Fred Neil: Wikis

  
  

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Fred Neil

Fred Neil circa 1955
Background information
Born March 16, 1936(1936-03-16)
Cleveland, Ohio, United States
Died July 7, 2001 (aged 65)
Summerland Key, Florida, United States
Genres Blues, folk
Occupations Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, guitar

Fred Neil (March 16, 1936 – July 7, 2001) was an American blues and folk singer and songwriter whose career developed in the 1960s and early 1970s, after which he left the music scene. He wrote the hits "Candy Man" (the B side of Roy Orbison's "Crying") and "Everybody's Talkin'" (Harry Nilsson), as well as the ballad "A Little Bit Of Rain" and the rock standard "The Other Side of This Life", most famously recorded by Jefferson Airplane.

Contents

Biography

Born in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida, Neil was one of the singer-songwriters who worked out of New York City's famous Brill Building. He is often called a pioneer of the folk rock and singer-songwriter musical genres, his most prominent descendants being Tim Buckley, Stephen Stills, David Crosby and Joni Mitchell. His most frequently cited disciples are Karen Dalton, Tim Hardin, Dino Valenti, Vince Martin, Peter Stampfel of the avant-folk ensemble The Holy Modal Rounders, John Sebastian (The Lovin' Spoonful), Jerry Jeff Walker, and Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane). Some of Neil's early compositions were recorded by Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison. He was a session guitarist on Bobby Darin's 1958 hit "Dream Lover," and a demo singer on a late-'50s Elvis movie soundtrack session. While composing at the Brill Building for other artists, Neil also recorded six mostly rockabilly-pop oriented singles for different labels as a solo artist. Widely known and admired in folk music circles, he gained wider recognition in 1969, when Nilsson's recording of "Everybody's Talkin'" was featured in the film Midnight Cowboy, became a huge hit and won a Grammy.

In Fred Neil's Rolling Stone obituary Anthony DeCurtis wrote, "So why is Neil a hero to David Crosby? Because back when Crosby was an aspiring folkie who just arrived in New York, Neil bothered to take an interest in him, just as he did for the young Bob Dylan, who backed Neil on harmonica at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. 'He taught me that everything was music,' Crosby says."

In his memoir, Richie Havens recalled Fred Neil and then-partner Vince Martin's ability to make an entrance through the audience, sans microphones, and get the audience up and clapping by relying only on their harmonious vocals.

Neil was an accomplished professional musician atypically inclined to a modest frugality. Perhaps because of his grandmother's influence, as a child he sang in a gospel church band and acquired a background in black music that influenced him greatly. Among his other influences was Hank Williams. Toward the end of the 1950s, Neil began performing urban blues à la Josh White or Leadbelly in New York's Greenwich Village coffeehouses.

The success of "Candy Man" while he was in his early twenties gave Neil a significant income stream for life. Perhaps as a result, he became increasingly disinclined to work if he really did not feel the desire. His five solo albums are remarkable for their unpretentious authenticity. His combination of baritone vocal and trademark 12-string-guitar strumming remains unusual, and his recordings provide his shimmering melodies with muscular grooves. Neil consistently resolved the age-old opposition between aesthetic integrity and commercial quest almost entirely in favor of the aesthetic, which gives his recordings a unique historical resonance.

Neil's approach to melody was in the manner of Cole Porter, and to rhythm in the school of Ray Charles. His first LP, Tear Down The Walls, taped as duo with Vince Martin, showed an exquisite control of a folk-blues repertoire with some raga-like touches. During 1965 and 1966 Neil was joined on many live sets by the Seventh Sons, a trio trio led by Buzzy Linhart on guitar and vibes.

Neil's most popular albums are Bleecker & MacDougal (originally released on Elektra Records in 1965, reissued in 1970 as A Little Bit of Rain) and Fred Neil (released in 1966, relaunched in 1969 as Everybody's Talkin'), recorded during his residences in Greenwich Village and Coconut Grove, Florida, respectively (although for the latter, one session took place in Los Angeles).

Interested in dolphins since the mid 1960s, when he had begun visiting the Miami Seaquarium, with Ric O’Barry in 1970 Neil founded The Dolphin Research Project, an organization dedicated (according to Neil himself) to stopping the capture, trafficking and exploitation of dolphins worldwide. Increasingly involved in that pursuit, Neil progressively disappeared from the recording studio and live performance.

'70s Recordings

Many of Neil's 1970s recordings remain unissued, including a rare 1973 session with Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cipollina. Ric O'Barry claimed in an interview for the unofficial online website www.fredneil.com that two albums recorded between 1977 and 1978 - each including approximately 10 covers, not originals - were buried by Columbia Records. On the first of those purported recordings, the sessions produced in Miami by O'Barry himself, Neil was joined by Pete Childs on guitar, John Sebastian on harp, and Harvey Brooks on bass. The second album was more fully arranged, with Neil accompanied by the New York session band Stuff and some old friends like Slick Aguilar. The songs on these albums were written by Bobby Charles, "Hey Joe"'s writer Billy Roberts, John Braheny and Bobby Ingram.

'70s Live Performance

After playing with Stephen Stills at New York City's Madison Square Garden in 1970, Neil began a long retirement, performing in public mostly at gigs for the Dolphin Project Revue in Coconut Grove, although in 1977 he played a benefit show for the Revue in Tokyo.

An important live date occurred in July 1975 at The Montreux Jazz Festival,[1] when Neil played with his core group of John Sebastian on harp, Harvey Brooks on bass, and Pete Childs on guitar. Michael Lang, one of the organizers of the 1969 Woodstock Festival and a '70s Coconut Grove scene habituee, tried unsuccessfully to release this as a live LP. His last public performances was in 1981 at an outdoor concert at the Old Grove Pub in Coconut Grove, where he joined Buzzy Linhart for one song and stayed onstage for the rest of the set.

Later life and death

Neil left Woodstock in the mid '70s and spent his remaining decades on the shores of southern Florida, involved in The Dolphin Project. He died of natural causes in 2001.

Discography

  • 1964: Hootenanny Live at the Bitter End (FM)
  • 1964: World of Folk Music (FM)
  • 1965: Bleecker & MacDougal (Elektra)
  • 1966: Fred Neil (Capitol)
  • 1967: Sessions (Capitol)
  • 1969: Everybody's Talkin' (Capitol)
  • 1970: Little Bit of Rain (Elektra)
  • 1971: Other Side of This Life (Capitol)
  • 1986: The Very Best of Fred Neil (See for Miles)
  • 1998: The Many Sides of Fred Neil (Collectors' Choice Music)
  • 1999: Everybody's Talkin'/Other Side of This Life (Vivid Sound)
  • 2001: Tear Down the Walls/Bleecker & MacDougal (Elektra)
  • 2003: Do You Ever Think of Me? (Rev-Ola)
  • 2004: The Sky Is Falling: The Complete Live Recordings 1965-1971 (Rev-Ola)
  • 2005: Echoes of My Mind: The Best of 1963-1971 (Raven)
  • 2008: Trav'lin Man: The Early Singles (Fallout)

Selected list of Fred Neil songs and artists who covered them

References

  1. ^ [1] setlist from Montreux Jazz Festival database

External links








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