The Lovin' Spoonful Biography

Few US pop acts have gathered as much universal affection over the years as the brilliant and underrated Lovin’ Spoonful. Their back catalogue of hits is constantly repackaged and reissued as their stature increases. The band was formed in 1965 by John Sebastian (17 March 1944, Greenwich Vilage, New York City, New York, USA; vocals, guitar, harmonica, autoharp) and Zalman ‘Zally’ Yanovsky (b. 19 December 1944, Toronto, Canada, d. 13 December 2002, Kingston, Ontario, Canada; guitar/vocals) following their time together in the Mugwumps (as eulogized in the Mamas And The Papas hit ‘Creeque Alley’). The line-up was completed by Steve Boone (b. 23 September 1943, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, USA; bass) and Joe Butler (b. 19 January 1943, Long Island, New York, USA; drums/vocals).

The Lovin’ Spoonful’s unique blend of jug-band, folk, blues and rock ‘n’ roll synthesized into what was termed as ‘electric good-time music’, kept them apart from every other American pop act at that time. In two years they notched up 10 US Top 20 hits, all composed by John Sebastian. The quality of Sebastian’s lyrics and melodies help make him one of the finest American songwriters. From the opening strum of Sebastian’s autoharp on ‘Do You Believe In Magic?’ the party began, ranging through the evocative ‘You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice’, the languid singalong ‘Daydream’, the punchy and lyrically outstanding ‘Summer In The City’ (‘Hot town summer in the city, back of my neck getting dirty and gritty’), to the gentle romanticism of ‘Rain On The Roof’ (‘You and me and the rain on the roof, caught up in a summer shower, drying while it soaks the flowers, maybe we’ll be caught for hours’). Their four regular albums including the masterpiece Daydream, were crammed full of other gems in addition to the hits. Additionally Sebastian wrote the music for two movies, Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily? and Francis Ford Coppola’s You’re A Big Boy Now, the latter featuring the beautiful ‘Darling Be Home Soon’. Sadly the non-stop party came to an end in 1967 following the departure of Yanovsky and the arrival, albeit briefly, of Jerry Yester. Sebastian’s departure the following year was the final nail in the coffin, although the remaining members squeezed out two minor hit singles before disbanding.

The original members reunited in 1980 to perform a cameo in Paul Simon’s flop movie, One Trick Pony. Eleven years later, Steve Boone, Joe Butler and Jerry and Jim Yester announced the re-formation of the band. The latter left in 1993, but with the recruitment of younger members Lena Beckett (keyboards) and Mike Arturi (drums) the band has continued plying their trade on the nostalgia circuit. Without Yanovsky and Sebastian, however, the ‘magic’ was not present, and the death of the former in December 2002 put paid to any hopes of a belated reunion. The original band had been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame two years previously. It is no exaggeration to put the Lovin’ Spoonful on a pedestal with the likes of the Byrds, the Mamas And The Papas and the Beach Boys as the creators of some of the best ‘quality’ American pop music of all time, with Sebastian as one of the main talents of this golden age.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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