When the the canonical history of 20th century romanticists has finally been compiled by our future generations, we'd like to nominate into the official record the name Jonathan Richman, who tonight begins a three-night stint at the Mint. Over nearly 40 years of wildly inspired and archetypal rock & roll and pop, Richman has crafted dozens (hundreds?) of pure, honest, distinctive songs about, among many other topics, Egyptian dance, Mary, A.M radio, summer, lesbian bars, love, heartbreak, hospitals, and, perhaps most important right now, Venice Beach:
It was a rooming house on venice beach/
About half a block/
To the ancient sea which i could reach/
With half a walk/
The ancient weird guy in his toga/
Staff in hand/
The ancient bearded guy doing yoga/
On the sand/
Oh the ancient world was in my reach/
From my rooming house on venice beach.
Richman is a timeless performer, a musical inspiration whose live shows can lift even the most seasonally depressed sad sacks. With a strong acoustic guitar and the excellent drummer Tommy Larkins, Richman spins smart, funny, touching songs from that wonderfully pure part of the heart that few artists so confidently and honestly can access. Some of these are as structurally sound, witty, and true as an Emily Dickinson poem or a Shakespeare sonnet.
Pop culturally, Richman's best known for his star-turn as the Greek chorus in the Farrelly Bros. comedy There's Something About Mary. He and Larkins pop up from time to time within the action to chime in on the events of the film; it's a great conceit, and wish Richman and Larkins would be offered more gigs like this.
The headz and rock & roll historians --and West Coast Sound -- consider Richman's first band, the Modern Lovers, to have released one of the great rock records of the the 1970s. The self-titled Modern Lovers lp featured fellow band members Jerry Harrison (who would later become a Talking Head), David Robertson (who later joined the Cars), and bassist Ernie Brooks. There are no duds on the record. It is perfect.
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He's kept going ever since then, a seasoned veteran whose nervous demeanor never seems to have subsided. Up there onstage, he doesn't seem to have ever had a bad show. He just gets up there, smiles, sings, smiles some more, jokes, laughs, sings some more. What more do you need?
Want more proof? This absolutely amazing .WAV file from Richman. Ever the iconoclastic perfectionist, the artist prefers to make available much better-sounding .wav files (which are much bigger, btw). Here's a download from the man himself: "Her Beauty is Raw and Wild," from his 2008 album of the same name, put out on LA-based Vapor Records.
Jonathan Richman - Because Her Beauty is Raw and Wild [.wav]