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Fred Neil

Moody, bluesy, and melodic, Fred Neil was one of the most compelling folk-rockers to emerge from Greenwich Village in the mid-'60s. His albums showcased his extraordinarily low, rich voice on intensely personal and reflective compositions, sounding like a cross between Tim Buckley and Tim Hardin. His influence was subtle but significant; before forming the Lovin' Spoonful, John Sebastian played harmonica on Neil's first album, which also featured guitarist Felix Pappalardi, who went on to produce Cream. The Jefferson Airplane featured Neil's "Other Side of This Life" prominently in their concerts, and dedicated a couple of songs ("Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" and "House at Pooneil Corner") to him. On the B-side of "Crying" is Neil's "Candy Man," one of Roy Orbison's bluesiest efforts. Stephen Stills has mentioned Neil as an influence on his guitar playing. Most famously, Harry Nilsson took Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" into the Top Ten as the theme to the movie Midnight Cowboy.

For all his tangential influence, Neil himself remained an enigmatic, mysterious figure. His recorded output was formidable but sparse. During 1964 he recorded as a duo with Vince Martin, which yielded an album for Elektra, Tear Down the Walls. His drumless solo debut, Bleecker & MacDougal (which did have additional instruments), ranked as one of the best efforts from the era in which folk was just beginning its transition to folk-rock. The bluesiest of his albums, it contained some of his best songs, including "Little Bit of Rain," "Other Side of This Life," and "Candy Man." His true peak was his follow-up, Fred Neil, which made a full transition to electric instruments. Less bluesy in tenor, it featured "Everybody's Talkin'," as well as an equal gem in "The Dolphins."

Neil's subsequent slide into obscurity was strange and quick. Sessions, from 1968, was a much more casual and slapdash affair that included some instrumental jamming. Always a recluse, he retreated to his home in Coconut Grove, FL, after achieving cult success, and didn't release anything after a live album in 1971. His obscurity was enforced by an absence of domestic compact-disc reissues of his best work, a situation rectified with a superb best-of compilation by Collectors' Choice and the 2001 reissue of Tear Down the Walls/Bleecker & MacDougal by Elektra. He continued to play, but only for those close to him. Neil, ill with cancer, unexpectedly passed on July 7, 2001, at his home in Florida. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

An interesting performer
His sound , his voice, and his singularity is so respected and loved as you read these appreciative comments.
mob20111
makes me grateful to have ears. Miss you Fred.
I first heard fred on now,esoteric Tom Donahughs' KMPX, Eirst freeform semi- underground Radio in SF! Fred had a ,I belive, a huge impact on the Haight folk rock, Pschyedelic, and suberban sounds in that town and time! I still think he was great and so underrated.
I actually caught a ride from Fred as I was hitching between college and home. This was about 1977-78, and Neil was heading to upstate NY to play for friends. Character indeed.
First time I saw Freddy play was in 1965 in the Grove at the Gaslight South with Vince Martin and John Sebastion. They were unbelievable . The last time I saw Freddy play was with his buddy from the band - Rick Danko in the grove playhouse for a benefit for the dolphins in 1972 or 1973. Jimmy Buffet was in the show also with his friend who played the washboard. What a voice and what a character. Too bad he is gone
mauirob69
Saw a Dolphin Benefit show at the Coconut Grove Playhouse(Co c o n u t Grove,FL) in 1977. Fred Neil,Vince Martin,John Sebastian,Ti m o t h y B. Schmidt,Pete Childs.(Ther e ' s raw concert footage that I've seen and it brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful stuff, hope it's released someday.) What an amazing group of talent on stage! Fred Neil's voice just cuts right through you straight to your soul. Everybody in the Grove loved him and still miss him to this day. God bless you, Freddy...
Hope Fred Neil is up in Heaven swapping songs with his friend, Gamble Rogers. Man, what a session that would be!
(I wish pandora knew who Gamble Rogers was, Gamble died saving a life, but didn't die in obscurity. In Fla, where lived and died, he got a folk festival, a middle school and a state park named after him. -Read Gamble's bio and see and hear him on youtube-)
Both singer-songw r i t e r s were gifted and were a gift to us all.

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