Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Gene Clark

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is Gene Clark:

Gene is the fellow on the left, doing lead singer on “Backstage Pass”. Roger McGuinn is in the center and Chris Hillman on the right.

Rock music has seen quite a few artists who have been recognized by a large public. But there are those who have sunk into the sunset and few know their name. Gene Clark was in the first rank of those artists.

Gene Clark is no longer with us and I miss him a lot. I can’t think of another musician who moves me like Gene does. I first got hooked on his music back in the day when he released his fourth solo album, No Other. There wasn’t a bad song on that masterpiece.

Gene Clark was a songwriter, musician and performer. The guy sure could write songs and he was one of the best lyricist to come down the pike. A songwriter learning their craft could do no better than to study Gene’s work. The songs I have featured here all have a wallop that leaves me moved. Only “Changes” was not his. (I include it here to give some idea what he could do with another fellow’s song.)

In case, you are unfamiliar with who Gene Clark was, he was a founding member of the American folk-rock band, The Byrds. It was Gene Clark who wrote or co-wrote many of their songs: “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, “Set You Free This Time”, “Here Without You”, “You Won’t Have to Cry”, “If You’re Gone”, “The World Turns All Around Her”, and “She Don’t Care About Time” and “I’ll Feel a Whole Better”. Gene not only was the songwriter on that one but also the lead singer.

His influence was writ large on a number of musical genres: folk rock, country rock, alt.country, and psychedilic acid rock. He was there at the beginning, writing the songs and performing them. One of the first psychedelic songs, the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”, came from him.

He went solo in 1966 for a number of reasons, including internal squabbles with others in the band and a deathly fear of flying.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 as a member of the Byrds. But he is still mostly unrecognized for being one of the best songwriters of his time and as a solo artist by much of the public and by the Hall of Fame.

So give a listen and maybe you’ll be saying with me, “We sure miss you, Gene.”

Radio Song by Dillard and Clark.

The Virgin. 

Finally, here’s one he recorded with Carla Olson in the final years of his career, Phil Ochs’ “Changes“:

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: Gordon Lightfoot

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Creator is Gordon Lightfoot:

It was late 1969 and I was at the Air Force Base Exchange. I found myself flipping through the records when I chanced upon an album called “Sunday Concert”. In those days, I had gotten into the habit of buying albums based on the cover art. The cover on the album was simple. It was a side view of Gordon Lightfoot on stage. It was a live album.

I liked the cover but I wasn’t sure who this Gordon Lightfoot was. Seems the name had come up before. Didn’t he write a Peter, Paul and Mary tune, “Early Morning Rain”? I checked out the songs. They had interesting titles and it looked like this Lightfoot guy was a folk singer.

This was in the days before Pandora and Spotify. If no one you knew had heard an artist, you took your chances. So I took my chances. Man, am I glad. I loved this Lightfoot and his “Sunday Concert”. Every song was a gem. Little did I realize that this was the last album he was to do for United Artist. His next album, “Sit Down, Young Stranger”, was on the Reprise label and it was a gem too. Had a big hit on it. “If you could read my mind”.

The Guess Who performing “Lightfoot”.

Gordon Lightfoot was something. He wrote great songs. He had a great voice. And he looked like what you would expect a troubadour to look. Over the years, I bought album after album of his as they were released. Twice I saw him in concert. And he’s still out there on the road, doing what a troubadour does.

In his honor, I wrote this lyric:

The ballading man
Spanish guitars play a South-of-the-Border song
On the stage the man sings out loud and clear
Of a land made great by sweat and by blood,
A rose in the wilderness of every man’s fear.

The songs the ways of the past almost forgotten:
Of love’s wisdom, of life, glory and death,
Of battles raging and courageous men,
Conquistadors, el dorado tales of fabulous wealth.

Children, gather ’round and hear a ballading man
Warm as a winter fire by a family hearth
Wild as mountain flowers in early spring,
A natural theology of every man’s worth.

Gordon Lightfoot, “I used to be a country singer”, written by Steve McEown.

And here is one of the my favorites. It’s “Don Quixote”, the title song from his second album on Reprise:

In this day and age, we need more Don Quixotes like this one.