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Goo Goo Dolls singer inspired by hometown

Johnny Rzeznik say the disparity between rich and poor in Buffalo, N.Y.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Goo Goo Dolls front man Johnny Rzeznik, who grew up in working-class Buffalo, N.Y., went home to gain inspiration for the band’s latest album, “Let Love In,” which was released in April.

While there, he saw the disparity between the haves and have-nots. He drove out to the old factories and saw that buildings had vanished and were replaced by fences with barbed wire. It made him question lots of things: what happened to these people; who’s protecting humanity; and most of all, how can the United States survive without a middle class?

This inspired the song “When You’re Gone” and his eye-opening experience back in Buffalo guided much of the album’s content.

“I started to feel helpless and hopeless and numb — as a human being,” Rzeznik said between stops on the “Let Love In” promotional tour. “I wanted the theme for this album to be hope. When you get older you have to make a conscious decision — especially as a man — to be brave enough to feel and allow people to love you.”

But the song on “Let Love In” that has kept the Goo Goo Dolls relevant and part of the zeitgeist is “Better Days,” which was picked up by both CNN and Oprah Winfrey almost as an anthem following Hurricane Katrina.

Rzeznik said he originally conjured a wealthy erstwhile girlfriend who lavished him with ridiculously expensive gifts when all he wanted was for her to recognize the need for a little more reality.

After the song was attached to the hurricane remembrance, Rzeznik was taken aback.

“It caused this unintentional paradigm shift of the meaning in my mind. It was startling,” Rzeznik said. “It felt really good that we could contribute something other than money or playing some shows. We gave a little piece of our soul.”