Do you own the publishing on “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me?”
No. That was earlier stuff. In those days, if you signed a record deal they had this thing called inducement so you’d sign a publishing deal. But the copyright is starting to run out, so my kids can have some fun after I’m dead.
But you still profit off those songs when they’re used, right?
Oh yeah. That’s why I’m not checking your receipt when you leave the Home Depot [laughs].
Why stop making records?
I don’t think I stopped. I just play a different role now. I do fun stuff you probably don’t know about. Jimmy Buffett is my good friend. A few years ago he had his first country album called License to Chill. He called me up and said, “Man, I’m doing a country album. Why don’t you write a couple songs? You’re about as country as anybody that I know.” I wrote stuff like, “When you find out things about yourself that you already know/And your grandma calls and books you on the Jerry Springer Show/And you find out your wife and you might be related/Brother, your life ain’t over/It’s just simply complicated.” He’s probably the only guy that could do that line.
I want to walk around with my shirt off, oiled-up on a hot day and making women’s socks roll up and down.
You have a home studio. I know you have a distaste for the industry, but are you ever tempted to record a song and just post it on the Internet?
Well, I don’t know. I wrote this song called “I Am My Father’s Son” for the unveiling of Bill Russell’s statue in Baltimore and his high school buddy Johnny Mathis sang it. Then at Oprah’s gospel thing, my daughter, who does my demos, she sang that song. I guess I’m a situation guy now.
Do you ever think you’d release an album under your own name again?
I don’t know. It’s like you asking me if I’ll perform at the thing. I don’t know if I can. I’m an old man.
But you weren’t that old when you stopped.
I had fun doing other things. I built a lot of stuff. I learned masonry as a kid. I was fixing up some houses. I don’t know. I was just living. Then I had kids. Well, you can’t raise your kids if you’re in Philadelphia and New Orleans and Chicago.
So, putting aside the question of whether you physically can perform at the Hall of Fame, is it something that you would want to do?
Of course I want to play. We can get into “want to’s.” I want to pose nude in Playboy magazine if they still have one. I want to walk around with my shirt off, oiled-up on a hot day and making women’s socks roll up and down. There are some people that can sing in their later years and some of them that can’t. I don’t want to be on of those old guys that sounds like a gerbil trying to give birth to a hippopotamus. So, we’ll see. Now you’ve got me all motivated. Now, I’ve gotta see if I can’t conjure it up. One of my favorite shows is the Big Bang Theory. You know that episode where Sheldon is going to concentrate and try and make Leonard’s head blow up? [Laughs] I’m going to be like that.