Tony Hawk links singers and skaters for art

Boards + Bands enlisted musicians such as Adam "MCA" Yauch to ink lyrics on pro skaters' decks. Jody Morris/Tony Hawk Foundation 2012

Skateboards have always been synonymous with the art splashed across their surfaces.

Now, with the help of the Tony Hawk Foundation, decks have been transformed into canvases for art of a different nature: handwritten lyrics by some of the world’s greatest songwriters.

The idea for the project, conceived by singer-songwriter Ben Harper, became Boards + Bands.

Skaters gave their boards to musicians -- including Tom Petty, Jimmy Cliff, Bob Dylan, James Hetfield of Metallica and Harper himself -- who then wrote lyrics on their facades.

The boards are being auctioned off on eBay, with the proceeds benefiting the foundation.

“We thought it’d be fun, but I didn’t see it on a bigger scale, just because I was thinking about who we’re connected with and who we could get,” Hawk says. “I know some people in the music industry ... but not everyone and probably not the biggest names. But through Ben and through other contacts, we made it happen.”

For Hawk, it also became the search for his favorite songwriter, Paul McCartney.

“I wanted to go for broke and go for the top and, with enough phone calls and connections, [it] finally got it in his hands, and I still can’t believe it’s happened,” Hawk says.

He tried tracking down McCartney and wasn’t having much success. But, as fate would have it, a Foo Fighter helped him find a Beatle.

“I was in touch with John Silva, who is the Foo Fighters manager, about something completely different, and he said to me, on a whim, ‘I can’t talk to Dave [Grohl] right now because he’s busy doing a duet with Paul McCartney at the Grammys,’” Hawk remembers. “[Silva said] ‘I’m good friends with his manager now, I’ll have him call you.’”

Five minutes later, Hawk had his connection and would later see the lyrics to “Blackbird” displayed on his deck.

With the bidding open since Dec. 3, the McCartney-Hawk combination has produced the highest bid among the eight boards.

Also featured in the auction is a set of four decks from Bucky Lasek. Three of them have the words to “Bodhisattva Vow” written by the late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch (aka MCA) weeks before he died this past May. The fourth features drawings by Yauch, as well.

It took more than a year for the entire project to come together. In some cases, tracking down boards from skaters such as Steve Caballero, Bob Burnquist and Lance Mountain was more challenging than getting the songwriters to do their part.

And, although the result is one-of-a-kind artwork that is hanging in the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, Hawk isn’t sure the concept should be repeated down the road.

“I like the fact that it has this momentum and it’s so special,” he says. “We might just leave it there instead of trying to recapture that every time, although there’s always new skating heroes and incredible, talented songwriters out there we still haven’t captured. At this point, we have Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and MCA. That’s a pretty tough act to follow.”

To bid on a Boards + Bands deck, visit the organization's eBay auction.