Fred Neil (March 16, 1936 – July 7, 2001) was an American blues and folk singer and songwriter in the 1960s and early 1970s. He is best remembered for writing the top 40 hits "Candy Man" by Roy Orbison and "Everybody's Talkin'" by Harry Nilsson, as well as the rock standard "The Other Side of This Life", most famously covered by Jefferson Airplane.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio
, and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida
, Neil was one of the songwriters who for a time worked out of New York City
's famous Brill Building
. He has often been called a pioneer of the Folk rock
& Singer-songwriter musical genres
; his most frequently cited disciples are Tim Buckley
, Harry Nilsson
, and Jefferson Airplane
, but his most prominent descendants have been Stephen Stills
, David Crosby
, James Taylor
, Paul Simon
and Joni Mitchell
. In concert appearances, as well as the liner notes for his 2003 album, Meet Me In Margaritaville, Jimmy Buffett
called Neil "one of my heroes." Some of Neil's early compositions were recorded by Buddy Holly
and Roy Orbison
; he played as a session guitarist on hits by Bobby Darin
and Paul Anka
. In 1968, Nilsson recorded a cover version of Neil's song "Everybody's Talkin'," which became a huge hit a year later when it was featured in the film Midnight Cowboy
According to Anthony DeCurtis' Rolling Stone obit on Fred, "...So why is Neil a hero to David Crosby? Because back when Crosby was an aspiring folkie who just arrived in New York, Neil bothered to take an interest in him, just as he did for the young Bob Dylan, who backed Neil on harmonica at the Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village. "He taught me that everything was music," Crosby says...."
Richie Havens, in his memoir, recounts Fred Neil and then-partner Vince Martin's ability to get the audience up and clapping with an entry through the audience, sans microphones, relying only on their harmonious vocals. Havens also added that he was glad to report that Fred had been able to kick heroin and stay clean for his later years in Florida.
Neil was an accomplished professional musician atypically inclined to a very modest frugality. "Candy Man", his first of two Top-40-hit compositions, substantially introduced him to a sufficient income stream for life in his early 20s; he became increasingly disinclined to work if he did not feel like it. Consequently his two fully realized albums (see next paragraph) are remarkable for their singularly unpretentious authenticity. His combination of baritone vocal and 12-string guitar remains unusual, and his combo recordings provide his shimmering melodies with muscular grooves; but his exemplarity is that of resolving the apparent opposition between aesthetic integrity and commercial value almost entirely in favor of aesthetic integrity, which gives all of his recordings a unique historical resonance.
He had debts to previous singer-songwriters such as Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry and Hank Williams; but his approach to melody was more in the manner of Cole Porter and to rhythm very much in the school of Ray Charles. His popularly acclaimed albums are Bleecker & MacDougal (also known as A Little Bit of Rain) without drums (1965) and Fred Neil (also known as Everybody's Talkin') in (1966), made during his residences in the Greenwich Village section of lower Manhattan in New York City and in Coconut Grove, Florida, respectively.
The Rick O'Barry interview at the dedicated website (fredneil.com) claims that a third fully realized album, Neil's "Stuff Sessions" of 1978, was never released by Columbia.
The unrelased Walk on the Water album was recorded at Bayshore studios in Coconut Grove, with a second set of sessions taking place in NJ with the group Stuff.
Later life and death
After the mid 1970s he ceased to maintain a residence in Woodstock, New York
, and spent his remaining decades enjoying life on the shores of southern Florida
. One of his last public performances was in 1981 at an outdoor concert at the Old Grove Pub in Coconut Grove, Florida, where he joined Buzzy Linhart
onstage for one song and ended up staying up there for the rest of the show.
Fred Neil died of natural causes in 2001.
- 1964: Hootenanny Live at the Bitter End (FM)
- 1964: World of Folk Music (FM)
- 1965: Bleecker & MacDougal (Elektra)
- 1967: Fred Neil (Capitol)
- 1967: Sessions (Capitol)
- 1969: Everybody's Talkin' (Capitol)
- 1970: Little Bit of Rain (Elektra)
- 1971: Other Side of This Life (Capitol)
- 1986: The Very Best of Fred Neil (See for Miles)
- 1998: The Many Sides of Fred Neil (Collectors' Choice Music)
- 1999: Everybody's Talkin'/Other Side of This Life (Vivid Sound)
- 2001: Tear Down the Walls/Bleecker & MacDougal (Elektra)
- 2003: Do You Ever Think of Me? (Rev-Ola)
- 2004: The Sky Is Falling: The Complete Live Recordings 1965-1971 (Rev-Ola)
- 2005: Echoes of My Mind: The Best of 1963-1971 (Raven)
- 2008: Trav'lin Man: The Early Singles (Fallout)
Selected list of Fred Neil songs and artists that covered them
- Candy Man - Roy Orbison (1961), Dion (1965)
- Everybody's Talkin' - Harry Nilsson (1969), Emmylou Harris (1969), Neil Diamond (1969), Roger Miller (1970), Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (1977), Rubber Rodeo (1986), The Beautiful South (1992), Stephen Stills (1991), Jimmy Buffett (2003), Madeleine Peyroux (2006), Jesse Malin (2008), and Louis Armstrong
- Ba-di-da - Mark Lanegan (1999)
- Little Bit Of Rain - Karen Dalton (1969), Sandy Denny (1973), Arto Lindsay & The Ambitious Lovers (1990), Eric Andersen (2004)
- Tear Down the Walls - Vince Martin and Fred Neil (1964), Judy Collins (1964), Joe and Eddie (1965)
- The Dolphins - Dion (1968), Al Wilson (1968), Linda Ronstadt (1969), It's a Beautiful Day (1970), The Youngbloods (1971), Tim Buckley (1973), Richie Havens live version included on Resume (1993), Eddi Reader (1989), Billy Bragg (1991), The The (1993), Beth Orton (1997), Jerry Jeff Walker (1998)
- Green Rocky Road - Dave Van Ronk (1973), Felix Pappalardi with Creation (1976), Blue Orchids (2005), Karen Dalton, Donovan, Tim Hardin
- The Other Side of This Life - The Lovin' Spoonful (1965), Peter, Paul and Mary (1966), The Animals (1966), The Youngbloods (1967), Jefferson Airplane (1969), Karen Dalton (1969), Eric Andersen (2002)
- Country Boy & Bleecker Street - H. P. Lovecraft (band) (1967)
- That's the Bag I'm In - H. P. Lovecraft (band) (1967)
- Blues on the Ceiling - Karen Dalton (1969), Tim Hardin (1974)
- Wild Child in a World of Trouble - Vince Martin and Fred Neil (1964); Tom Rush (1970)
- Illustrated Fred Neil discography
- http://forums.delphiforums.com/thedolphins (dedicated to Fred Neil and other musicians in and around Coconut Grove, Fla)