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Scott Fagan

Best known as the maestro behind the obscure 1967 psych-folk LP South Atlantic Blues and the 1971 Broadway rock musical Soon, singer/songwriter Scott Fagan is also the father of Magnetic Fields mastermind Stephin Merritt. Born in New York in 1945 to a saxophone-playing father and a dancer mother, the innately musical Fagan spent his formative years with his mother in an arts colony in the Virgin Islands. In the mid-'60s, after gigging around the country and honing his chops (he even landed a few gigs with Jimi Hendrix), he auditioned for songwriting legend Doc Pomus, with whom he would go on to write "I'm Gonna Cry 'Til My Tears Run Dry," which was recorded by Linda Ronstadt. Fagan's pop acumen soon led him to Columbia Records, where he worked with another songwriting heavyweight, Burt Berns. After a brief and eventually unfruitful courtship by Apple Records (he lost out to James Taylor), Fagan inked a deal with Atco, which would release his first studio album, South Atlantic Blues, in 1967. Like other "obscuro" classics from the era, South Atlantic Blues never even dipped a toe into the mainstream. The LP soon found itself in cutout bins, but famed painter and printmaker Jasper Johns was enough of a fan that he created three pieces called Scott Fagan Record, which eventually found their way into the collections of the Met, MOMA, and the Walker Art Center. Fagan's first post-SAB project was a rock musical about the evils of the music industry called Soon, which found its way to Broadway in 1971. Featuring a cast that included Nell Carter, Barry Bostwick, Richard Gere, and Peter Allen, the show received rave reviews, but closed after only three performances. A second LP, Many Sunny Places, followed in 1975, but failed to generate much interest. The ensuing years saw Fagan returning to the Virgin Islands to a more settled life, but in 2000 it was revealed that he was the father of Stephin Merritt, who had just put out the Magnetic Fields' biggest release to date, 1999's ambitious 69 Love Songs. Merritt and Fagan didn't actually meet until 2013, at which time Fagan announced that he would be recording an LP of covers of some his son's songs. The Kickstarter-funded project ultimately failed its financial goals, and was eventually shelved. In 2015, boutique reissue label Saint Cecilia Knows released a newly remastered version of South Atlantic Blues on both CD and vinyl. ~ James Christopher Monger
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