You may have to be of a certain vintage to appreciate, or even know the songs of Dean Friedman but the 70s pop-star culminates his 40th anniversary celebration by performing his classic second album “Well, Well” Said the Rocking Chair album live, along with favourites from his four decade career.
Hailed by critics and fans alike as one of the finest songwriters of his generation, Friedman first marked his entry in the music world with the Top 20 chart success of his infectious hit single, Ariel. An uncategorisable pop song about a free spirited, pot-smoking, vegetarian Jewish girl in a peasant blouse, who lived, as the lyric goes, “way on the other side of the Hudson”, it is the encore to the night, although the audience is not kept anticipating his re-entrance on to the stage – he just plays, despite running 10 minutes over.
The evening is a delight for all Friedman fans with him playing all the songs self-accompanied on either keyboard, guitar, or in one song, banjo. It’s interspersed with jovial banter, relaying the background to many of the songs.
He gives us an insight into his slightly unconventional childhood which lacked supervision due to his mother’s bipolar disorder. His rendition of Song for My Mother is insightful, sad and poignant.
His latest tour has made the papers, even if it was the financial section, and his creative answers, which involve an element of poetic licence, match the mastery of his songwriting. “What was his best investment?” poses the Daily Mail. “I’m sure they’d have liked me to answer with some stock market investment, but starting out at college, I got a $750 loan and bought a Martin D35 Acoustic Guitar,” which has stood the time and which he only recently replaced. There’s a warmth and honesty to him, which makes him easily likeable.
He invites us all to help out with the now classic hit single, Lucky Stars, which he says we will all know, as the words have been “subliminally implanted on your brain by Radio 2”. This magical duet, originally performed with singer Denise Marsa, went top 3 in the UK singles charts, going gold. The audience are word-perfect.
Lucky Stars paved the way for a raft of Friedman hits, including radio staples such as Lydia, Rocking Chair, and McDonald’s Girl, famously banned by the BBC.
For The Deli Song (Corned Beef on Wry), he asks for audience participation and Daisy, an audience member probably in her 20s unbelievably knows every word, without the need for prompts. It’s fun and involving.
The last track on the album, Let Down Your Hair, Friedman tells us is his love song to New York written in the summer of 1977. The city “had a palpable sense of anxiety, its infrastructure was falling apart and there was a serial killer on the loose who targeted girls with long brown hair, prompting females to change their hair from long to short, and even dye it a different colour. When the killer was caught and the announcement made, it was said that all the women in a disco in Queen’s, New York, let down their hair.” It’s enough to move one woman to tears.
Friedman finishes with a shameless punt for all his merchandise including a £40 credit card USB, which contains all his albums and 89 songs, including his first album, which he doesn’t actually own the copyright to. There’s no doubt his die-hard fans will be buying.
This is a evening of powerful, poignant, and sometimes hilarious songs about the ordinary, extraordinary lives we share, sung by a real legend of a songwriter with a gift for crafting words into songs with true meaning.