Saturday, October 13, 2012

I'm Shouting All About Love

All Those Years Ago - George Harrison (Al Kooper on keyboards)

Hit the "play" button in your mind and listen to "All Those Years Ago," George Harrison's 1981 tribute to John Lennon.  As with songs, the vocals are most prominent in memory.  Then what do you hear?  Probably George's unique slide guitar.  Next?  That great keyboard part.  Who's playing it?  Al Kooper.  

George, Ringo, Barbara Bach, Al Kooper
Photo © Al Kooper
Now, the people I've interviewed for this blog have all been very kind and each one is an accomplished and talented musician.  But Al Kooper is a whole other level.  Initially I was going to list his career highlights, but it was way too long.  Then I pared it down to the highlights of his highlights and it was still a bit long.  So I cut it down once more to produce what appears below.

 Besides his work on a song featuring three Beatles, he also:
  • Played the fantastic organ part on one of the milestone songs in pop music history, Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone."  The story of how this came to be is a great one; he recounts it memorably in Martin Scorsese's documentary "No Direction Home."  Kooper also played with Dylan at the infamous 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
  • Speaking of stones that roll, Kooper played the piano, organ and french horn on another 1960s masterpiece, "You Can't Always Get What You Want."
  • He founded the innovative jazz rock band Blood Sweat & Tears - only to be kicked out by the other members, who wanted to pursue Top 40 hits (which they accomplished).
  • At age 21, co-wrote the #1 pop hit "This Diamond Ring" by Gary Lewis & the Playboys.
  • He discovered Lynyrd Skynyrd, signed them to his Sounds of the South label, and produced their first three albums (which included "Free Bird" and "Sweet Home Alabama.")
  • Wrote the book Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'N' Roll Survivor and played in the Rock Bottom Remainders with other authors (Stephen King, Amy Tan, Matt Groenig, Dave Barry, etc.).
  • Was a faculty member at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
  • Released a dozen solo albums and landmark LPs with Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills.  He sings, plays keyboards, guitar and more.
  • Scored Michael Mann's Crime Story series, among other film and television work.
And so on and so forth.  Google him for more details.  A personal favorite of mine is his production of the live Joe Ely EP, "Texas Special." 

Also, if you want to find great music - and you do - then you need to follow his weekly playlist here.

After the jump, Al cheerfully answers seven questions about "All Those Years Ago."