Jim was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. He was lucky to have a creative mother who played guitar and taught students at her house. She was wonderfully eccentric for a suburban housewife. She loved the Beatles, bought Jimi Hendrix’s album “Are You Experienced,” took Jim to rock concerts, like Led Zeppelin, and drove his rock’n’roll band (The Meticulous Collection) to gigs. His dad, on the other hand, was not so excited about the rock’n’roll revolution. When Jim asked him if he should consider a future in it, Dad replied, “Son, rock’n’roll is just a fad.” The statement is amusing in retrospect as Mick Jagger is still touring fifty years later! Jim admits candidly, he didn’t have the courage to follow his musical dream and instead pursued a conventional lifestyle of education, work, and family. Which he doesn't regret for a second. He adores his wife and two daughters, one of whom does have the courage to pursue her artistic passion of dance. She graduated from the NYU dance school and is living and performing in Manhattan. He says about her: God bless her for having that kind of courage. Personally, he is so grateful for this opportunity to return to his deepest passion: writing and recording music that touches the heart and speaks to the mind.
Michael Topel has had an interest in music since childhood, listening to recordings and asking continually, "what makes that sound?" He asked often to be taken to church to sing. His mother, Judy, loved to sing and both modeled and encouraged love of music. Michael's father, Walt, was a respected director of television commercials and programs and also played tenor saxophone. Michael attended the conservatory at Northern Illinois University, graduating in 1979. An early professional project was writing the song, I Feel Love, for a short film about The Special Olympics in that same year. In the 1980s Michael worked as a music producer for tv commercials, industrial films and short films. With his valued partner, Jim Ware, Michael released the LP, Change of Heart in 1985, producing two charting songs, Children of America and the album's title song. Ultimately leaving professional music for the stability of a "day job" in management and a family, Michael continued to do project work including the score for the independent film, Holy Days, produced by Jim Ryan. In 2009 Michael also began his current professional practice as a clinical psychologist. Michael is happily married to Lauren; children are Caleb, Alexander, Erin, Madeleine and Aubrey. Michael is thrilled to be working with Jim Ware again. (Jim’s comment: “Michael does the heavy lifting, I'm just eye-candy."😊)
Together, as Topel and Ware
Topel and Ware have been writing and recording songs since 1985. A year later we released our first single, “Children of America.” The song became a Billboard top 100 single and the video was played on MTV and other venues. We had 15 minutes of stardom. 😊 I remember walking into a New York City hotel room and hearing our song as the door swung open. I thought I was losing my mind. Was I hearing things? Why was I hearing our music in this hotel room? Then I saw that it was coming from the bedside radio. Apparently, the policy of the hotel was to leave the radio on so guests would hear music as they walked into their room. Very cool story to tell my kids, who then asked, "Dad, what's a radio?"
Back in those days, there were no music apps. The way songs became popular was through radio playlists, not Spotify playlists. We had a promoter, Ray Roberts, who would mail our tapes to radio stations. The programmer at the station would decide if he liked the tune enough to add it to the playlist. Ray would call us weekly with reports like, “station XYZ in Wichita, Kansas is now playing your tune in heavy rotation.” We released another single called “Change of Heart” which also charted and was the title of our first album. All of those songs can be found on Spotify and other music apps. We will soon re-release Children of America (see the video on this website) because the song describes community and the common elements that unite us as Americans. Our thought: we need to come together as a nation. There is too much divisiveness and anger.
Soon after these early successes, Topel and I each got married, began careers outside of music, and raised families. Our friendship remained strong but our music took a back seat to the responsibilities of work and family. Until now. With grown kids and a bit of pressure off the finances, we have turned again to our passion: making music. As you might guess, our inspiration for songs has shifted somewhat. No longer, “my heart got squashed…again” to more reflective or spiritual themes. Many of our tunes now contain Christian messages like gratitude, forgiveness, acceptance, service, community, and the like. The common goal of both our older and newer songs is to touch the heart and the mind of the listener. When we hear someone say that they were moved by one of our songs or they loved the message, we are truly joyful. Thanks for being a part of our journey.