72. Jonathan Richman

Jonathan Richman is a singer, composer and guitarist from Natick, Massachusetts. He gained notoriety in the early seventies by founding The Modern Lovers, whose first album, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers, is considered a seminal punk rock document. Richman relocated to Berkeley, California in 1975, and has spent most of his life in California since. Affectionately known as “Jojo” to his devoted fans, Richman never achieved widespread popularity, but deserves recognition for his simple, thoughtful and humorous observations set to music.

richman FYI 03042015 spf 0013f

Jonathan Richman (b. 1951), singer, songwriter, guitar

The Jonathan Richman Unofficial Fan Blog
“10 Of The Best: Jonathan Richman”, by Michael Hann, The Guardian, January 22, 2014

“The most notorious case of arrested development in the history of rock, Jonathan Richman came cruising out of Boston at the helm of the Modern Lovers in the early seventies. Boldly copping riffs from the Velvet Underground and applying his own clearheaded post-hippie vision to Lou Reed’s deadpan poet-outlaw stance, Richman tapped a vein of musical exploration that’s still flowing today.”

— Mark Coleman, “The Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992 edition)”

Amazon.com Link to “The Rolling Stone Album Guide”

The Lamb, by William Blake

In the following interview, the interviewer draws a comparison between Richman and the 18th century artist/poet William Blake.

Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?
Little Lamb, who made thee?
Dost thou know who made thee?

Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb, I’ll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and he is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb.
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb, God bless thee!
Little Lamb, God bless thee!

William Blake (1757-1827), poet
Wikipedia Description of William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence and Experience”

I, Jonathan

I first heard Jonathan Richman while in college, walking through the quadrangle in Davis in ’78 or ’79. I wasn’t listening carefully, but I distinctly remember the man, who sang a capella with an unusual sense of cadence, saying he was Jonathan Richman.

Many years passed. Around 2004, I was doing my thing, hanging out in Everyday Music down on Burnside Street, looking for records. I can’t remember what I was looking for that day; these days I only go when I’m looking for something specific. In the background the store was playing something that caught my ear. After a few consecutive songs of interest, I asked the cashier about it. And as a result, I purchased I, Jonathan, by Jonathan Richman on the spot, and started a lifelong appreciation.

Critics point to his early songs with the Modern Lovers as his essential contributions. In the late seventies, Richman wrote childlike songs such as “I’m A Little Airplane”, or “I’m A Little Dinosaur”, prompting comparisons with William Blake. But I was drawn to the more “complex” songs from his “mature” period. Even these are minimalistic efforts, simple observations about love and American life. Richman may best capture the spirit of my privileged California childhood, one not so much a privilege of wealth, rather a community of intelligent, happy people, with plenty of time to play and dream. LIke Palo Alto in the seventies, where kids were clever and talkative, and intense word play was second nature, where we played sports all afternoon long, and as we grew older we tried to unlock the secrets of the opposite sex.

In the early nineties, Richman made these outstanding performances on the Conan O’Brien Show:

Mostly, Jonathan accompanies himself by strumming rhythm. Here he makes the guitar solo look effortless and smooth:

William Blake, dismissed in his lifetime, is now revered as one of Britian’s greatest poets and artists. Will Jonathan Richman’s musical reputation continue to grow? Artists with a clear and simple vision may have a better chance of being remembered and appreciated in future generations. There’s something about Jonathan that is so happy and nice.

When even fourth grade starts looking good
Which you hated,
And first grade’s looking good too,
Overrated,
And you boys long for some little girl
That you dated
Do you long for her of for the way you were,
That summer feeling is gonna haunt you
One day in your life.

— Jonathan Richman

“We Tried To Talk To Jonathan Richman, But…”, By Ryan Bray, The Village Voice, November 2, 2015

Jonathan Richman Song Notes:

1. Most songs can be found on:

I, Jonathan
Action Packed: The Best of Jonathan Richman
The Modern Lovers

2. “Because Her Beauty Is Raw And Wild” and “As My Mother Lay Lying” can be found on Because Her Beauty Is Raw And Wild.

3. “Egyptian Reggae” can be found on Son Of Rambow (Motion Picture Soundtrack). “There’s Something About Mary” can be found on There’s Something About Mary (Motion Picture Soundtrack).

4. “Buzz Buzz Buzz (Live)” and “Everyday Clothes (Live)” were downloaded from the Youtube performances.

5. “Let Her Go Into The Darkness” can be found on You Must Ask The Heart.

Jonathan Richman Songs:

That Summer Feeling, Jonathan Richman ✭✭✭
I Was Dancing In A Lesbian Bar, Jonathan Richman ✭✭✭
Twilight In Boston, Jonathan Richman ✭✭✭
Since She Started To Ride, Jonathan Richman ✭✭✭
New Kind Of Neighborhood, Jonathan Richman ✭✭✭

A Higher Power, Jonathan Richman ✭✭
Everyday Clothes (Live), Jonathan Richman ✭✭
As My Mother Lay Lying, Jonathan Richman ✭✭
You Can’t Talk To The Dude, Jonathan Richman ✭✭
Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman ✭✭
Let Her Go Into The Darkness, Jonathan Richman ✭✭
When I Say Wife (Live), Jonathan Richman ✭✭
Closer, Jonathan Richman ✭✭
Egyptian Reggae, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers ✭✭
Buzz Buzz Buzz (Live), Jonathan Richman ✭✭
Because Her Beauty Is Raw And Wild, Jonathan Richman ✭✭
Parties In The U.S.A., Jonathan Richman ✭✭
Roadrunner, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers ✭✭

I’m Straight, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
Everyday Clothes, Jonathan Richman
You’re Crazy For Taking The Bus, Jonathan Richman
Tandem Jump, Jonathan Richman
Pablo Picasso, Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers
There’s Something About Mary, Jonathan Richman

Related Songs:

Buzz Buzz Buzz, Hollywood Flames ✭✭✭
Buzz Buzz Buzz (Live), Los Lobos ✭✭

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