Singer-songwriter Chris Hassett has developed a small legion of supporters in San Diego over the years, primarily a cross-section of this town’s progressive, gay-lesbian, and liberal religious communities.
“My music expresses my world view, my politics, and my life. I think that’s what many people appreciate in a singer. They want to know who you are, what makes you tick, and maybe get a new perspective on their own lives.”
The third of five boys, Hassett grew up in an Air Force family and discovered a strong singing voice at an early age. His father, who had some success in radio and TV announcing prior to re-joining the Air Force, brought stacks of records home. “My earliest memories of music are hearing Dad sing, like constantly, and listening to other great singers like Frankie Laine, Sarah Vaughn, Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Bobby Darin, so many more. Every generation has great singers who stand out from the crowd. I always listen for those special voices and I hear them in the generation coming up.”
A resident of San Diego for over 30 years, Hassett first performed a benefit concert for local AIDS support organizations in 1987 and that show began a series of “Friends and Lovers Concerts” which continued through the mid-1990s and, in later years, included other standout local musicians, notably Peggy Watson and Kay Etheridge. With each annual concert, Hassett, who was already known for his warm expressive baritone and his ability to sing new life into old standards and folk-rock classics, introduced more and more of his own compositions, providing a running commentary on his life and on the issues in his community.
In 2009, at the age of 60, he released his 15-song full-length Bring Love Home. Most of its songs are intensely autobiographical. Consider “A Woman Is My Friend,” which acknowledges that women, starting with his mother and then girlfriends in his childhood, have always been his best friends. “And I’m naming names, too,” Hassett laughs. “Seriously, I think gay men have a lot to teach all men about friendship and respect for women. I love performing this song in concert.”
In another example of true-life set to music, “Into the Light” captures the place and time of his bedside good-bye with his partner who died of AIDS in 1991. “I had to do something with the experience,” Hassett explains. “That last evening with friends and family nearby and watching this precious and fragile life leave us was so powerful. I cried writing it but each time I sing it, I feel stronger. So many people have come forward to thank me for helping them deal with losses they’ve endured. We all belong to a fellowship of loss and we need to share our stories.”
His holiday themed album December, with traditional music and original songs, was released in late 2011.