Entertainment break

Johnny Rivers in a live 1966 performance of “Secret Agent Man,” the theme song he wrote for the popular British TV series Secret Agent.

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Ray G. from Dearborn writes:

Thanks! I have a JR greatest hits cd in my car! He had an unusual voice with that slight Cajun drawl. He was mostly a guitarist and record producer and sort of part-time artist.

LA replies:

According to Wikipedia, Johnny Rivers was born John Henry Ramistella in New York City and is still performing.

Mike Berman writes:

For me, Johnny Rivers is synonymous with Poor Side of Town. It was his only number one hit and a tune I loved and identified with.
Dan R. writes:

I liked your entertainment pick but I have to quibble on a couple of points: “Secret Agent Man” was written by Steve Barri (born Steven Barry Lipkin in Brooklyn, NY, 1942) and P.F. Sloan (born Philip Gary Schlein in NY, 1945), and the performance, though live, appeared to be thoroughly dubbed—lip-synch and instruments.

LA replies:

It looks to me like a live performance. If it is lip synched, it’s a terrific job. Either way, it’s a terrific, winning performance. However, I realize that one clue that it’s not a live performance is that we never see his backup band.

LA writes:

Also, to me it sounds as if he’s saying, “Secret Asian man…”

Ron K. writes:

Re Johnny Rivers and his career:

The thousandth-or-so time I heard “Swayin” to the Music” I decided finally to look up, three decades after its release, who the heck sang it, and was shocked to learn it was the same guy who did “Secret Agent Man.” And that either of them was done by the singer of “Memphis, Tennessee,” and that in turn by the singer of “Baby I Need Your Lovin”.”

Remember the “Seattle sound” of the 1990s? I’ve long had this theory that the term owed more to the music’s homogeneity than to its quality or sales record. Minneapolis produced at least as many top-selling or otherwise influential pop acts during the same period, including the biggest of either town (Prince), but there was never talk of a “Minneapolis sound,” even in Minneapolis.

That’s because the one city’s bands all were in roughly the same genre, shared overlapping fan bases, and reinforced one another. The other city’s acts were all over the map musically. The same might be said of Liverpool and Manchester in England, though there the biggest act (the Beatles) came from the less diverse city, musically speaking.

Well, Johnny Rivers was a one-man Manchester or Minneapolis. Check out his list of singles.

Why would anyone be led to believe any two were the work of the same man?

By the way, Rivers had the opposite upbringing of Mitchell Parish, the lyricist of “Sleigh Ride” and many others. Rivers was born in New York, but went to Louisiana at five. Parish always believed he was born in Shreveport (actually, he was born in Lithuania, and was brought there as a newborn). When he was five, his family moved to New York, where he spent the rest of his life.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 11, 2009 01:20 PM | Send

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