Steven Tyler and Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton wrote "Janie's Got a Gun" 26 years ago. The song, about a girl's revenge on her sexually abusive father, earned the band its first Grammy in 1991 and remains Aerosmith's most politicized statement to date. The track was an awakening for Tyler, he said onstage at the David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center Monday night, to the abuse thousands of children face in the United States.
"I'm in awe of young women out there standing up against abuse," the singer said. "68,000 children are sexually abused in the U.S. every year. ... One in five girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. … Experts say that's an underreported statistic."
Tyler is throwing his celebrity and voice behind the cause with a charity called Janie's Fund. "Janie's got a gun, and now Janie has a fund," Tyler said. He began the philanthropic initiative in November 2015 in partnership with Youth Villages, a U.S. nonprofit that serves abused and neglected girls by providing extended care for them as they age out of the foster-care system and transition to adulthood. Prior to the concert, concertgoers could bid for items for auction ranging from art by Tyler's daughter Mia to a meet-and-greet with Britney Spears selling for $3,000.
Actor Melissa John Hart, who supports Youth Villages through her clothing line King of Harts, showed up at the concert/auction – dubbed "Out on a Limb" – in support of Janie's Fund, as did Bruce Willis and Tyler's children Liv, Mia, Chelsea Tallarico and Taj Tallarico.
The Aerosmith singer is expected to drop his first solo LP this summer. Here is what we learned at "Out On a Limb."
1. Tyler's solo LP will include new song "Only Heaven."
In addition to playing the first two singles from his forthcoming solo record – the windblown "If Love Is Your Name" and the Florida Georgia Line-esque "Red, White and You" – Tyler played a new ballad, "Only Heaven," which recalled the grandiose posturing of "Beyond Beautiful" from Aerosmith's 2001 album, Just Push Play. One of the writers from Play, Grammy-winning songwriter Mark Hudson told Rolling Stone of the new LP: "I was originally nervous that it would sound too clean, but this record is really him – it's 100 percent Tyler – with a twang."
2. The death of Phil Everly inspired Tyler to make a country record.
Big Machine founder Scott Borchetta remembered the exact moment Tyler told him he wanted to work on a country album. "I went over to his table at a MusiCares event where he was sitting next to Leann Rimes," Borchetta told RS. "I said, 'Were you serious about a country album?' and Tyler said, 'Like a heart attack.'" Borchetta said Tyler's record is inspired by Delta blues and Southern roots than Top 40 country. "I know [Steven] really wanted to get going after Phil Everly died in 2014," he said. "It was something he always wanted to do." Tyler credited the Everly Brothers as one of his early influences in a 2015 Rolling Stone interview.
3. Janis Joplin is Tyler's spirit animal.
"If I'm going to do this record, I've got to cover Janis," Tyler has said about his forthcoming country album. A screeching rendition of Joplin's "Mercedes Benz" leading into "Piece of My Heart," which he performed on Monday, has become a staple of Tyler's set with boho-country backing band Loving Mary. In his 2011 memoir, Tyler wrote about how he sneaked into New York City bars to watch Joplin perform. When he joined Aerosmith, Tyler styled himself after her Southern affect and raw, unbridled vocalization.
4. Tyler's solo career won't stop him from Aero-proselytizing.
Nothing makes Tyler wax poetic like recounting the fateful day in 1969 when a skinny Italian from Boston named Joe Perry picked him up at the side of the road and invited him to a concert at Sunapee, New Hampshire, dive the Barn. "It was situation fetal," expounded Tyler. "Vaccinated with a phonograph needle." A 1970s snapshot of Perry and Tyler grinning side-by-side lit the stage. Tyler said he was stung by Perry's guitar playing the night he heard his band cover Fleetwood Mac's "Rattlesnake Shake," which Tyler lunged into along with another early Barn favorite, the country-blues "Train Kept A-Rollin'."
5. Tyler got the idea for "Janie's Got a Gun" while in rehab.
Before singing a minor-key rendition of "Janie" while curled up on a recliner, Tyler spoke about the song's genesis, when he read about the high number of handgun deaths in New York City while in rehab. Hearing the stories of his co-patients Tyler said: "I got to thinking it doesn't have to be that way." Closing out "Walk This Way," four Janie's Fund participants in their early twenties joined Tyler to dance onstage. "These are the rock stars," Tyler said, "Tonight I get to be the fan."
"Piece of My Heart"
"Love Is Your Name"
"Red, White and You"
"Don't Wanna Miss a Thing"
"Janie's Got a Gun"
"Train Kept A-Rollin'"
"Walk This Way"