I've been praying for six years for God to send somebody to free me.
You don't. You might not realize it, but you're that man. You're my angel. To free me out from under this this false conviction, I need you and God. God has chosen you. This is. He's talking, not me. God has chosen you to be that man. Then he then he really charged. He said, what are you going to do? Are you going to go back to your nice, safe, secure a little seminary and just pray for me?
I said, well, that's what I was thinking about doing.
He said he said, that's not going to work if you're a real man of faith. You're going to come save me. And that's all there is to it. I have nobody else but you. Well, he got me to thinking. I went back to my safe, little secure seminary and did pray and think about it. And then I decided that, you know, I think I I think I have to do this. I have to take a year off from school and work to see what I can move the ball forward to to try and free him.
Yeah. And you succeeded, which is really remarkable. One of the turning points was that a key witness confessed to you that his testimony was a lie. Tell us why he confessed and why he confessed to.
Well, his name was Richard Della Santé, which in Italian Means of the Saints. And coincidentally, Chief, his last name was Delo Santos, which in Spanish means of the Saints. And I will say this, that neither of the two were saints. But Chief, he was was, in my view, was not a killer. He was a heroin addict on the streets of Newark. But Richard Della Sarti had also I learned later through my investigation that he was a longtime informant for the Essex County prosecutor's office up in Newark, New Jersey.
They would use him on a number of cases to come in and give some incriminating testimony, false testimony about a defendant. One of those was his own first cousin, Danny Della Sandy. He testified against his own first cousin and falsely said that Danny confessed that murder to him. So I went to the Della Santé family, told him who I was doing what I was doing, and they were still in contact with with Richard, who was Danny's first cousin.
And long story short, they introduced me to Richard. They kept asking Richard to please talk to Mr. McCluskey if he if he's successful. For Mr. De La Santos, he'll be six. He'll he'll hope that will help Danny get freed. So over it took a year until finally in February of eighty one or eighty two. I'm sorry, I got a telephone call out of the blue from Richard Dallasite day and he said, I know who you are.
I know what you're doing. If you want to talk to me, I'm ready to talk to you. And when I visited him for two straight days, hours per day up at the Hudson County Jail in Jersey City. And the reason he told me that he's finally coming forward and telling the truth after a number of false starts in the past, he said, I'm just tired of living a lie. I'm tired of being the the the the pinch hitter for the Essex County prosecutor's office.
They've been they've been running my life for 10 years, and I'm tired of it. And now all I wanna do is tell the truth and get this off my conscience.
Did the prosecutor know that he was giving false testimony?
There's no question that he did it. Mr. De la Census's trial under direct examination by the trial prosecutor. The prosecutor asked Richard Dallasite day. Have you ever informed in any other case. Are you an an informant? And Richard said, no, I'm not an informant. This is the first time I've done this. All the while the prosecutor do that. That was a lie because prior to the post conviction, evidentiary years later, we got access to the prosecutors files.
And there in the hand, the actual handwritten notes of the trial. Prosecutor pretrial notes was the statement that Richard Delahanty in habit of giving testimony. So we prove to the federal district judges satisfaction as well. In his opinion, that freed and exonerated Mr. Dale Sato's federal district judge, Frederick Lacey, stated that the prosecutor knew that Dallas out there was an informant and that suborn perjury.
What an introduction to the justice system. You had false testimony by somebody who is like a pro at it and then a prosecutor who is in on it and who knew about it. And a man serving a life sentence as a result of it. He must have just had this immediate cynicism after that experience.
Yes, I was starting to mature. I was starting to see the system with different eyes than when I first met chief two and a half years earlier. And I got a baptism of fire. I saw firsthand how police and prosecutors manipulate evidence Cahiers witnesses into giving false testimony. You know, it was it was a stunner. And I started to have to really rethink my whole position on the integrity of police and prosecutors.
There must be such highs and lows in the work that you've done over the past 40 years. I mean, when you succeed in freeing a man or woman who is unjustly convicted, that must be such an exhilarating feeling. But on the other hand, even when you succeed in freeing somebody, it doesn't necessarily mean that they have a good life when they get out. It's so hard for many prisoners to make that transition back into life. I mean, you're you're coming to the outside world with, like, no money.
You don't know what's been going on in the world because you wouldn't have been you haven't been living in it. You've been living in a cell for so long. And the first case that you took the case that inspired you to do this work for 40 years or De los Santo's, you succeeded in getting him exonerated. But then he had had a very hard time when he got out of prison. Tell us what happened.
Yeah, well, what happened with Mr. De la Saulteaux, tragically, was. That when we freed him in the summer of eighty three, within two years, he was back using drugs, heavily descended into his addiction again, which led him to commit crimes. Robbing. He robbed some drug user, as he had done before. Before I started. Before I met him. And he ended up doing another eight or nine years in a New Jersey state presence.
As a result. And he was freed in the early know by that time we had we had faded from each other. He was so ashamed of how he led his life. Subsequent to us exonerating him that he just I lost complete contact with him. He didn't want to. He did. He just felt so ashamed. He didn't want to talk to because he knew what what transpired in his life. Anyway, he was found in about nineteen ninety two or so in a vacant lot in the in Brooklyn, murdered, beat to death.
The supposition being that a drug buy went bad and there he was. But let me say let me say this about that, if I may. Terry. I still thank God for bringing him into my life, because were it not for that. Newark raised. Public housing project of Puerto Rican descent, who was a heroin addict. Were it not for him. There would be no Centurion Ministries. Not only would there be no Centurion ministries, but I would have been lost in the world because I as I think back on it, I would not have been a good church pastor that just wasn't in me.
As it turns out. So he gave me new purpose, a new life, and I treasure that new life. And I thank God for her. Hadeel Satoh So and a point can be made that maybe the other 62 people that we freed might still be languishing in prison. And so I owe my life to that man. We gave him new life and he chose to go at it in a different direction. And I don't hold that against him because he just could be the drugs.
I think the fate of her head in the Santos made you realize that you had to keep in touch with people after they were freed, people who you had helped to free and helped them establish their life outside of prison. So that's a whole other aspect of the work that you've done. You even had one of the people who you helped exonerate live with you for a while.
Yes, you're absolutely right.
Based on our experience at that time by experience, because I was alone at that time and with with Mr. Dayglo thought those. And then when Kate joined me, we realized we had another responsibility that we were originally unaware of. Not only freeing these people, but working with them to help them regain their lives and reintegrate back into society after many, many years of wrongful incarceration. So that was that has become a major part of our work over the years.
And that also, by the way, you think there's stress with trying to free innocent people from prison and get them out? There's a lot of stress attendant with these very personal situations of of doing our best to work with those we freed up to make sure that the do we do what we can to be their friends, not just their advocates, but their friends and their support system, at least part of their support system as they go about regaining their lives.
You've been very successful with century in ministries. Compare the number of people who you've helped exonerate to the number of people who you failed to exonerate.
Well, altogether, we've committed and have worked on behalf of 100 people across the United States, including two in Canada. Twenty one of those one hundred are still in progress. So that means we've concluded our work on behalf of seventy nine people. Of those, 70 died. We have been able to free sixty three of them. That's about 90 percent. That's amazing.
The other the other 16 or 17 people we were unsuccessful in free for a variety of reasons. Two died while they were in prison. Two were executed. Five. We were just unsuccessful in developing new evidence or coming or developing a new legal argument that had not been made before, that we felt deserved judicial review. And finally, after we vetted cases very carefully and believed in our innocence and went to work for them in seven different cases, we came to believe that our assessment of innocence was wrong, it was misplaced, and therefore we dropped.
We drop them. We're not interested in freeing anybody. Who we have any doubts about their innocence. And so that's that's our record to date.
Well, let's take another break here. If you're just joining us, my guest is Jim McCleskey, a lay minister and the founder of Centurion Ministries, which works to retry and exonerate and free men and women unjustly convicted of crimes like murder. His new memoir is called When Truth Is All You Have. We'll be right back. I'm Terry Gross.
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If you're just joining us, my guest is Jim McCleskey. He's a lay minister and founder of Centurion Ministries, one of the first innocence projects dedicated to exonerating men and women unjustly convicted of murder or rape who are serving life sentences or are on death row. His new memoir is called When Truth Is All You Have. The first time I spoke with you on Fresh Air was in 1992 and you said something that has stuck with me all these years. You were talking about trying to maintain some balance between the urgency of your innocence work and your prayer life.
And I want to play a short excerpt of that interview as the work that you've done challenged a reinforced your faith.
Well, here's is the ironic thing. I like to think that it is the work of Christ and God that I'm doing. But what I've noticed in the last several years is that even though I like to think I'm doing the work of God, my spiritual life is not as as strong as as I would like. In other words, I find I'm drifting away from my prayer. Life is not good. I don't read scripture like I used to. I'll go over to the Princeton University chapel to sit and pray at lunch hour.
And all the while I'm thinking of this case, that case. Here's what I have to do. I've got to get back to the office right now. So I don't like that. And it's one. It's something I have to work on to rebuild my as my bedded meditative life.
I really understand what you're saying. You're just so, so, so obsessed with your work and with the mission of it.
That's right. So you're going to try to clear your mind a little bit and open your mind more toward spiritual thoughts.
So, yeah, so what I what I am not doing what I know I should do, and that is take the time and go back and reinvigorate my prayer life. My scriptural read, I get great sustenance when I read the scriptures and take quiet time and do that. And when I don't do that, I find myself not drifting away from God. And it's not good. It's not healthy. So I have to get somehow off this fast track, this whirling train that I'm on.
You know, I leave Los Angeles on Tuesday and then a week later, I'm in Grundy, Virginia, working on a death row case I've been working on for four years. And the guy has an execution date of May 20th. Well, we're up against the wall. Yeah, sure.
So you're not gonna feel very good about taking time off to pray? Not really. You know, I really. So that was my guest, Jim McKlusky, recorded in 1992. Jim, that clip always resonated with me. So many people are so busy with their work.
There's there's no time for the thing that sustains them in life, whether that's family, friends, music, art, literature, nature, prayer, you know, whatever it is. And I thought you frame that so well, you frame that conflict so well. Now, reading your book, knowing the outcome of that case and the twists and turns, because you talk about that case in your book, that clip is even more meaningful to me.
And I want to talk about that aspect of it.
The case you were working on were you felt so urgent about the deadline that was pretty immediate was the case of Roger Coleman, who was convicted of a gruesome rape murder. You took on his case, but you got a little suspicious of him at some point because he refused to take a DNA test. And the reasons he gave you sounded kind of sketchy. What did he tell you about why he refused to take a DNA test?
Well, he told me of that. Well, Jim, I don't think that's a good idea because I had never told you this before. But I have had intercourse with one of the one of the women who works here in the prison. And I'm afraid that they've taken my semen from her and somehow planted it in the victim of my case here. And I just found that to be outlandish. I didn't place any credibility in that. It then planted seeds at me about having reservations about his innocence.
So I left the case for the next year. I said, Roger, I don't believe you. I don't like that reason. Does it make sense to me? I think just making it up and I now have some questions about your innocence. I'm not saying I believe you're guilty, but I'm starting to have some questions. So I'm going to step away until you agree to allow DNA testing to go forward a year later. He did. Thanks to his new lawyer, kidI behind who came into it was a breath of fresh air.
So DNA testing was done. And I came back into the case for a lot of different reasons. Even though in those days when when the DNA was done in the early early 90s, 91 or so, it still wasn't as definitive as it is now. It's still left room for doubt. Roger was included in the people who had that DNA profile, but it was it was like 10 percent of the American population had that profile.
Yeah, it was inconclusive. The test was inconclusive. It was inconclusive.
It was ink. It didn't absolve him. It didn't exonerate him. But it was still inconclusive. Yes.
So you returned to the case. So remember in that clip, you felt this urgency that you had to keep working on this case because he was about to be executed. You were running out of time. And that's why you didn't have time to pray in the way that you wanted to, to meditate in the way that you wanted to. He was executed. Did you witness his execution?
I did not witness the actual execution. However, Kitty, his lawyer and I were with him sitting on a cement floor outside his death row cell about 10 yards away from the execution chamber. He was executed by electric chair. We shared his last meal that night, which was a cold deliver pizza. And we we were with Roger up until about an hour before he was executed. Then we were ushered off of the death cellblock. Fourteen years later, when DNA had really became absolutely conclusive and could identify biological evidence.
Precisely. Working with another lawyer, we convinced Governor Warner of Virginia to allow a post execution DNA to go forward. And we agreed on a Canadian lab to do the work. They did it and they came back and were absolutely 100 percent certain. There was a mixed sample and one of those definitely belonged to Roger Coleman, and therefore one could only conclude that he was her killer. But I've investigated. I still have doubts about still not certain nights.
I'll be halted until the day I die about whether Roger did or not. So people are going to say, well, wait a minute, now, DNA prove that he did it. Well, I've traced Roger Coleman's movements that night from 10:00 to 11:00 o'clock. The time of death was 10, 30 to 11:00. Time and distance. I've spoken with everybody he's spoken to during that one hour. What time he was there, what they talked about.
And I don't know how he had the opportunity or even the motivation to do this. It just confounds me.
You've had to live with so much uncertainty over the years.
Well, if you don't mind, Terry, I want to get back a little bit to my faith, if I can. Yes, please.
Because years later, years after Roger was was executed, I had another crisis of faith working on behalf of of Kerry Max Cook, a Texas death row inmate. Now, this is detailed in the book. But I was with Kerry through three retrials throughout the 1990s. The first retrial was a six to six hung jury. Second retrial, Curry was reconvicted and sent back to death row. I investigated that case from top to bottom. I says the defense table during the trial were helping the lawyer.
There's no question in my mind that Kerry, Max Cook, had nothing to do with this. I saw the prosecutors and the police and their witnesses lie after lie after lie. And we had a terrible trial judge who prevented us from introducing exculpatory evidence. The deck was stacked against us. And Kerry goes back to death row and we have to start all over again. I came home for that trial and I said to Kate, my long term partner, I said, Kate, I question whether God even exists.
Where is God in all of this? Does God really care what happens down here on Earth? Does he intervene? Does he try and secure justice for the for all kinds of different people who suffer somebody different kinds of maladies and evil? And so I checked myself into a retreat center, a Catholic retreat center for a week to re-examine my whole relationship and belief system in Christ and God, the father. And I tried praying that didn't work. I didn't feel speaking up to God was in any way connecting with him.
So what I did, though, I went back into the scriptures that I was reading the Sermon on the Mount and I saw in Matthew where Jesus is telling his disciples, he says it rains on the just and the unjust and the sun shines on the good and the evil. So. That's it. Is that the way it is? Well, word is that it regardless of whether you're good or bad or just or unjust. Sometimes the sun will shine.
Other times it will rain. It doesn't matter what you do or how you conduct yourself in life. I said, OK, that's it. Now I understand the reality. That was my interpretation. And so I then went back to work with a different sense of where God is in all of this. And today, what? Twenty eight years after that interview with you? My prayer life by prayer, I mean speaking to God, praying to God still is shallow and inconsistent.
But the way I talk to God or have God talk to me is through scripture and my scripture reading has become since that day.
Twenty eight years ago, much stronger, much more consistent and alive, and is a real inspiration and source of strength for me. Now, I still struggle with some of the essential beliefs of the Christian faith. Was Christ resurrected? That's the bedrock, that's the foundation of Christian faith. I believe he was resurrected that I've struggled with that over the years. Let's take a break here and then we'll talk some more. If you're just joining us, my guest is Jim McCloskey.
And he's a lay minister who founded Centurion Ministries, which is an innocence project dedicated to reopening cases and trying to exonerate people who were unjustly convicted of murder or rape and are doing time on death row or serving life sentences. His new memoir is called When Truth Is All You Have. We'll be right back. This is Fresh Air. I'm Jen White. The new host of NPR's One. A take what you hear on up first and dive deeper with one.
A The show listens to the beating heart of America. Expect a dynamic debate that asks America what it wants to be. This is a show for those who are relentlessly curious. Join me next time on one. Let's get back to my interview with Jim McClusky, a lay minister and founder of Centurion Ministries, one of the first innocence projects dedicated to exonerating men and women unjustly convicted of murder or rape who are serving life sentences or are on death row.
He has a new memoir called When Truth Is All You Have.
I want to talk with you a little bit more about your life. You've actually had an incredible life. And your book is just full of surprises. I mean, I first talked to you in 1992. We had lunch once together. I forget which decade it was when my husband and I decided to get married. We actually asked you to marry us because you were a lay minister. And then you explained to us that as a lay minister, you didn't have the power.
Right. You didn't have the authority to do that. You had you turned to someone else. But so far, I hope that yes, no, we were disappointed. But, you know, your book has things I never would have imagined about your life. I'll mention a couple of them. So when you were working in business in Japan, this is before you were doing innocense work. It was before you went to Princeton Theological Seminary. You were in a very deep relationship with a Japanese woman.
And one day she said to you, I'm going to America. She leaves. You don't hear from her. It turns out she's been married four years to a man in America. You had no idea this was a really horrible thing to find out. A little later, you returned to the States and you start and this is this really surprise. I was not expecting this. You always seem so straitlaced to me. So I guess I got that wrong.
You had relationships with with sex workers when you went back to New York. One of the relationships turned into a real relationship for a while. Why did you decide who convinced you that you should write about it?
Well, I just felt that I had to be honest about my life and who I was. And what I was doing is all part of what led me to go to the seminary, to change my life, to just completely transform, hopefully, as well as best I could to transform myself. And when I gave this book to my minister here in Princeton, Dave Davis, and I said, Dave, when you read this book, you're going to see that I've let a number of skeletons outside my closet.
But I want to tell you, there are still some skeletons left in the closet. Oh, yeah. Oh, and that's true. No, I haven't bare all. I buried enough, as you can see. But no. No, seriously, I just thought it was important to be honest about who I was. And, you know, I'm not proud of it, but that's that's what I did. All of us deserve some kind of redemption.
And maybe by airing this out and being honest about it, this is my way of redemption as well. You know, I'm going to get back to that first case that you took. Were you one able to free him and have him exonerated? And when he left prison, you watched him reunite with his wife in the outside world and was very moving. And then you went home to the room that you rented in Princeton, turned on the TV and just felt kind of alone.
And I'm wondering if you felt that way a lot during your life that you have all those years?
Well, there have been some there. Yes, you're right. I mean, when I returned to my to my house, to my room, I was living in the house that was owned and occupied by an octogenarian, a delightful woman, Mrs. Yeatman in Princeton. Yeah, I go back to my room. And after delivering chiefly to to his long awaiting love of his life, Aleena, and there they were together clearly at that time, in love with each other.
So I go back to my room and there I am, a 41 year old man with no work, nobody like that. And in a sense, envying chief me for having a love in his life. I had nobody to share that great day and victory with, however, you know, look, you can't have everything in life. And I have to tell you, Terry, if I were married, I don't think I could have done what I've done in terms of the founding and doing the work of security ministries that would not be conducive to a good marriage life.
OK. And so I am just thankful that I have stumbled upon this work and made it my life's work. And this is what has given me joy and love and satisfaction and a sense of fulfillment in life to a stumbled into a calling that has lasted all these years is a real gift from God. You can't have everything in life. And I have what I consider to be the most important thing. And that's a mission to fulfill in this world.
Jim, it's been so great to talk with you again. Congratulations on your memoir and all the work you've done the last 40 years. It's really been a pleasure to talk with you again.
Well, thank you very much, Terry. It was. I really enjoyed, once again talking with you. And and you always ask great questions and you get down deep. And I appreciate that very much, sir. Thank you. Jim McCleskey is the founder of Centurion Ministries and author of the new memoir, When Truth Is All You Have. After we take a short break, rock critic Ken Tucker will review the new album by Hyam. A group of three sisters.
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The rock trio Hyam played its first concert 20 years ago. Among the Salamis and Canter's Deli in their hometown of Los Angeles in 2020, Hyam would have headlined Madison Square Garden. Were it not for the Corona virus. Now the three hiim sisters have released their third album, Women in Music, Part three, and it includes songs about depression, loneliness and dealing with condescending journalists. Rock critic Ken Tucker has this review.
I was in my home as winds. Hymes Women in Music Part three features songs that radiate a sunniness so strong.
You'll think your ears are burning. Or maybe they're burning because you think Hiam is talking about you. Take, for example, a great song like the one I'm about to play called The Steps.
It gets it the way you sometimes wish the person you love would understand you better, which leads you to wonder how much you really understand or love that person. I. The Steps has a guitar sound and a mood that reminds me of Fleetwood Mac around the time of Tusk. One of the greatest L-A albums, the hiim sisters, Danielle, S.T. and Ilana are creatures of Los Angeles, creating songs meant to be blasted loud in your car as you try to time all the green lights along Sunset Boulevard.
It's no surprise, therefore, that they include a new song called Los Angeles, or that at various times their sound evokes such L.A. rooted musicians as Crosby, Stills and Nash. Linda Ronstadt and The Bangles. There's a sharp cutting song about a sexist dude interviewing the band called Man from the Magazine. It's yet another example of Hyams Laurel Canyon pop with what amounts to a Joni Mitchell impersonation in the vocal and a guitar riff straight off Joni's album, Blue.
What kind of question would you really want me to say, let's do this. This is what you think is London, which could give me a first one until now. Dylan. It is, it was. But you don't know. The sonic range on display here is both impressive and intriguing. I'll give you two contrasting examples on all that ever mattered. The band goes intentionally crazy, distorting the vocals, replacing the naturalistic drum sound with programmed beats and offering a squawking guitar solo.
That made me think of yet another Angelino.
Frank Zappa. You don't me don't tell me. Do you think of all the things that did you gave back? You remember?
In contrast to that, here is I've been down, which sounds like an electrified piece of folk music. It has a simple and great melodic hook and a terrific drum sound from Danyell, spongy and sticky, yet propulsive.
Up the windows at the house. I recognize myself now and I'm senator. There's a couple it in the steps that compresses all the tension hiim creates in the best music on this album. The lines are do you understand? You don't understand me, baby. As the speaker heartbroken answers her own question, it's the dark emotional space between those two lines that all the sunny music on this album has been created to illuminate.
Ken Tucker reviewed the new album from the trio Hyam called Women in Music Part three. Tomorrow on Fresh Air, my guest will be McKayla Cole, the creator, writer, director and star of the HBO series A May Destroy You. She plays a young writer famous on social media who sexually assaulted. But she has no idea what happened because her drink was spiked. The story comes out of Cole's own experience of sexual assault. I hope you'll join us.
Fresh Air's executive producer is Danny Miller, our technical director and engineers, Audrey Bentham. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Teresa Madden. They are challenger Seth Kelly and Jill Wolfram, our associate producer of digital media is Molly C.V Nelspruit. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross.