For more than 10 years, passion has driven Banneker Watches CEO Derrick Holmes to deliver classic timepieces and share the story of pioneering African-American clockmaker and scientist Benjamin Banneker. Over the past few months, the Denver businessman returned to his musical roots to create a new timeless classic – a love song for the ages.
Holmes teamed up with multi-Grammy nominated producer and multi-platinum composer and songwriter Herb Middleton and Motown legend and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Otis Williams, the last original surviving member of The Temptations to record “It’s Time for Love.” The single, which will be released on January 1, 2016, is a gentle rallying call for people to come together and love each other.
“It was great working with Herb Middleton. He is a great talent. And it was fun seeing D-Man (his nickname for Holmes) hit those notes and bring his special sound to this song. And we have to keep a close eye on my God Niece Ne’Vaeh Holmes, she could be our future Beyoncé, that kid can sing,” said Williams.
Middleton shared that positive experience. “To record this was a legendary experience with Mr. Williams and then having this vocal presence with Derrick singing this song was great,” he said.
Middleton, who wrote the lyrics to It’s Time for Love, has been a musician since childhood and began his songwriting career under the mentorship of Emmy award-winning musical director and composer Loris Holland. The CEO of NuVybe Records in Philadelphia, Middleton has written and produced for such artists as Bobby Brown, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Mary J, Al Green, Usher, Raheem DeVaughn, Faith Evans, and the late Teddy Pendergrass.
The music producer and Holmes were introduced by phone through mutual friend Warren Wortham of Waterloo, Iowa. “Derrick sung to me, and listening to him and hearing him talk blew me away. His story and Banneker’s story was cool. Plus, he has a range from high alto, maybe even higher with falsetto, down to a bass that rumbles,” Middleton explained.
Holmes also pulled Williams, who is the Chief Ambassador for the Banneker brand and a loyal customer, into the project. Still performing at 74 years old, more than 50 years after founding The Temptations, Williams recorded a spoken introduction over the song’s entrance.
“We’re in the sound engineer’s booth and we heard this voice talking and I’m listening to what he’s saying – I was literally fighting back tears. The way he sounded, it went right to the heart. It was a historical moment, one of those moments that can’t ever be duplicated. It was spontaneous. I love spontaneity as a producer – those moments you don’t plan for, where the artists sing from or talk from their soul. It generates reality,” Middleton said.
Holmes was just as blown away. “We looked at each other and were like, ‘Did we just experience that?’ It shows how Otis was really doing music before we were born. His microphone cred just kicked in. For him it was like nothing; for us it was like boom. Watching Herb, too, I thought about how many people he’s worked with and what a musical genius he is. So for him to be so visually touched by it said a lot,” Holmes recalled.
The watch designer has always loved music, and sang in groups in high school and college, making money singing at parties and weddings. He also wrote and sang commercial jingles for his advertising company, but has concentrated on promoting Banneker for the past decade. When he had the epiphany to create a song for his watch company, he realized he could return to his early love of singing, and the song could have deeper meaning.
Williams agreed. ”This song is more than a song – it is a call, and a cry for change. It should be the world’s new mission,” he said.
Middleton explained, “The song promotes Banneker Watches and Derrick’s gift but more than that it has a message, which is something I believe in very strongly and the world needs to be conscious of: the need to love.”
“The song deserves attention. It could stand the test of time. It’s not a song created on a whim just for today. The message that it represents is timeless,” he added.
Reality inspired his lyric writing, as he reflected on life in America today. “I want my children and grandchildren to grow up in a world where they won’t have to fear for their lives. Why do we have to fear for our lives? I understand being angry, but murdering people comes so easy these days. I can’t make it any simpler – look at what we are doing to one another,” he implored.
While the elder statesman, Williams, starts out the song, the ending is graced by the sweet voice of Holmes’ 7-year-old daughter, Ne’Vaeh. “There’s nothing like the love between a father and daughter. I wanted to leave listeners with that and send that message of love out,” Middleton explained.
He concluded, “My hopes for the song are that people tie into this brilliant brand of watch wear, that people really see this product and start to read into the history, not just of Benjamin Banneker but also Derrick Holmes, who to me is a hero with a really special mission. I hope that people buy into the idea that it is time for love and we see unity displayed among people.”
Editor’s note: Look for updates on the release of the single, “It’s Time for Love”, and its video at herbmiddletonmusic.com and bannekerwatches.com. Banneker Watches are high quality timepieces with unique, one-of-a-kind wood grains in the watch faces, luxurious jewel adornments, and fine leather, wood and metal bands.