Happy Birthday: Van Dyke Parks

Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Happy Birthday: Van Dyke Parks

Today we celebrate the birthday of one of America’s most underrated songwriters, an unheralded solo artist, and an all-around great musician and producer: Van Dyke Parks. We’ve compiled a playlist which features 20 songs that Parks either played on, helped write, or produced, but before you get to that, please enjoy a six pack of semi-obscurities that can be found within Parks’ production discography.

1. Sal Valentino, “Friends and Lovers” (1969): Although he’s better known for his work with the Beau Brummels, a band that also utilized Parks’ musical skills (on their TRIANGLE album), Valentino ventured briefly into a solo career in 1969. While it resulted in a trio of singles, the last emerging in 1970, none of them served as a launch pads to solo success.

2. Esso Trinidad Steel Band, “Apeman” (1971): Yes, it’s the Kinks song, but you’ve never, ever heard it like this.

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3. Dino Martin, “Sitting in Limbo” (1972): It’s a crying shame that this one-off single featuring Martin – and, yes, this was Dean’s son – isn’t even available for us to post as a YouTube embed. In an interview with Bill Kopp, Parks admitted to having a special place in his heart for the track, saying that he wanted to “promote Jimmy Cliff’s work and get him some authorship residuals.” He’s certainly not getting any when the track isn’t available for purchase!

4. Mighty Sparrow, “More Cock” (1974): So much of a legend in Trinidad that he’s known as “the Calypso King of the World,” Mighty Sparrow didn’t get much of a chance to strut his stuff in the States, but just the fact that he got a song with this title released as a single in 1974 is the stuff of legend.

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5. Kinky Friedman, “Catfish” (1976): Here’s another one that’s so obscure as to be completely M.I.A. from the internet for your listening enjoyment: Friedman’s ode to legendary baseball player Catfish Hunter.

6. Ringo Starr, “When You Wish Upon a Star” (1988): You just know that someone involved in the production of this tribute album – STAY AWAKE: VARIOUS INTERPRETATIONS OF MUSIC FROM VINTAGE DISNEY FILMS – is still patting themselves on the back for coming up with the idea of getting Ringo Starr to record “When You Wish Upon a Star” for

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