Anyone who remembers Greenwich Village in the early 1960s knows there was once a hushed quality about that quaint area of Manhattan. I was a little kid of 9 when my artist dad took me all over the city delivering commercial work to ad agencies and magazine art directors. During the summer, we’d often wind up in the Village to see one of his painter friends or grab lunch.
Unlike the mob scene today, the Village was, well, like a village. There were the old chess players contemplating a next move in Washington Square Park, clusters of folk singers in shirts, ties and sunglasses near the fountain, the college students in conversation at sleepy coffee shops and young people walking around with guitar cases, as if they were attache cases. Back then, the Village was a gentle hamlet, with lots of parked VW Beetles, Volvos and Vespa scooters. I remember the smell of roasted nut shops and long tables of novels outside used book shops as guys with goatees stood thumbing them. It was like one eternal Sunday morning down there.
Richard Barone has recreated the feeling of that Village better than anyone else I’ve heard recently. On his new album, Sorrows & Promises: Greenwich Village in the 1960s (RBM), Richard has a passionate feel for the tender, innocent sound of folk music and those who were responsible for making it a national sensation between 1959 and 1965. In many respects, folk was the true New York sound of the 1960s, a caring feel that swayed the Beatles in ’65 and became the basis for San Francisco in ’67.
Mind you, this isn’t faux nostalgia torn out of old magazines. Richard lives in the Village. As he writes in his album, “Each time I walk out the door of my Greenwich Village apartment with guitar in hand, I stand in the long shadow of those who walked these streets before me… Making this album has been a journey of self-discovery through the words and music that continue to echo in my neighborhood and beyond.”
Back in the 1980s, Richard was the leader of the Bongos, a new wave band. Since then he has released critically praised solo albums. Here’s Richard with Al Jardine of the Beach Boys singing If I Had a Hammer…
On Sorrows & Promises: Greenwich Village in the 1960s, Richard chose wisely and teamed up with perfect mates on many songs, including Dion, John Sebastian, David Amram, Jenni Muldaur and others. Here’s the playlist, the composers and Richard’s selective duet partners:
1. Learning the Game (Buddy Holly)
2. The Road I’m On (Gloria) (Dion DiMucci), featuring Dion
3. Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind? (John Sebastian), featuring John Sebastian
4. The Other Side to This Life (Fred Neil)
5. Sweet Misery (Janis Ian)
6. Close the Door Lightly When You Go (Eric Andersen), featuring Allison Moorer
1. Pack Up Your Sorrows (Richard Fariña), featuring Nellie McKay
2. Don’t Make Promises (Tim Hardin), featuring David Amram
3. I’ll Keep it With Mine (Bob Dylan)
4. Sunday Morning (Lou Reed & John Cale), featuring Jenni Muldaur
5. When I’m Gone (Phil Ochs)
6. Bleecker Street (Paul Simon), featuring the Kennedys
What I love most about Richard is his heart. His voice is as sweet and pure as an Everly and his acoustic guitar playing has a Paul Simon urgency. But most of all, he truly cares about the Village’s legacy. You can hear it on every strum and in every yearning note. In Richard’s music, I’m once again holding my father’s hand and can smell the roasted cashews and see that black cat slowly stretch out on a Carmine St. sidewalk, seduced by the silence and confidently unafraid.
JazzWax tracks: You’ll find Richard Barone’s Sorrows & Promises: Greenwich Village in the 1960s (RBM) here or on Spotify.
JazzWax clip: Here’s a video of Richard talking about Greenwich Village and singing songs from his new album…
And here’s Richard with Jenni Muldaur singing Lou Reed’s and John Cale’s Sunday Morning…