Eric Andersen Songpoet

CB Sept. 26 Eric Andersen.png

Submitted by Don Graham

Cover Photo Credit: Carol Rothman

Thirsty Boots, Violets of Dawn, Close The Door Lightly When You Go and I Shall Go Unbounded, all classic and age resistant songs and all written by the same man, Eric Andersen.

In the sleeve notes of a compilation album titled "Violets of Dawn". Andersen is quoted as saying that "Leonard Cohen once came up to me and said 'I'm a poet and never thought of writing songs until I heard 'Violets of Dawn' and then I began to write songs.”Kris Kristofferson liked my sexy songs, my love songs...It helped him write the kinds of things he did in Nashville like 'Help Me Make it Through the Night". Nice!

“There were only a handful of us in the Village doing that at the time, writing our own songs. There was a lot of folk singers but not a lot of actual songwriters. But they started gravitating there. Joni Mitchell. Ian and Sylvia. Leonard Cohen for example started drifting in,” Andersen explained by phone from his home in Holland. Talking to Eric I felt like I was talking to a young man. There is an edge to his voice, a spirit that still burns bright even after 50 years of plying his trade. An intelligence in his answers, a thoughtful pause before giving his view on something. Not a weary bone in his body and despite the legacy of music he has already created, Eric is nowhere close to being done. He will always be a “seeker”. He is still writing songs, writing a book and has a documentary set for release this year titled ‘The Songpoet’.

Born on Valentine’s Day in Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania, Eric grew up outside of Buffalo in the town of Synder. He eventually went to Boston and San Francisco before settling in New York City as the folk scene exploded. “I don’t call myself a folksinger but I guess by the nature of the presentation, singing with my acoustic guitar, I was perceived as one. It’s funny how perception becomes reality. Now Lou Reed, who was one of my best friends, was a folk singer in my mind, but because he had a band he was a rocker. If you could isten to him with an acoustic guitar, he’s actually more of a folk singer than Pete Seeger. Perception.”

Eric Anderson Photo by Christophe von HohenbergEric Anderson Photo by Christophe von HohenbergIn 1964, Eric played at Gerdes Folk City in what was a live audition for Vanguard Records. In 1965 he released his first Vanguard album ‘Today is the Highway’. In 1966 he played the Newport Folk Festival.

“In 1967 Brian Epstien came to see me at a small club in New York and was getting ready to sign me to a management  deal when suddenly he passed away.”  This was not the only unfortunate piece of  luck in Eric’s career. In 1973, 6 years after Epstein passed away, one of the most baffling events in the history of contemporary music happened. There was a corporate shakeup at Columbia Records and  40 master recording tapes for release that was highly anticipated, mysteriously  disappeared. As far as anyone knows, no record company has ever lost a complete album. Although the tapes reappeared 16 years later, his career had been forever changed by that event. No explanation was ever given for the loss or recovery.  The album featured guest artists such as Leon Russell, Joan Baez and Dan Fogelberg and was released in 1991 as Stages: The Lost Album.

The momentum gained through the success of his Columbia album in 1972 ‘Blue River’ was never regained.  But that didn’t slow the force that is Eric Andersen down.

Eric has recorded 25 albums over the years and continues to perform, write and record and is coming back to Toronto, Canada to perform at Hugh’s Room on Sunday October 5th for one night only. “I love  Canada and Toronto. I played the Riverboat back in the day, played the El Mocambo and was on the Festival Express train in 1970 with Janis and the Grateful Dead and a bunch more. And I love Hugh’s Room. It’s one of the finest venues to play in North America.”

So if you want to see and hear a brilliant singer/songwriter who is as relevant today as he was 50 years ago, head on down to Hugh’s Room on Sunday October 5th. I’ll be there leading the cheering!