Nick Binkley was a banker for more than 30 years, but when he hears about CDs, he's rarely thinking about certificates of deposit.
As a veteran musician, the maker of three commercially available recordings, and owner of his own label, CDs have long served as the "compact disc" conveyance of his musical alter ego the melodious ying to his 9-to-5 bankerly yang.
Binkley, 68, is a former vice chairman of Security Pacific Bank and Bank of America. As he breaks the last of his ties to the industry (he retired June 6 as a board member at Union Bank and its UnionBanCal parent) he is looking forward to promoting and performing cuts from his latest CD, "100 Parts of Heart."
Plenty of figures in finance have melded a deep love of music into their careers. Alan Greenspan studied clarinet at Julliard before transferring schools and majoring in economics; an old jazz band buddy who later practiced law with Richard Nixon is credited with putting Greenspan on a path as a presidential adviser. James Wolfensohn, who once played cello at Carnegie Hall, often attended local music performances during his travels as president of the World Bank, as a way of understanding different cultures he encountered in his work.
The psychic benefits of a lifelong immersion in music also have relevance in commercial banking, according to Binkley, who says that jamming with other musicians gave him a deep understanding of body language and other nonverbal cues, which made him a better, more empathetic listener in his banking job.
"100 Parts of Heart" contains his most poignant collection of songs since his 1996 debut CD, "Pin Stripe Brain." It's mainly dedicated to the memory of Binkley's spouse, Diana Padelford Binkley, who died unexpectedly in 2003. Not surprisingly, a thick air of lamentation suffuses the album's 14 songs, especially "Rosalee," whose constant refrain, "I can feel you looking down upon me... Rosalee... I can tell you are near," is Binkley's most stark grasping for his late wife.
"'Rosalee' says I will always love my wife forever, through everything, even death," says Binkley, who released "100 Parts of Heart" on his PSB Records label and will devote the proceeds to the Diana Foundation, which he created in her memory to focus on improving pain management therapy for women.
For Binkley, the album has been part of a much valued, even vital, healing process. "These songs clearly help me deal with this loss," he says. "They are about a continuing of life."
But it is the strait-laced business of banking that has long served as Binkley's primary musical inspiration, as evidenced by "Pin Stripe Brain" and his 1999 follow-up, "Let the Boy Jam."
"The world of banking has never been a hang-loose, locker-room sort of environment," Binkley says. "It is banking, with serious, strict rules of behavior. I write about the corporate world [in a way] that others wouldn't write because they aren't being informed by that as their source."
Music, Binkley says, "provided a creative outlet for me, and a lot of relief from the day-to-day grind." With his business pursuits letting up, he has more time for music now. He's also putting the final touches on "Free to Rock," a rockumentary he's involved with. Narrated by Kiefer Sutherland and featuring musicians and politicians, it shows how rock 'n'roll contributed to the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Binkley says he likes being freer to nurture his passion, though he appreciates the demanding role that music played in his life when he was a banker. "As an artist your gift can be an all-consuming curse. You must pursue it, whether you are ultimately successful at the art or not," he says. "But for those who can rein it in, and use the creative outlet constructively in their workaday lives, it is a clear blessing."