Steve Forbert (Great Rockers You Should Know, #2)

Mississippi-born Steve Forbert came to fame in the late 1970’s, springing out of the NYC coffee-house scene with a style that combined punk-rock energy with a sweeter, poetic sensibility. With a distinctive voice and a gift for combining words and melody that can leave you humming (or crying) before you know it, Forbert was — like Loudon Wainwright III, young Springsteen, and so many others — somewhat cursed by the “New Dylan” mantle critics handed him with the release of “Romeo’s Tune” (which rose to #11 on the Billboard charts) and the album Jackrabbit Slim in 1979.

You may have heard “Romeo” covered by others, most recently Mr. Nicole Kidman, but here’s a very good — better than the record — live version from around the time Forbert’s career was picking up speed. Dig the hair and clothes and the fact that it’s on a NYC channel that promotes itself as the home of “classics” and “disco.” Disco, this ain’t.

Romeo’s Tune (1979)

After a few frustrating years of record company shenanigans — an equally successful follow-up to his surprise hit was not forthcoming — Forbert got another shot at the brass ring in 1988: a new record deal, a new producer (Springsteen’s bassist, the great Gary Tallent), and a new batch of songs that are, in my opinion, his very best.  Streets of this Town is a record I’ve come back to at various points in my life, and every time it feels even more poignant. My favorite, if not the best, song on the album, is “I Blinked Once.” Here’s a great live performance of the tune from the year it was released.

I Blinked Once (1989)

Again, the fame didn’t last: great reviews in Rolling Stone and elsewhere never translated into the fame he (or this album) deserved.

Over thirty years removed from his brief “one hit wonder,” Forbert is still out there playing, making records, and writing songs. He still has the gift, and the passion: I hope he never stops.

If you like what you hear, check out more at Steve Forbert’s home on the web.


About russellwriter

Rob Russell is a dad, husband, writer, musician, educator, comic book reader, bad solderer, pop culture junky, trivia buff and student of everything cool and uncool. His favorite records are Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and, currently, The Best of Bobbie Gentry: The Capitol Years. His favorite comic books are Kurt Busiek's Astro City and Neil Gaiman's Sandman. His favorite literary novels are Gabrial Garcia Marquez's 100 Years of Solitude and William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. His favorite genre novels are John Scalzi's Red Shirts, M.R. Carrey's The Girl with All the Gifts, and Dan Simmons' Drood. His favorite movie is Goodfellas. His favorite hobby, besides everything, is writing about himself and his favorite things in the third person.

Posted on January 12, 2010, in Great Rockers, Rock and Roll and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. He’s such a remarkable talent, it makes no sense he hasn’t achieved a massive following…but in the end, as you said so well, he’s still out there playing with the gift and the passion and lucky fans can hear him in more intimate venues, a rare treat I hope to take advantage of sometime soon.

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