May 01, 2021

Unsung Hero is Finally Getting the Attention He Deserves

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Seeing Eric Andersen for the first time at the famed Main Point in Bryn Mawr, PA, was a very special night. The acoustic set was a quietly moving performance from the poetic singer and songwriter. The lyrics seemed very personal and yet very universal.

Meeting him after his performance in the basement of the Main Point (that also served as a dressing room) was the first if many conversations we would have over the years. Our talks were always very interesting and surprisingly candid.

One of my all-time favorite moments in radio came when Eric came to visit me at WIBG in 1972. I invited him to go on the air with me. He not only joined me, but stayed for the whole show. We played some of his favorite songs and he told stories about life on the road, visiting Joni Mitchell (Godmother to oldest child) at her home, the Festival Express Train tour along with The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band, etc., hanging out with Bob Dylan and many others. Best of all, he brought his guitar with him and played live on the air. Many of the songs were from his album BLUE RIVER which was released that year.

The album turned about to be the closest brush that Eric would have with fame and fortune. It was his highest charting album. Brian Epstein was so excited to sign Andersen to a management contract that he brought him to England. The famous manager of The Beatles had big plans to make Eric into a superstar.

Eric related to me how it was such a whirlwind tour of the country. Much of the time there was spent talking and hanging out with The Beatles. The whole thing was surrealistic.

Then in a flash, it was over. Before Epstein could even begin to launch his plans, he died. Along with him went any hopes and dreams that Eric had of stardom.

Things got worse. Since the BLUE RIVER album did so well, Eric was rushed back into the studio to record a follow-up LP. He told me that he was very happy with his efforts on the record. I recall him telling me that he especially liked the song “Time Run Like a Freight Train” calling it his best poetic effort to date. After the recording was finished, he went back on the road and waited for the release of the album.

After what seemed a very long time, the album still wasn’t released. When Eric inquired as to when it would finally come out, he was told that somehow the tapes got lost. No one could figure out how it happened, but the record company suggested that he go back in the studio and re-record the songs.

Asking Eric to go back and record the songs over again was like asking him to recreate a candid photo. The moment was lost forever.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the original tape was lost had to do with Clive Davis leaving Columbia Records. It was Clive who signed Eric with high hopes. He left Columbia around the time that the tapes were lost. The Columbia Records management didn’t share Clive’s confidence in Andersen and they dropped him from the label. A very sad time for Eric.

That sadness didn’t last very long. When Clive Davis took over as head of Arista Records, he signed Andersen on to the label. Eric confided that Clive once again saved him. The first time was when he signed him to Columbia and then again when he signed him to Arista.

An attempt was made to redo some of the better songs from the lost tapes . The record was called BE TRUE TO YOU. Despite the help of Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, Jennifer Warren, Philadelphia talents Tom Seller (co producer) and Chris Bond, the album did not fair well.

The lost album was found and later released as ERIC ANDERSEN: STAGES THE LOST ALBUM. It remains as a forgotten gem. Besides “Time Run Like a Freight Train”, “Can’t Get You Out of My Life” and “Be True to You” should have been hits.
Among those who backed up Eric on the album were: Leon Russell, Joan Baez, Dan Fogelberg, Willie Nile, Eric Bazilian, Shawn Colvin, Jonas Fjeld, along with members of The Band Garth Hudson and Rick Danko. Eric would team up with Rick Danko and Jonas Fjeld (a star in Norway where Eric lived for some time) to do a couple of very good albums in the 90’s. They too deserved a better fate.

After not making the kind of impact that he rightly deserved in this country, Eric moved to Norway (his heritage) and split his time living here in New York and in Norway. There were attempts at releasing some records that were mostly just sold overseas. Then at the turn of the century some solid albums that were released on a local Philadelphia label known as Appleseed Records. One was done with Lou Reed. Then some hard-to-find live albums.

A few years back I got an e-mail with the news that a movie about the life of Eric Andersen was being produced. They were looking for funding. It was an attempt to find money similar to a Go Fund Me page. There wasn’t much else said about it and then suddenly, out of the blue, it was released.

It is not a major studio release, but a PBS documentary can be seen on TV or you can view it here: It has the fitting title of “The Song Poet”.

The movie just doesn’t seem to be real to Eric. When he saw it, he found it hard to believe it was about him. You can’t see yourself like others do.

In addition to the film, there’s a new Eric Andersen tribute album being released. Among those singing the works of Eric Andersen are Bob Dylan (Eric told me that Dylan has always been very supportive and even visited him in Norway), Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, and others.

Perhaps now some people will get to know just how good Eric Andersen is. If not, Eric has always been very philosophical about his career. He learned a long time ago that he was meant to be what he is - a songwriter and performer. What happens to his music is not up to him.

For the past fifteen years Eric has been living with his wife, Inge, in the Netherlands. He still has more to offer and will continue to perform and write as long as he can.

The last time Eric was in the United States and he called me, we talked about some ideas for a song that we never did co-write. With COVID-19, it is unlikely we will see each other soon.

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