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 Weekly Music Pick: Fair and Tender Ladies

It’s Thursday again. You know what that means. Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick. Uncle Bardiie gives a double thumbs up to this week’s selection: “Fair and Tender Ladies” by Gene Clark with Carla Olson.

It’s Uncle Bardie’s birthday. That’s right. Uncle Bardie is a bi-cuspiteer, a Virgo leaning toward the Libra side of the lake. And this one is for Uncle Bardie.

For some of you, it’s Prince. For some, it’s David Bowie. For some, it’s Lemmy. For me, it’s Gene Clark I miss the most.

If you’ve never heard of Gene Clark, then you’ve missed one awesome talent. He was the main man in the Byrds, composing a good deal of their early stuff: “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”, “She Don’t Care About Time” and “Eight Miles High”. After three albums, he went solo for a variety of reasons, among them his fear of flying.

Gene was a songwriter who would never lose his ability to put the most beautiful lyrics to music. He collaborated with a number of musicians including the bluegrass band, The Dillards. His album “Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers” had a slew of West Coast talent backing him. In addition to the Gosdins, they were former bandmates Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke. Glen Campbell, Jerry Cole, and Leon Russell, Clarence White and Doug Dillard joined in with their talent. During the eighties, he collaborated with Carla Olson.

With his voice, he brought a vulnerability and sensitivity that is rare. That is obvious on Gene and Carla’s version of this old folk song. I don’t know of another version that comes close to the beauty of this one.

Lately his status as a cult figure has been rising. But for a long time he has been ignored by the rock music press, though not by the musicians. Now he is being discovered by the very press that ignored him so long.

I gotta tell you I heard his “No Other” album when it was released in in 1974 and loved it. The fact that it did not sell well was a great disappointment to me. It was up there with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club” and “Dark Side of the Moon” with its brilliance. It was a perfect album from beginning to end. So perfect I wore it out listening to it. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a replacement. Then in the nineties, I came across the anthology, “American Dreamer”, quite by accident. There were several of the songs from “No Other”, then I finally found a copy of his masterpiece.

Just one last thing to say. Thanks, Gene, for all the music.

Here’s a couple more of my favorite Genes. Man, that man knew how to lay down a lyric:

Radio Song.

The Virgin.