Two weeks ago, through the din in the basement of the International Beauty Show at the Jacob Javits Center, a peaceful melody could be discerned. Camped in front of a booth selling Hungarian organic skin cream, the musician David Young was playing two recorders at the same time. Beside him, a boom box purred with a prerecorded CD track of light guitar music. There was a crowd.
On his left, Mr. Young had erected a cardboard display case of his CDs with titles like Celestial Winds and The Inner Child. There was also a rack of gift cards bearing hopeful messages like: “Today I thought of you, as I always do, and the things we never could say …” If one were to open the card, one would read the conclusion of the message “We can start over today,” just as a recording of Mr. Young’s relaxing recorder music begins to play through a tiny speaker in the card.
Without quite knowing how or why, you hear Mr. Young’s music everywhere. It’s playing in elevators and malls; in the airplane as you taxi across the tarmac; at the massage parlor and the nail salon—its very mundanity belying its spirituality. “My music is just a channel for love,” Mr. Young said. “I just try to make my music as heavenly as it can be.”
He was sitting in his mother’s apartment in Edgewater, N.J., looking out across the Hudson River, wearing a light blue linen shirt unbuttoned halfway, white linen pants and laceless boat shoes.
Mr. Young, 48, grew up in Canarsie, Brooklyn, where during grade school he excelled at the recorder. However, upon hearing Jethro Tull’s classic “Aqualung,” he took up guitar. For the next 20 years, Mr. Young tried to make it as a heavy-metal guitarist, encountering near success and total failure. There was the band Medusa, formed with the future drummer and lead singer of Anthrax, Joey Belladonna. Then came Outakontrol. After that a popular AC/DC cover band known as Q.T. Hush. Along the way he married a groupie. She inspired a song called “Match Made in Hell.” They are no longer together.
“Basically, once I left Q.T. Hush, I couldn’t do anything right,” Mr. Young said. “I was a lost person.” He hitchhiked aimlessly across the country, winding up broke on Venice Beach.
There, he befriended Lisa Franco, a New Age harpist who had found a niche among middle-aged women and tourists. They started playing together: she on harp, he on his recorders. They played soothing, light music, wore all white and called themselves Celestial Winds. It was odd, but it worked.
“I realized the entertainment value of doing something that’s different,” Mr. Young said. “Playing two flutes at one time is different. The Beatles had a different haircut. Jimi Hendrix had a different haircut. Sorry to compare myself to these people, but if you want to stand out in this world, you have to have some musical entertainment value that’s different.”
The duo recorded a few albums and toured the country, playing art fairs, where their unobtrusive music was highly prized. They had a brief romantic relationship. “What can I say,” he said. “We make very romantic music.” Alas, it didn’t last.
Mr. Young became a solo act and hasn’t looked back. He’s been nominated for a Grammy, written a musical and recorded a collection of Bread covers. Even now, after more than 20 albums of serene New Age music, such as Butterfly Kisses and Oceans of Love, Mr. Young is loath to be pigeonholed.
“If you have an ability, you have an ability,” he said. “If you have a chef who makes hamburgers and then he learns how to make sushi, it doesn’t mean he loses his ability to make hamburgers. I’m a rocker. I’ll always be a rocker.”