John Capek | Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame
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John Capek

Year of Induction: 2023
Origin: Melbourne, Australia

The sought-after songwriter, producer and session musician John Capek has lived on three continents and in four countries but keeps a special place in his heart for Canada.

An undisputed hit-maker, Capek was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) in 1946, his parents having endured the horrors of the Holocaust. He was raised in Melbourne, Australia, where his musical journey began with classical piano lessons (his father was a concert pianist), augmented by The Great American Songbook of Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen. In his youth he branched out to rock and blues, playing in Australian bands while studying chemical engineering.

Music proved more alluring than engineering. Moving to Canada in 1973, Capek pursued a career as a keyboard player. By 1979 he found himself in Los Angeles, scoring his first songwriting contract with Welk Music. His first hit, in 1983, was Motown diva Diana Ross’s Pieces of Ice, a synth-pop effort written with fellow CSHF inductee Marc Jordan.

The Capek-Jordan songwriting partnership proved eminently successful, yielding many other hits, including three songs on the 1983 Grammy-winning album “Bodies and Souls” by the critically acclaimed vocal jazz group Manhattan Transfer.

Since that time, Capek’s songs have regularly achieved gold, platinum and diamond sales due in large part to his melodic hooks and meticulous arrangements. His detail-oriented approach to songwriting is a particular point of pride. As Capek told the Nashville Music Guide, “Any creative work of lasting quality takes time and attention to detail.”

Other Capek hits include Take Me Home, recorded by the late great vocal stylist Joe Cocker on his 1994 “Have a Little Faith” album (Top 10 in Europe and the U.K.); Cher’s A Love So High and The Same Mistake (both written with Jordan), and Toto’s Love Has the Power.

Capek’s reputation as a writer of hits with depth and heft has drawn numerous international artists to record his work. Arguably the best-known of Capek’s compositions is Rod Stewart’s 1991 mega-hit Rhythm of My Heart, another Jordan co-write. Stewart’s recording topped out at No. 1 in Canada and Ireland, No. 2 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and No. 5 on the Top 100, and No. 3 in the U.K. Rhythm has become so synonymous with Stewart’s Scottish homeland that the song opened the 2014 Commonwealth Games there. It earned ASCAP and SOCAN Classics awards and a Canadian Music Publishers Association award.

Capek retains a heartfelt connection to Australia, where Frank Howson, John Paul Young, and the late Grammy-winner Olivia Newton-John performed his music. With the latter, Capek wrote Let’s Talk about Tomorrow for her popular album “The Rumour” and It’s Always Australia for Me to commemorate Australia’s bicentennial in 1988.

Along the way, Capek and Jordan wrote songs for the 1988 Australian film “Boulevard of Broken Dreams;” yielding an ARIA nomination.

Among other international artists Capek has written for include Scotland’s Helicopter Girl, whose album “How to Steal the World” was nominated for a Mercury Prize. And artists from his native Prague have recorded Capek’s work. As well, his 1991 solo album “Indaba,” recorded in South Africa after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, featured many of South Africa’s greatest musicians and singers.

Back home in Canada, Capek collaborated with CSHF inductee Dan Hill to write Hill’s 1988 Top 10 hit Carmelia, a SOCAN Classic. He also produced Hill’s great adult-contemporary hits Can’t We Try and Never Thought That I Could Love.

In 1995 Capek left L.A. for Toronto, where he has worked with many other revered Canadians: Randy Bachman, Downchild, The Good Brothers, Gene MacLellan, Murray McLauchlan, Ian Thomas, Ron Hynes, Ken Tobias, Pavlo, Ann Murray, Carole Pope, Eddie Schwartz, Amy Sky, David Tyson, and Chris Ward. Among his biggest Canadian successes is Amanda Marshall’s Promises on her self-titled diamond-selling album.

Capek retains an affinity for the blues, as in his award-winning Sueanna performed by blues musician Bobby Cameron, and his co-writes with legendary U.S. R&B guitarist Cornell Dupree on his Grammy-nominated “Coast to Coast.” American all-time blues sensation Bonnie Raitt has recorded Capek’s compositions Deep Water and Blame It on Me, the latter on her chart-busting, Grammy-nominated album “Just Like That.” Raitt told Nashville Music that Capek is “… one of the deepest, most talented and soulful writers I know.”

The multi-national Capek told the Globe and Mail, “If you ask me how I’m feeling, I’d much rather play it than say it.” Put another way, as he told a Nashville interviewer, “Music is my primary language. If you were to ask me how I’m feeling today, I could express my answer much better on a piano than I could in words.”

As he told a songwriters’ panel, “My motivation has always been to create something of beauty.” That’s something for which Capek’s artists and audiences are eternally grateful.

Capek has served as director of the Songwriters Association of Canada and the CSHF. He now lives in the music hot-spot of Nashville.

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