In Vietnamese culture, the Year of the Cat has just begun. (The Chinese are celebrating the Year of the Rabbit.)
I love cats, so I was excited that there is a whole year to celebrate them. (Well…I am rather a slave to cats and they actually demand that I celebrate them 24 hours a day, EVERY day, but that’s another story.) And one thing following another, I remembered that old 1970s song by Al Stewart.
I loved that song, “The Year of the Cat”…the cool piano intro, the mysterious lyrics, the haunting melody. I remember driving along Sunset Boulevard many a time with that song blasting out of my red Chevette’s cheap car stereo.
So…whatever happened to Al Stewart?
In 1976 and 1978, he had two best-selling albums…”Year of the Cat” and “Time Passages.” Both records combined yielded four hit tunes: the two title songs plus “On the Border” and “Song On the Radio.” Even though Stewart is primarily remembered for “Year of the Cat,” “Time Passages” edged out “Cat” #7 to #8 on the United States music charts.
Alastair Ian Stewart was born 5 September 1945 in Glasgow, Scotland, but grew up in England. His folk-rock, singer-songwriter career didn’t begin with “Year of the Cat” and it didn’t end there either.
His first album, “Bedsitter Images” was recorded in 1967. His most recent record, “Uncorked,” was released in 2009. Altogether he has recorded 19 albums and released 15 singles.
Stewart’s specialty continues to be folk-rock, historical/storytelling songs that are melodic and accoustically oriented. He has a devoted following and continues to tour and give concerts in the US, Canada, the UK and Europe.
In 1976, the year of “The Year of the Cat,” Al Stewart was, IMO, a deliciously good-looking young man in that Hippie-folksinger kind of way. Now he pretty much looks like a kinda typical 65-year-old Yuppie-ish “Baby Boomer.” In the mid-1990s he married and his wife and two daughters moved from Los Angeles (where he had lived since the mid-1970s) to Marin County, CA. He is an avid afficionado of vintage wines.
“I am woman, hear me roar,
In numbers too big to ignore….”
In the early ’70s, the song “I Am Woman” was an anthem of sorts for women all over the world. In December 1972 it was the number one hit on the Billboard charts in the US. The singer and co-writer of the song was Helen Reddy.
Reddy was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia on 25 October 1941. As a young single parent, she was stranded in New York in 1966 after winning a talent contest that did not deliver on the prize. She eventually moved with daughter Traci to Los Angeles where she met and married Jeff Wald who was instrumental in getting her career off the ground.
Her first hit in June 1971 was “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” from the musical “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”
Reddy co-wrote “I Am Woman” because she could find no other song out there that expressed her gratitude to the Woman’s Movement for her improved self-esteem. (Remember that? The “Woman’s Movement”? Wow…hard to believe nowadays that there ever was one. But…yeh, a story for another day.)
The rest is “herstory.” Helen won a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1973 and at the awards ceremony, she ended her acceptance speech by thanking God “because SHE makes everything possible.”
During the mid to late 1970s Reddy had back-to-back Top 40 hits. They include “Delta Dawn,” “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress),” “Keep On Singing,” “You and Me Against the World,” “Emotion,” “Peaceful,” “Angie Baby,” “Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady,” “Somewhere in the Night” and “I Can’t Hear You No More.”￼￼￼
But alas, fame is a fickle mistress and Reddy’s popularity waned. Her last top 40 hit, “You’re My World,” was in 1977. Her last official album, “Imagination,” was released in 1983.
After her singing career fizzled out, Reddy dabbled in movie, TV and stage projects. Her most notable role was as a nun in “Airport 1975” for which she received a Golden Globe nomination.
She gave her last singing performance in 2002 and retired from show biz.
Reddy was married and divorced three times and has a son, Jordan, in addition to daughter Traci. An interesting bit of trivia is that she served as the California Parks and Recreation Commissioner for three years. And she was a long-time resident of Santa Monica, CA. (She became a naturalized citizen in 1974.)
For all of the love-beaded, tie-tyed ex-Hippies amongst us, surely the most iconic song of the Flower Power generation was the 1967 hit song “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair).”
Scott McKenzie sang this gentle blockbuster of a song into the annals of peace-and-love history. But who the heck was he?
Philip Blondheim was born 10 January 1939. One of his teenage friends in Virginia was a guy named John Phillips. In 1961 in New York, Philip, John and Dick Weissman formed a folk-singing trio called The Journeymen. Around this time, Philip Blondheim became “Scott McKenzie” when a comedian suggested that he resembled a Scottie dog. Phillips added the “McKenzie” part in honor of his daughter Mackenzie who was born in 1959.
In 1964, the group ended its journey when Scott decided that he wanted to sing on his own. John Phillips formed a little group called the Mamas and the Papas and moved to California.
Scott McKenzie is truly a perfect example of a “One Hit Wonder.” He eventually also relocated to California and in 1967, joined in helping to organize the amazing Monterey Pop Music Festival (another story!). John Phillips wrote “San Francisco” in celebration of the August ’67 event.
Scott recorded the song and it became a Top Ten hit in the United States, went to number one in the UK and sold seven million copies worldwide.
And…so it goes…. From 1986 to 1998, he traveled and performed with a “remake” of the Mamas and Papas and in 1988, he co-wrote the song “Kokomo,” a number one hit for The Beach Boys. He has been officially retired from the music biz since 2001.
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