|Van Dyke Parks|
|Born||January 3, 1943
|Occupations||Composer, Performer, Instrumentalist, Arranger, Producer, Lyricist|
|Instruments||Vocals, Piano, Harpsichord, Synthesizer, Accordion, Celeste, Organ|
|Labels||Warner Bros., MGM|
Van Dyke Parks (born January 3, 1943) is an American composer, arranger, producer, musician, singer, and actor. He has worked with performers including Grace Kelly, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Loudon Wainwright III, Silverchair, Ry Cooder, Joanna Newsom, Inara George and Ringo Starr.
Born in 1943 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and reared in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Parks attended the American Boychoir School '57 in Princeton, New Jersey. He began his career as a child actor. Between 1953 and 1958 he worked steadily in films and television, including the 1956 movie The Swan (which starred Grace Kelly). He appeared as Ezio Pinza's son Andrew Bonino on the NBC television show Bonino. One of his costars on Bonino was 14-year-old Chet Allen, who appeared as Jerry Bonino. Parks and Allen were roommates at the Boychoir School. Parks also had a recurring role as Little Tommy Manacotti (the kid from upstairs) on Jackie Gleason's The Honeymooners.
Parks originally studied the clarinet, but had moved to the piano before enrolling (majoring in music) at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he studied from 1960 to 1963. In January 1963 Parks learned to play the guitar and soon relocated to Los Angeles to play with his older brother Carson Parks (writer of "Somethin' Stupid") as The Steeltown Two (later enlarged to the Steeltown Three), which eventually became the folk group The Greenwood County Singers (Parks took a short hiatus from this group, moving to New England to be part of The Brandywine Singers).
By 1964, Parks had an artist contract at MGM Records. In 1966 he was persuaded by producer Lenny Waronker to switch to Warner Bros. Records. During this time he worked frequently as a session musician, arranger and songwriter. Parks met Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson through Terry Melcher (who was then producing The Byrds). During 1966 Parks performed on The Byrds album Fifth Dimension (David Crosby later asked Parks to join the band, but Parks refused) as well as on the ill fated Beach Boys project Smile. Also during this period, Parks' compositions, such as the hit "High Coin" for Harpers Bizarre, were becoming known for their lyrical wordplay and sharp imagery.
In 1966 Brian Wilson commissioned Parks to write lyrics for the Beach Boys' next LP, the ambitious but ill-fated Smile. Parks and Wilson collaborated on songs for the album. Several members of the Beach Boys strongly opposed Smile, notably Mike Love who derided Parks' lyrics as "Acid Alliteration". The bitter resistance from the group and their record company had a strong negative effect on Wilson's increasingly fragile mental state (which may also have been exacerbated by drug use). Following a December 1966 recording session in which he was involved in a heated argument with Mike Love (who vehemently criticised his lyrics for the song "Cabinessence") Parks' involvement in Smile effectively ceased and he officially withdrew from the project in early 1967. Recording sessions ground to a halt soon after, as Wilson became increasingly withdrawn, and the album was shelved a few months later. Several complete Wilson/Parks songs and other musical fragments written for Smile subsequently appeared on the Beach Boys' 'replacement' album Smiley Smile, including "Heroes and Villains" and "Wind Chimes", although most were re-recorded in drastically scaled-down arrangements. Two other key songs written and recorded for Smile -- "Cabinessence" and "Surf's Up" -- were compiled by Carl Wilson and included on the 20/20 and Surf's Up LPs in more or less the same form as Wilson had intended them for Smile, while the song "Cool Cool Water" (an extended track built around the Smile fragment "I love to say Dada") later appeared on the Sunflower album.
Smile acquired legendary status as one of the great lost works of Sixties rock. Public interest in Smile was revived by the release of a significant portion of the original Smile recordings on the Beach Boys 30th anniversary boxed set in 1993. In 2004, following the great success of his acclaimed live performances of the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album, Wilson made a surprise announcement that he was going to finish the mythical record using his current touring band. He contacted Parks, who helped fill in "gaps" in the original material and the duo re-recorded the album and then presented it on a world tour, beginning with the world premiere performance at the .
In 1968, Parks released his first solo album, Song Cycle which combined orchestral textures and traditional Americana-meets-psychedelic pop song structure. AllMusic's Jason Ankeny has described the album as
an audacious and occasionally brilliant attempt to mount a fully orchestrated, classically minded work within the context of contemporary pop. As indicated by its title, Song Cycle is a thematically coherent work, one which attempts to embrace the breadth of American popular music; bluegrass, ragtime, show tunes -- nothing escapes Parks' radar, and the sheer eclecticism and individualism of his work is remarkable. ...[T]he album is both forward-thinking and backward-minded, a collision of bygone musical styles with the progressive sensibilities of the late '60s; while occasionally overambitious and at times insufferably coy, it's nevertheless a one-of-a-kind record, the product of true inspiration. 
Song Cycle established Parks' signature approach of mining and updating old American musical traditions, including ragtime and New Orleans-style jazz, and includes the Randy Newman song "Vine Street". Although widely praised by some critics, the album sold poorly.
Four years later, Parks' travelled to the West Indies inspired his second solo album Discover America. Discover America was a tribute to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago and to calypso music. Parks re-arranged and re-produced obscure songs and calypso classics. This direction was continued in the 1976 release Clang of the Yankee Reaper.
Parks' 1984 album Jump! featured songs adapted from the stories of Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit. The album features a Broadway-style reduced orchestra plus Americana additions like banjo, mandolin, and steel drums. Parks composed the album but did not arrange or produce it. Martin Kibbee contributed to the lyrics.
Following Jump!, in 1989 Warner Brothers released Tokyo Rose. This concept album focuses on the history of Japanese/U.S. relations from the 19th century to the "trade war" of the time of its release. The songs are pop tunes with an orchestral treatment including Japanese instruments and old Parks Caribbean favorites like steel drums. The album did not sell well and was not widely critically noticed.
In 1995 Parks teamed up again with Brian Wilson to create the album Orange Crate Art. Parks wrote all of the songs on the album, except "This Town Goes Down At Sunset" and George Gershwin instrumental "Lullaby", with vocals by Wilson. Orange Crate Art is a tribute to the Southern California of the early 1900s, and a lyrical tribute to the beauty of Northern California.
1998 saw the release of Parks' first live album, Moonlighting: Live at the Ash Grove, which shows a love of the work of 19th-century American pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk as well as performances of several of Parks' better (and lesser) known songs. The live ensemble includes Sid Page as concertmaster.
Parks has produced, arranged, or played on albums by artists including Tim Buckley, U2, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, The Byrds, Cher, Rufus Wainwright, Sam Phillips, Ringo Starr, Frank Black, The Beau Brummels, Medicine, Keith Moon, Carly Simon, Little Feat, T-Bone Burnett, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Victoria Williams, Bonnie Raitt, Peter Case, Gordon Lightfoot, Fiona Apple, Sheryl Crow, Ry Cooder, Joanna Newsom, The Everly Brothers, Saint Etienne, Silverchair, The Thrills, Scissor Sisters, Laurie Anderson, and Susanna Hoffs/Matthew Sweet's covers collection.
In 2006 he collaborated with singer Joanna Newsom on the orchestral arrangements for her second album, Ys. He and David Mansfield are co-credited with the music for the 2006 mini-series Broken Trail. He also contributed orchestrations to the Danger Mouse produced second album by UK psychedelic three piece The Shortwave Set in 2008.
He also composed orchestral arrangements for the fifth Silverchair album, Young Modern, on three songs, "If You Keep Losing Sleep", "Those Thieving Birds/Strange Behavior", and "All Across The World". Daniel Johns, the band's lead singer, traveled to Prague with Parks to have the arrangements recorded by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. The album's title is a nickname Parks uses for Johns. This followed his work on the band's fourth album, Diorama, contributing orchestral arrangements on "Across The Night", "Tuna In The Brine", and "Luv Your Life".
Parks has also scored a number of motion pictures, including Sesame Street's Follow That Bird, Jack Nicholson's The Two Jakes and Goin' South, Casual Sex?, Private Parts, Popeye (with Harry Nilsson), and The Company.
Disney hired Parks to arrange Terry Gilkyson's Academy Award nominated song "The Bare Necessities" for the 1967 feature The Jungle Book. Parks had four songs featured in the 1987 direct-to-video Disney film, The Brave Little Toaster. He worked closely with David Newman on the film's score as well. He composed the theme song for Rudy Maxa's Savvy Traveler radio program on NPR.
Parks composed the faux-psychedelic song "Black Sheep" (a parody of Smile and Brian Wilson's style in general) for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, sung by John C. Reilly, who portrays the titular character.
Parks wrote a series of children's books (Jump (with Malcolm Jones), Jump Again and Jump on Over), based around the Br'er rabbit tales, illustrated by Barry Moser, and loosely accompanied by Parks' own album Jump!. The books contain sheet music for selected songs from the album.
Parks has completed work with Brian Wilson on a new narrative song cycle entitled That Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative).
He also contributed to the new record by The Shortwave Set, titled Replica Sun Machine, which features a 24-piece orchestra and further input from John Cale. This was released on the 12th of May 2008 by Wall of Sound.
Parks worked with Inara George on a record released in 2008, An Invitation, and they performed two songs together on 8 January 2008 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, as part of the program Concrete Frequency: Songs of the City.
Parks performed with Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder on the Howard Zinn documentary The People Speak broadcast on Dec. 13, 2009 on the History Channel. They played Do Re Mi and reportedly a couple of other Guthrie songs that were excluded from the final edit.
Parks performed as a guest artist on the Grant Geissman Cool Man Cool album released in 2009
Goin' South (1978)