As most can imagine, with one of the premier music colleges in the world, Berklee College of Music, sitting in our backyard in Boston, many of the most famous and successful singers, musicians, songwriters, bands, recording engineers, and more are products of the school. In particular, we will focus on the work of one particular Berklee songwriting professor, Jon “JD” Aldrich. As a student, Jon started the songwriting program at Berklee decades ago. Jon’s students have gone on to write songs for so many of the top artists in the world including Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Harry Styles, Halsey, Lady Gaga, Gwen Stefani, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Kesha, Linkin Park, Randy Travis, Imagine Dragons and so many others.
Jon “JD” Aldrich, was born in New York State in 1949. When his cousin quit trying to learn to play guitar, he gave Jon his inexpensive Harmony Stella folk guitar. Jon taught himself to play the current days’ hits of early rock ‘n’ roll and was a fast learner. At age 19, (late 60s) one of his early bands called the Ashley Brothers was signed by Capitol Records.
Jon received a math scholarship to the State University of New York. While still in college, encouraged by a friend, he visited Berklee College in Boston and immediately knew that he had found a home!
As a Berklee student, with the assistance of one of Jon’s professors, Tony Teixeira, Jon approached the college’s administration with the idea of creating a Songwriting class to be included in the curriculum. Berklee became the first college in the world to offer a for-credit course in Songwriting and had Jon as the teacher!
As the course’s popularity grew, Berklee became the first college to offer a MAJOR in Songwriting. The Songwriting faculty at Berklee has grown significantly over the years.
As a regular part of class assignments, Jon would ask his students to write “popular” style songs in various genres. During one of those assignments, his students were performing their ‘country style’ songs. While a number of the performances included trucks, guns and dogs, the entire class was very impressed with one particular student’s efforts. Jon assisted his student with a bit of polishing, and not long thereafter, that song, “I Just Fall in Love Again,” became a #1 hit and “Song Of The Year” for Canadian artist Anne Murray!
As a ‘Thank You’ to his teacher, the student sent Jon a sizable check for his contribution to the song. Jon tore up the check and sent it back with a note saying that the student, not Jon, had written the song. Weeks later, large boxes showed up at Jon’s apartment containing state of the art recording equipment and a note that read, “Try tearing this up.”
Jon put his songwriting skills to use by writing, arranging, producing and singing jingles for radio and TV and became one of the top jingle writers in the country. He has literally been involved in thousands of local, regional, national, and international commercial jingles including McDonald’s, Sears, Liberty Mutual, Keds, Tropicana, and many, more.
Additionally, his work has appeared on numerous TV shows including Kaptain Kangaroo,The Archies Cartoon Show, The Richie Rich Cartoon Show, Sesame Street, and the Peter Pan Record Company and more.
Custom songs that Jon wrote, produced and performed have been heard on Touched By An Angel, The Jamie Foxx Show, The Disney Channel, The Hallmark Channel, and in many movies.
Jon has made countless recordings for industrials, album sessions, MUZAK, New Kids On The Block, and Radio and TV “I.D. Packages”.
Music legends that he has performed with include Paul Simon, Gloria Estefan, Grand Funk Railroad, Leslie West [and Mountain], Queen Latifah, Christopher Guest, and even Gabe Kaplan of Welcome Back Kotter fame.
While teaching at Berklee in the 70’s, Jon started an “Oldies” trio called JD, Billy & Ken that instantly caught on in some of the well known Boston nightclubs of the day including the Scotch n’ Sirloin, Brandy’s, Great Scott’s, the Pier, etc. Back then, it was very common to see lines forming around the block to see and hear the band. Nearly 50 years later, the band is still performing.
Today, nearly 50 years since he was admitted as a student, Jon continues to perform, record, and teach songwriting at Berklee.
Jon says, “I don’t ever want to stop doing all of this…it’s WAY too much fun!”
Published on May 12, 2021