One of '70s rock's one-hit wonders, Dean Friedman spent the spring and summer of 1977 as one of a small army of musicians invading the pop charts from New Jersey. He was there, in the wake of Bruce Springsteen, Phoebe Snow, and Patti Smith, with an infectious Top 30 hit called "Ariel" on Cashman & West's Lifesong label, and a considerable amount of newspaper press, spurred by his local-boy-makes-good story and the management of Allen Pepper and Stanley Snadowsky, who were also owners of New York's premiere rock club, the Bottom Line. It was over fairly quickly, but for a brief time Friedman was a pop/rock star.
Raised in New Jersey by parents who subsequently split up, Friedman lived a comfortable if nowhere near affluent suburban life, working at odd jobs (which included selling balloons at Palisades Amusement Park, and driving a cab) while working on his music. He played weddings and bar mitzvahs as part of Marsha & the Self-Portraits, and later studied at City College, where one of his teachers was guitarist David Bromberg who, in turn, helped hook Friedman up with Pepper and Snadowsky. A deal with Lifesong was concluded in 1976, and his self-titled debut album followed in February of 1977. "Ariel" originally began getting played on FM stations, including WNEW, before it got onto AM radio, and the song eventually made it up to number 26 on the national pop charts, in a 22-week run beginning on April 23. The song, about a romantic suburban tryst with lots of details that would be familiar in content and tone to anyone living in Northeast suburbia -- and with some musical elements that strongly recalled the Hollies' "Carrie-Anne" -- was even more popular than that chart peak position would indicate in the New York/New Jersey area.
Friedman wrote story-songs in a mode similar to that of Harry Chapin, filled with vivid slice-of-life detail. Unfortunately, he was never able to reach the public again after "Ariel," and after a second Lifesong album, Well Well Said the Rocking Chair, released the same year -- whose personnel included Tony Levin on guitar -- he faded from view. A 1982 collection, Rumpled Romeo, featured more suburban vignettes but relatively few takers. In a different reality, Friedman would have been providing songs to movies like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but most of that sort of function seems to go to established hits and major hitmakers. In the years since, Friedman has produced his own work from his own home studio, writing songs, and recording on his own. ~ Bruce Eder