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Stars and Tripe Forever

Esquire Records wants to rally America. And maybe make a buck or two.

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"This song should be playing on every radio station and television show in the country right now," Hal "The Songwriting Attorney" Pollock says as he cues up "Our Flag Still Flies" on a CD player in his crowded Terminal Tower office. He's an excitable, fiftyish fellow, as eager to show off his work as a schoolkid with a gold star on his spelling test. He hits play, and the room fills with anthemic light rock -- the kind of easy listening that would make Ned Flanders pump his fist. Pollock beams.

"It's time that we had a new national anthem, because as great as 'The Star Spangled Banner' is, it's outdated. This is an anthem for the millennium," he says.

Sound like a bold statement? Well, Pollock is full of lofty ambitions. As head of his own fledgling Esquire Records, he's penned a proposed anthem for the Olympics, written a theme song for Rocky VI that he's sent to Sylvester Stallone's brother, and gotten demos of his work to Ricky Martin, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, and about two dozen other music-industry heavyweights -- all unsolicited. Are the stars responding?

"No, but we know they're listening. It's going through recognized music-business attorneys," says New York entertainment lawyer Larry Leighter, who's acting as Pollock's liaison in getting his songs to the stars. "You never know when these will be performed, but we know they have them."

In the meantime, Pollock is making a name for himself with what he calls his "American trilogy": three patriotic songs inspired by the WTC catastrophe, including the aforementioned "Our Flag Still Flies," "A World Gone Mad," and "American Spirit." Pollock has sent a copy of the latter to President Bush with a letter of commendation from Ohio Congressman Steven LaTourette. He's also spoken with producers of Larry King Live about getting the songs played on the air. All this comes on the heels of Pollock's latest release, Daughters and Sons, a CD single about children slain by handguns. Pollock successfully pitched it to the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, which adopted the cut as its official song.

"I think it's a very important thing that he's doing, because it is the way that you're able to educate people and make them aware of any kind of social problem," says Toby Hoover, director of the coalition. "With him being willing to speak out about the fact that we are losing a lot of children, he plays an important role in making people not forget what happens."

But in releasing four successive tragedy-themed songs, is Pollock exploiting the misfortune of others to get his foot in the door of the music industry? Is he simply profiting off people's misery?

"Yeah, you know, that's definitely a concern, but at the same time, I have something to say about it," Pollock says. "September 11 happened. That night, I tried to go to sleep, and songs were in my head. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I had something to say. I was really trying to reach out to the families of the people that were killed. I felt I wanted to say something to those people, to help them get through. This is a crazy time to live in, and I had to do something. It's not about profiteering. It's about making a statement."

Still, when Pollock digs out the cardboard retail display holder for "American Spirit," which he hopes to get near the cash registers at department stores like Kmart, he talks of riding the "patriotic crest." And while he plans to donate a significant amount of the proceeds from the sale of the disc to charity, he hasn't spelled out how much or to whom. Moreover, it wasn't as if Pollock got into the business for altruistic reasons.

"I've been a lawyer for 25 years, and in December of '99, I kind of looked around and said, 'You know, there's got to be a way to make money that's more fun.' So I started looking around for other ways to make money. In that time period, I happened to buy a new CD by sax player David Koz. There was one tune on there that just knocked me out, called 'Know You by Heart,' and I turned around and wrote lyrics for it."

Since then, Pollock has written hundreds of songs and started a label that features "Precious and Few" crooner Sonny Geraci among its artists. Pollock has also launched a comprehensive Cleveland music website at Esquirerecords.com. The objective of it all?

Says Pollock: "Just to get a good feeling, motivation, to have your spirit lifted."

And maybe his business prospects, too.

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