As the 70s decade dawned, the Righteous Brothers had broken up and gone their separate ways in pursuit of more successful solo years. Even though Bobby Hatfield & Bill Medley were accomplished singers, that never happened. The duo decided to get back together at the end of 1973 and by the Spring of 1974 they had surprised everyone with their first Top 40 hit in 8 years, a #3 hit, Rock And Roll Heaven. The song, with its soulful pop melodrama and grandiose intro seemed custom fit for the two. But in fact it was written and recorded 2 years previous by the group Climax, who had a hit with Precious & Few. <
Folks have often wondered why the writers chose the musician they did. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison & Otis Redding were legends and were representatives of the 60’s counterculture (well maybe not Otis as much, but he definitely influenced man). Jim Croce had died suddenly almost a year after making the charts. His full impact was yet to be felt, but moreover, he was a folk singer/songwriter. It’s actually silly to think of him & Hendrix in the same breath, no disrespect to Jim – didn’t mean to tug on Superman’s cape. Bobby Darin had belonged to a different generation, having the bulk of his hits in the pre-Beatles era. And even though he’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (jeez, so is ABBA) not many people siting him as an influence. Michael Bolton didn’t even attempt to rip him him off. So why didn’t they include Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Eddie Cochran or Duane Allman for that matter.
Supposedly they did. Alan O’Day, who co-wrote the song, gave it to producers, Brian Potter & Dennis Lambert who rewrote a few of the lyrics to add Jim Croce & Booby Darin who had both passed away at the end of 1973. So think about this: 5 of the folks knew each other or of each other and their music. But only Bobby Darin was alive when Jim Croce went from unknown trucker to pop songsmith. If Croce approached those others at a jam session, they would tell him to take a hike, probably Darin too. They didn’t wanna hang around with any squares. Of course if you believe that heaven is an all-inclusive place, then they would all be singing American Pie together. That means that Roy Orbison and 2Pac are kickin it, and that Elvis and Kurt Cobain crooning duets on a cloud. It also means that one day Lady Gaga, any one of the Backstreet Boys, Frank Sinatra and Falco will start an accapella group together. And everyone will love it. Maybe even someone will write a song about it.
This week Alan left his ‘one night stand’ and got to join a helluva band…and hopefully rewrote the lyrics.