is an American singer, songwriter and guitarist. In 1970, he foundedthe Modern Lovers, an influentialproto-punkband. Since the mid-1970s, Richman has worked either solo or with low-key, acoustic and electric, backing. Currently, he plays only acoustic to protect his hearing. He is known for his wide-eyed,unaffected and childlike outlook, and music that, while rooted inrock and roll, is influenced by music from around the world.
Born inNatick, Massachusetts, into aJewishfamily,4Richman began playing music and writing his own songs in the mid-1960s. He became infatuated withthe Velvet Underground, and in 1969, he moved to New York City, lived on the couch of their manager,Steve Sesnick, worked odd jobs and tried to break in as a professional musician. Failing at this, he returned toBoston.
While in Boston, Richman formedthe Modern Lovers, aband. Other notable members of the group were keyboard playerJerry Harrisonand drummerDavid Robinson, who later joinedTalking Headsandthe Cars, respectively.2
In 1972, they recorded a series of demos with producerJohn Cale(formerly of theVelvet Underground). Among these songs were the seminalRoadrunnerandPablo Picassowhich were eventually released on the groups post-breakup album,The Modern Lovers(August 1976).2The album was strange for its time, featuring Velvets-influenced basic three-chord rock (Roadrunner based on just two chords is an homage toSister Ray) at a time whenglamandprogressive rockwere the norm.
Later in 1972, the group also recorded with producerKim Fowley; these demos were eventually released in 1981 asThe Original Modern Lovers. Despite playing live regularly, the Modern Lovers had a difficult time securing arecording contract. By late 1973, Richman wanted to scrap the recorded tracks and start again with a mellower, more lyrical sound, influenced by the laid-back local music he had heard when the band had a residency at the Inverurie Hotel inBermudaearlier in the year. These stymied efforts to complete a debut album led to the breakup of the original Modern Lovers in February 1974.
In 1975, Richman moved to California to record as a solo singer/songwriter withBeserkley Records. His first released recordings appeared on 1975sBeserkley Chartbusterscompilation, where he was backed by members ofEarth Quakeand the Rubinoos; these four songs also appeared on singles on the independent Beserkley label.
In January 1976, Richman put together a new version of the Modern Lovers, which included original Modern Lovers drummer,David Robinson, along with formerRubinoosbassistGreg Curly Keranenand Leroy Radcliffe on guitar. The albums produced by the new group found Richman turning away from electric rock music towards gentler acoustic textures, with a strong rooting in 1950s rock and roll (Chuck Berrys Back in the USA was part of his repertoire).
The albumJonathan Richman and the Modern Loverswas released in May 1976 (three months before the earlierThe Modern Loverssessions were finally released) but David Robinson left the group soon thereafter, due to frustration with Richmans quest for lower volume levels, and joined withRic Ocasekin forming the bandthe Cars.
After several months as a trio, Richman found a new drummer, D. Sharpe, an avant-garde jazz player on the Boston scene, who later went on to become a member of pianistCarla Bleys band.
Rock and Roll with the Modern Loverswas released in 1977 and, just as this record began to climb the charts in Europe, Keranen left the group (to attend college). A subsequent live album,Modern Lovers Live, was released in 1978, with Asa Brebner on bass.2
In the United Kingdom, Richman was recognised as a progenitor of thepunk rockscene, and several of his singles became hits. Roadrunner reached Number 11 in theUK Singles Chart, and its follow-up, the instrumental Egyptian Reggae, made Number 5 in late 1977.5Egyptian Reggae was a version of Jamaican musicianEarl Zeroreggaesong None Shall Escape the Judgment; Zero was credited as co-writer on Richmans later versions of the track.67
Back in Your Lifewas released in 1979 under the Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers moniker, but only about half the disc featured a backup band. The rest was solo work.
Following the Modern Lovers final breakup, Richman went on sabbatical for a few years, staying inAppleton, Maine, and playing at local bars inBelfast, Maine.
He returned to recording in 1983 withJonathan Sings!, followed byRockin and Romance(produced byAndy Paleyand engineered byDaniel Levitin). These were followed up with US tours and a brace of pop recordings (Its Time for Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, andModern Lovers 88from 1986 and 1988 respectively). After the latter release, the Modern Lovers moniker was finally retired, and having begun a true solo career, he returned to a variety of musical genres:country musicwith 1990sJonathan Goes Country, and Spanish translations of his earlier work (as well as traditional Spanish language songs) withJonathan, Te Vas a Emocionar!(1993).2
In 1993, he contributed the track Hot Nights to the AIDS-Benefit AlbumNo Alternativeproduced by theRed Hot Organization.
Always possessing an ardentcult following, Richman has become better known in recent years thanks to a series of appearances onLate Night with Conan OBrien.
Another major profile boost was a key part in theFarrelly Brothers1998 filmTheres Something About Mary, where he played half of a two-manGreek choruswith drummer Tommy Larkins, that commented on the plot while performing in the framed action itself. He also appeared briefly in a bar scene in a previous Farrelly Brothers film,Kingpin, and performed the song As We Walk to Fenway Park for their 2005 comedy,Fever Pitch.
Richman has continued his release schedule all along, withYou Must Ask the Heart(1995),Surrender to Jonathan(1996),Im So Confused(1998),Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow(2001), andNot So Much to Be Loved as to Love(2004). In 1998, a live album of Modern Lovers recordings from the early 1970s was released,Live at the Long Branch & More. There is also a DVD of a live performance,Take me to the Plaza(2002).
Richmans minimalist songwriting style has been described as whimsical and childlike.8He himself has stated, I dont write, really. I just make up songs.9
His most recent albums are on theCleveland, Ohiobased Blue Arrow Records: 2016sIshkode! Ishkode!and 2018sSA.10
Richman frequently tours with drummer Tommy Larkins.
His first marriage was to Gail Clook ofVermont, in 1982, with whom he has a daughter, Jenny Rae, and son, Jason (Gails son from a previous relationship). This marriage ended in divorce sometime shortly before the release ofSurrender to Jonathan(1996).
In 2003, Richman married Nicole Montalbano ofChico, California.1112She contributed backing vocals to the albumNot So Much to Be Loved as to Love(2004).
Richmans work with the first incarnation of Modern Lovers is a major influence on punk rock. One critic called him the Godfather of Punk.13Artists as diverse as theSex PistolsandJoan JetthavecoveredRoadrunner. Bostonska-punkbandBig D and the Kids Tablehave covered New England live and on theirGypsy HillEP. A version of Pablo Picasso performed byBurning Sensationswas included in the 1984 cult film,Repo Man.David Bowiecovered Pablo Picasso on his albumReality.Velvet Undergroundfounding memberJohn Calehas a version of the song on his 1975 album,Helen of Troy, and continues to include the song in his live shows.Iggy Pophas performed Pablo Picasso live and wrote an extra verse for it.Echo and the Bunnymencovered She Cracked in concert in 1984 and 1985 andSiouxsie and the Bansheeshave a version of the song onDownside Up.
Richmans music has set the tone for manyalternative rockbands, such asViolent FemmesGalaxie 500They Might Be Giants(Roadrunner reportedly inspiredJohn Flansburghto become a musician),WeezerTullycraftJens Lekman, singerFrank Black(who composed the tribute song The Man Who Was Too Loud),Brandon FlowersArt BrutCraig Finnofthe Hold SteadyLifter PullerMac DeMarcoandNerf Herderwho composed a song about him, titled Jonathan, which appeared on the bands second albumHow To Meet Girls. British country rock bandthe Rockingbirdsreleased the single Jonathan, Jonathan in tribute to Richman in 1992. The Silos also covered the Modern Lovers Im Straight.
As a producer himself, Richman and drummer Tommy Larkins producedVic Chesnutts final albumSkitter on Take-Offin 2009 which appeared on Vapor Records. Chesnutt opened for Richman at concerts many times during his later years.
Roadrunner is on theSchool of Rocksoundtrack. In the commentary, directorRichard Linklatermentions it is often called the first punk song and wanted to include it for that reason, along with all the other seminal rock songs in that film.
A tribute album,If I Were a Richman: a Tribute to the Music of Jonathan Richman, was released byWampus Multimediain 2001.
RapperM.I.A.featured the opening lyrics from Roadrunner in the song Bamboo Banga on her 2007 album,Kala.
Jonathan Richman in Tokyo, sometime in the 80s
The Best Of Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers
Radio On/Stop And Shop with the Modern Lovers (2 on 1)
(These last three live albums are from the same three 1971-3 performances, but add and subtract a few different songs. The last two, combined, contain all the songs.)2
Alternate versions of Roadrunner and Government Center, along with The New Teller, and It Will Stand, first appeared on the
Im Straight and Government Center, from the Modern Lovers Kim Fowley-produced Beserkley sessions, first appeared on theWarner Bros. Recordscompilation
1993, contributed Hot Nights (live) to the AIDS-Benefit AlbumNo Alternativeproduced by theRed Hot Organization.
Performs Stop Your Sobbing on the 2002Kinkstribute album
Our Dog Is Getting Older Now on thecharity album
Roadrunner / It Will Stand (United Artists UP36006, 1975)
Roadrunner/ (Friday on My MindbyEarth Quake) (Beserkley B-4701, 1976)
Roadrunner (Once) / Roadrunner (Twice) (Beserkley BZZ 1, UK, 1976) UK No. 11
Roadrunner /Pablo Picasso(Beserkley PA-205, 1976)
New England / Here Come The Martian Martians (Beserkley B-5743, 1976)
Egyptian Reggae / Ice Cream Man (Beserkley 6.12 217, 1977)
Egyptian Reggae / Rollercoaster by the Sea (Beserkley BZZ 2, UK, 1977) UK No. 5
The Morning of Our Lives (Live) / Roadrunner (Thrice) (Live) (Beserkley BZZ 7, UK, 1977) UK No. 29
New England (Live) / Astral Plane (Live) (Beserkley BZZ 14, UK, 1978)
Abdul and Cleopatra / Astral Plane (Live) (Beserkley 11813, 1978)
Abdul and Cleopatra / Oh Carol (Beserkley BZZ 19, UK, 1978)
Buzz, Buzz, Buzz/ Abdul and Cleopatra (Beserkley 6.12 311, 1978)
Buzz, Buzz, Buzz / Hospital (Live) (BZZ 25, UK, 1978)
My Little Kookenhaken / Roadrunner (Thrice) (Live) (Beserkley 11819, 1978)
South American Folk Song (Live) / Ice Cream Man (Live) (1978)
Lydia / Important in Your Life (BZZ 28, UK, 1979)
That Summer Feeling / This Kind of Music (1984)
That Summer Feeling / This Kind of Music / Tag Game (Rough Trade RTT 152, UK, 1984)
Im Just Beginning To Live / Circle I / Shirin and Fahrad (Rough Trade RTT 154, UK, 1985)
California Desert Party / When Harpo Played His Harp (DRD 1D474, Spain, 1988)
(5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp.814815.ISBN1-84195-017-3.
The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGBs: A Secret History of Jewish Punk
(19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p.462.ISBN1-904994-10-5.
View topic Egyptian Reggae Jonathan Richman video clip!.
Interview With Jonathan Richman Synthesis Weekly
CN&R Music 2 big sets, 2 big nights 01.30.03.
Jojo Blog long running community-authored blog
Live recordings of rare songs not found on studio albums
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This page was last edited on 16 February 2019, at 19:55