“Andersen is the most elegant of singers.” - ROLLING STONE
“A singer and songwriter of the first rank.” - THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Eric Andersen is a great ballad singer and writer.” - BOB DYLAN (Stage of Oslo Spektrum, 1997)
“Didn't that guy write ‘Thirsty Boots?’” – OVERHEARD IN A DETROIT SPORTS BAR.
UP THROUGH THE YEARS; A GLANCE IN A REAR VIEW MIRROR
ERIC ANDERSEN'S voice, songs, guitar and piano playing created a career that has spanned over 45 years. He has recorded 25 albums of original songs, and made numerous tours of North America, Europe, and Japan.
His songs have been recorded and performed by world renown artists such as Ricky Nelson, Judy Collins, Sandy Denny, Fairport Convention, The Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary, Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, The Grateful Dead, Linda Thompson, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Francoise Hardy, plus many others in Europe, Australia, England, and Japan.
The 40's & 50's
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1943, Eric received his early schooling in Buffalo, where he taught himself guitar and piano. His dad Harold was a chemical metallurgist who loved poetry and his mom Janis was a housewife who studied art in college. Love of art and music ran through the house.
Andersen’s hometown provided many musical experiences, which would later form his musical character and career. Among these was watching Elvis Presley perform in a gold suit at the Buffalo Memorial auditorium and seeing Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers play at his high school gym.
As a teenager his parents took him to see the Miles Davis Quintet at Kleinhans Music Hall and his mom often took him to see exhibitions at the Albright-Knox Art Museum, whose holdings included a comprehensive collection of American Abstract expressionism such as Pollack, Still, Rothko, and Klein. When he was eight, he saw his first Van Gogh exhibition.
He recollected, “Hearing and seeing this stuff reminded me that there was a bigger world outside of the one I knew there in Buffalo.”
After school hours, he began listening to The Kingston Trio and The Weavers. To make money to buy records, he worked as a short order cook and cleaned the floors of a record store. In his senior year, he started his own high school folk group called the Eric Andersen Singers that performed folk ballads and the political songs of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.
For two summers, during his junior and senior years, he worked at the Roswell Park Cancer Research hospital in Buffalo, under the auspices of a Hungarian researcher/doctor neighbor, Tomás Bardos.
Also, in high school years, he hung around a group of folk music and literature loving friends, where, outside of class, he developed a life-long love for literature, and spent a great deal of time reading the books by Dostoyevsky, Lawrence, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg. His parents were supportive of his musical talents. In this atmosphere, he started writing his own stories, poems, and songs.
He began spending weekend evenings a local Buffalo folk music club, called the Limelight, to hear the great folk duo harmonies and guitar playing of Don Hackett and Jerry Ravin.
After high school, he enrolled in pre-medical studies at Hobart College. Between his freshman and sophomore years, he traveled to Boston in the summer of 1962, with a college banjo playing musician friend, Joe Hutchinson. They were discovered on a stoop in Boston and invited to Cape Cod and were eventually hired to be the opening act at The Cape Cod Folk Festival. They named themselves the Cradlers.
In Hyannis, they opened shows for the Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Dave Guard and the Whiskeyhill Singers (Jack Elliott and Dave Guard were heroes of Eric’s), Bonny Dobson, and Carolyn Hester.
A surprise while waking around Hyannis one Sunday morning was seeing the new president John F. Kennedy with his wife, Jacqueline, leaving a small white church after summer morning service. Eric remembered.
“The couple looked almost too perfect to be real. Something from atop a wedding cake, I thought. But later into his administration, many of us felt the protective shadow living under Kennedy’s wings during his too brief span in flight. It was a shadow of light that provided safety for all the positive social changes happening in America. He gave people hope.”
In the fall of 1962, Eric returned to college but things had changed in his life. He started a folk rock singing group after his summer working as the Cradlers, but had increasing trouble concentrating in class and moved out of the fraternity house. His grades collapsed so he decided to pursue his own independent music and literature studies.
He became involved in several incidents that centered around skipping school to hop freight trains in Geneva, New York, and cruising the Finger Lakes on a banned motorcycle.
That summer, after dropping out of Hobart, he hitchhiked west to San Francisco to try his luck singing solo in North Beach coffeehouses and seek out the poets of the Beat Generation.
Through the poet David Meltzer, who worked at City Lights Bookstore, and with whom they shared a singing group, The Snopes County Camp Followers, along with his wife Tina and Andersen’s future first wife, Debbie, he met Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti at the City Lights Bookstore. Weeks later, he heard them recite at a poetry reading in Haight-Ashbury, on the evening President John F. Kennedy was assassinated (later recounted in his 2003 album Beat Avenue). There was a gathering afterward at Ferlinghetti’s house where he also met the romantic hero of On The Road, Neal Cassady, and poet/playwright, Michael McClure.
1963 in San Francisco proved to be a crucial time for him as a burgeoning writer and singer of original songs. It was in that year he began to write in earnest, living part time on Stinson Beach in Marin, Berkeley, and in a coldwater room over the Hot Dog Palace in North Beach.
While passing through San Francisco, songwriter Tom Paxton heard him that late fall of 1963, performing at the Coffee Gallery in North Beach. He heard his songs and invited him to New York City.
In the winter of 1964, accepted the invitation and upon landing in New York was soon introduced to the Greenwich Village songwriting circle of Phil Ochs, Dave Van Ronk, Fred Neil, Bob Dylan, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and many others. He stayed at Jack’s place first, until Tom Paxton offered him his Village apartment for several months while he and his wife Midge were living in England.
His first gig in New York City was as opening act for John Lee Hooker in 1964 at Gerde's Folk City. Robert Shelton of the New York Times wrote a review where he called him "a writer and performer of the first rank…possessing that magical element called star quality."
He soon started playing songwriter protest Hootenannies with Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, and Peter LaFarge at the Village Gate.
Through an introduction by the music critic Robert Shelton of the New York Times, he was signed to Vanguard Records and began recording his first album. While waiting for it to be released, he became a familiar face in the Village folk and jazz clubs where he witnessed the singing and playing of some of America's greatest blues and jazz masters at the time. The list of performers he saw passing through New York was vast, the likes of which he knew would never be seen again --blues artists like Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, Fred MacDowell, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Reverend Gary Davis, Doc Watson, Uncle Dave Macon, Judy Roderick.
At the Gaslight Café he saw the Village artists Dave Van Ronk, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, David Blue, Fred Neil, Tim Hardin. At the Village Gate and and Village Vanguard, he often saw people like Miles Davis, Anita O'Day, Charlie Mingus, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Jimmy Smith perform, and other jazz greats up close.
In the Village clubs provided Andersen with a first-hand, up close experience of master musicians at work, managing to completely captivate an audience with a single voice and instrument. He began recording his first album. Vanguard Records released the sampler album New Folks that featured four songs of Eric’s and song from three other artists: Phil Ochs, Lisa Kindred, and Bib Jones.
Eric recalled, before he first started out solo. “A traveling band was expensive and venues were scarce, I realized how a single performer armed only with only a song and arresting tales could entertain and spellbind and audience.”
Over the next three years he wrote and recorded four albums of his earliest songs, including his early classics "Come To My Bedside", "Thirsty Boots", and "Violets of Dawn", for Vanguard. Judy Collins, the Blues Project, and Peter Paul and Mary created pop hits of his songs “Thirsty Boots,” “Violets Of Dawn,” and “Rolling Home.” The Brothers Four recorded a single of "Bedside" for Columbia Records and it was immediately banned from AM radio, on the grounds of obscenity. However, speaking about the song, New York Times critic Robert Shelton wrote that the song’s lyrics were typical of the new language and poetic patterns of what will one day be called an 'Eric Andersen song’."
During those early years in Manhattan, Andersen divided his time between the East Village and the Boston area, where he lived for different spells, performing at the Club 47, in Cambridge. He also attended Harvard University Night School for two semesters attending literature courses on James Joyce, French symbolist poetry, and Eastern Religions as well. In addition to scuffling at odd jobs, he miraculously avoided being drafted into the army, a harrowing tale later recounted in his epic song, "Ghosts Upon The Road."
He found Boston a dead-end town for him those days and moved back to New York City, where he lived for a time with Gordon Friesen and Sis Cunningham, the publishers of the New York Broadside magazine. His earliest songs like “Thirsty Boots” and “Violets of Dawn” were first published there.
From New York he started to write free associative essays for the monthly music paper the Boston Broadside.
In 1965 his first album Today Is The Highway was released.
In the spring, he traveled to Hazard, Kentucky with Phil Ochs. They drove down in support of the striking coal miners. That was the south and for protest singers, union organizers, or those volunteers helping to get out the vote in registration drives, it was a dangerous time and dangerous work.
In the summer, he traveled to Europe for the first time, to play Les Cousins club in London and at the Cambridge Folk Festival. That following August, Phil Ochs introduced Eric to his audience at the Philadelphia Folk Festival, where they harmonized together on "Thirsty Boots."
That fall, he accompanied Jack Newfield to Liberty, Mississippi to witness first hand the struggles of voter registration, staying with black organizers, which was a very risky proposition at the time. Not one person was registered McComb county, near the Louisiana state line. The dangerous and beautiful week is chronicled both in Newfield’s book The Prophetic Minority and documented in Eric’s essay testimonial book Freedom Is A Constant Struggle (An Anthology of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement). Andersen recalled that week in the Deep South.
“Mississippi was scary back then. Black folks were surrounded by constant terror. One local organizer had been murdered at the sawmill only three months earlier. Many local whites had gun racks mounted behind the cabs of their pickups. Jack Newfield’s car was shot at while they were trying to hang voter registration posters on tree trunks. Our black hosts were beautiful, kind, and very brave people.”
Also that year, after meeting with New York publicist Danny Fields, he did two screen tests and starred in the Andy Warhol film Space with Edie Sedgwick. It devolved into an off the cuff, inadvertent, docu-comedy, sans script, of weird camera pans, rambling dialogues, where Eric played guitar and improvised on several songs.
Andy and Eric were both born in Pittsburgh and soon became friends. Andy was aware of Eric’s love for his work and in new art so he gave him a painting of Marlon Brando on a motorcycle from the film The Wild Ones. “I loved Andy as an artist and a friend,” he told a Norwegian journalist a month after Warhol died.
Andersen made his Newport Folk Festival debut in 1966 with a fellow Village artist, Tim Hardin. His second album 'Bout Changes & Things was released.
Manager Brian Epstein expressed his wish to sign Andersen the following year, so in 1967, Eric was invited to London where he attended some Beatles’ recording sessions and plans were made. In his posthumous letters Brian is quoted as saying, “Eric’s music makes me happy.”
Then Brian died unexpectedly that summer, Eric got the news at the Philadelphia Folk Festival while getting ready to perform later in the program. While talking John Denver, the festival organizers stopped the ongoing performance to make the announcement that they had just received news that the Beatle’s manager had died. Eric remembers listening to the announcement.
“The announcer, Ken Goldstein, said Brian’s sudden death was the best possible news for traditional music. ‘He and the Beatles never did anything for folk music,’ he railed. The news was met with cheers and jubilation from the folk audience. John Denver and I just looked at each other in shock. It was a sad day for us who knew Brian, and worked with him. I felt close to him and I trusted him.”
In 1968, Eric’s fourth Vanguard album, More Hits From Tin Can Alley, was released, and he went on to record two albums for Warner Brothers (Avalanche and Eric Andersen) and one more for Vanguard (A Country Dream).
The self-titled album was released in 1968.
1969 saw the release of the Nashville produced Country Dream and Avalanche. That year he also toured and performed in concert with Elton John and the Doors at the Fillmore East.
In 1970 Andersen moved to Venice, California and made his second trip overseas. He visited Amsterdam, London, and Paris and, upon his return, played the legendary Festival Express. This is the magical trans-Canadian train tour that included Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Buddy Guy, Ian and Sylvia, and The Band. Eric was the only solo acoustic performer riding on the train, doing the shows. And also in that year, his first daughter Sari was born.
Some months later, he made his first appearance on national television as a guest on The Johnny Cash Show.
Starting in 1971, he divided his time between California and the Chelsea Hotel in New York, when he was not writing and performing shows. The Chelsea was a hang out for writers like Kris Kristofferson, Sam Sheppard, and Leonard Cohen. There, he met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and poets Patti Smith and Gregory Corso. On his later album, Stages, he wrote about Patti in his song “Wild Crow Blues.”
He left Warner Brothers and signed with Clive Davis at Columbia Records, who introduced him to Norbert Putnam. Putman invited him down to his studio Quadraphonic in Nashville, where he produced Andersen's album Blue River. They began adding tracks to the two Eric had recorded and brought with him from L.A. On the title track, Joni Mitchell had already added the harmony vocals.
In 1972, Blue River was released on Columbia records, produced by Norbert Putnam. It turned out to be his largest selling album to date. The Rolling Stone Album Guide awarded it four stars and credited it as being "the best example of the 70's singer-songwriter movement."
Eric toured independently and as the opening act for the Byrds for a three-month tour.
Then master tapes to his follow up album, Stages, were mysteriously lost or stolen by someone at Columbia as a result of a company shake-up and internal politics. That senseless act was a devastating blow to his career. Unsurprisingly, he left the label and did not release another album for two years. As he remembered in an interview with Rolling Stone. “It was an unbelievable thing to happen. They could lose my album, but they could never take away my songs.” He knew one day they would show up.
Clive Davis, who had been fired as Columbia’s president, started a new label called Arista Records. Along with Barry Manilow, Donna Summer, and Lou Reed, he signed Eric to his new label.
Between 1974 and 1977 he recorded two albums for Arista, Be True To You and Sweet Surprise, produced by Tom Sellers and recorded in Los Angeles and New York respectively.
In 1975, he performed twice on Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Review, including the debut concert at Gerde's Folk City in New York and at Niagara Falls. Also in the mid-seventies, Eric moved to Woodstock.
In 1976 he was the first singer-songwriter to ever be invited to tour Japan. It was so successful that he played concerts there steadily for nearly a month. It would be the first of six tours in Japan.
In 1977, Arista releases the Best Songs album, which included both live recordings from the Bitter End in New York and new studio recordings from Los Angeles.
In the spring of 1980 Andersen did his first European summer tour, starting in Norway.
He recorded two European albums, Midnight Son on CBS Records and, Exile, on Swedish EMI.
Back in Woodstock, a very musical town and host to many fine musicians, he started two experimental local groups: a rock band called “Dogs Without Leashes” and a classically music oriented band Les Fleurs Sauvages de l'Enfer (Wild Flowers from Hell). Their last gig was at the Blue Note in New York, before he moved to Europe. In the latter band Jazz piano great, Marilyn Crispell, played the keyboards.
From 1980 to 1983, he wrote a series of essays and stories for the Woodstock Times, a local weekly. His writing experience at the paper taught him a lot about writing and got started him writing short fiction.
In 1983, in Brussels, he wrote and recorded the sound track for Belgian director Marc Didden’s film, Istanbul, starring Brad Dourif and Dominique Deruddere. It was released in Europe in 1984.
When Eric was New York in the mid-Eighties, Allen Ginsburg invites Eric to Brooklyn College that year where he is teaching a course on Beat literature. He introduces him to William Burroughs.
In 1985, he co-wrote four songs with Townes Van Zandt in New York City. Eric recalled. “I met Townes at the Ohio Folk Festival in 1967. He was like a southern shadow-twin to me. He would stay with me when he was in New York and I’d stay with him when I was playing in Austin or Nashville.”
Eric began touring more in Europe and moved to Norway, where he started a new family and continued writing music and short fiction. He continued, however, to return to America on a regular basis for US and Canadian tours.
In 1989, Eric's Ghosts Upon the Road, his first American album in a decade, was released to wide critical acclaim. It was produced by Steve Addabbo (co-producer of Suzanne Vega).
Assisting musicians included guitarist John Leventhal, Andy Newmark (drummer from Sly Stone, Roxy Music, and John Lennon), Michael Visceglia (bassist for Suzanne Vega) and Shawn Colvin (background vocals). It was released on Gold Castle Records in the US and on Virgin in Europe.
As New York Times music critic Robert Palmer wrote in his liner notes for Ghosts, "This is great American music from one of the masters. And it's about time."
The Rolling Stone Album Guide awarded it 4 1/2 stars, "The entire set stands as one of the best albums of the 1980's." Ghosts Upon The Road won two New York Music Awards (for best contemporary folk album and performer).
The 90's witnessed a host of new recordings that resulted in four new albums from Eric, including solo works and two in a trio format with DANKO/FJELD/ANDERSEN with Rick Danko, of The Band, and Norwegian singer-songwriter, Jonas Fjeld.
In addition to those were re-issues of six of his earlier albums (including three Vanguard CDs, an Arista/Archive compilation and two Sony and Plump releases).
In 1990, after a world-wide search of the Columbia Records vaults and after having been missing for 17 years, the tapes for the Columbia album, Stages, were discovered under mysterious circumstances in the Sony tape vaults in New York.
Under the auspices of Columbia/Legacy’s Don DeVito and research archivist and producer Amy Harrott, the tapes were taken to the original producer Norbert Putnam to be remixed. They were then re-mastered by Mark Wilder and finally released for the first time in 1991 as Stages: The Lost Album, on Columbia Legacy records.
Anthony DeCurtis wrote the liner notes. The 17 year-old album received a surprising reception. The critics reviewed it as a new album. Rolling Stone magazine described Stages: The Lost Album "a masterwork.” And it went on to win the New York Music Award for best folk album of the year.
While working on extra bonus tracks for The Lost Album in New York City, Eric teamed up with lead singer and bassist Rick Danko of the Band and Norwegian musician and songwriter Jonas Fjeld.
In early 1991, in Oslo, they recorded an album built around their songs and harmonies. Robert Palmer wrote the notes. The trio played shows in the States, Europe, and some festivals, including the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway.
That spring, Eric and Jonas Fjeld took a memorable tour of the Mississippi Delta with Deep Blues writer Robert Palmer, then a Mississippi transplant, all sleeping guests at the famous Stovall Plantation house where Muddy Waters quit his tractor job to reinvent blues in Chicago. They visited Dockery Farms where Charlie Patton first recorded the Delta Blues, Greenville where Robert Johnson was born, and tried to summon the devil one night in the middle of a cotton field next to Muddy’s log cabin juke house.
In 1992, D.A. Pennebaker filmed a documentary of the trio DANKO/FJELD/ANDERSEN when traveling on Amtrak on a small concert tour in upstate New York, a documentary that was shown in part on Norwegian National Television. As of this date, it has never been released.
The album Danko Fjeld Andersen was awarded the Speleman's Pris, the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammy Award, in 1992. Bob Dylan called it his favorite album of the year. Paul Evans, in his Rolling Stone review called it "soul music of deep and lasting appeal.”
In the United States, it won the American Independent Distributors award for best adult contemporary album of 1992.
He toured with Townes Van Zandt, David Olney, and Guy Clark in the Netherlands.
In 1993, Eric continued performing in the USA, Europe and Japan, both solo and with DANKO/FJELD/ANDERSEN.
1994- Their follow up album album, Ridin' On The Blinds, was recorded in 1994 in Oslo for Rykodisk, and that release made the top ten charts of the Americana and Triple-A radio airplay lists.
In November 1996, Andersen was an invited guest at the Conegliano Poetry Festival near Venice, where he performed his songs and poetry alongside the Russian poets Andrei Voznezensky and Yevgeny Yevtushenko. He and Yevtushenko, along with their wives, went on to Venice together to talk poetry, Viking mythology and party. “It was one of my great nights in Venice,” Eric recalled.
In the spring of 1997, he toured with DANKO/FJELD/ANDERSEN in Japan. On the day of that last show in Tokyo, a tragedy occurred. Rick Danko was arrested for smuggling heroin.
“Everybody was saddened and shocked to lose Rick, not knowing when we’d ever see him again,” he recalled. “But the judge was merciful and let him go after a few months. We found out later that he was a big Band fan. Rick served time, cleaned up, started reading books, and in three months he was out. The amazing miracle was, he never was deported!”
After Rick Danko’s release, the trio did a few more shows in the U.S.
In November 1997, Andersen returned to the Conegliano Poetry Festival again to perform alongside guest performers Lou Reed and Jay McInerney.
The fall of 1997 saw the release of Collection, a re-mastered CD compilation of Andersen's 1970's Arista albums, on Archive Records. This newly collected set, according to Dirty Linen's February, 1998 review, was the resulting union of "two brilliant, largely overlooked studio albums."
In 1997, Andersen also performed “The Brooklyn Bridge Blues” on the Jack Kerouac tribute album Kicks Joy Darkness on Rykodisk. Other contributers included William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Michael Stipe, Lydia Lunch, Patti Smith, Johnny Depp, Eddie Vedder, Jim Carrol, Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
On the other end of the horizon, he sang ‘When I’m Gone’ for the Phil Ochs memorial tribute double CD, What's That I Hear, on Sliced Bread Records, released in November, 1998.
In 1998, Memory of the Future was released on Appleseed Recordings. It was Eric's first new studio album in ten years, one that had taken eight years to make, --starting in Los Angeles, then in Oslo and then in New York.
Many musicians over the years helped to bring his album Memory of the Future into the light, and tapes were sent back and forth between continents for almost a decade.
The recording talents who assisted on Memory of the Future included bass player producer Howie Epstein and keyboardist Benmont Tench (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers); Rick Danko and Garth Hudson (The Band); Tony Garnier (Bob Dylan Band); sax and keyboardist, Robert Aaron (Wyclef Jean band); backup singers Eleanor Mills and his daughter Sari Andersen; Norwegian Jonas Fjeld and guitarist Richard Thompson rounded out the recording band.
“The album took a long time to make, like wine that aged before you opened the bottle, but it was worth the wait,” Eric told Dirty Linen magazine.
The set of songs included two recitatives and the ominous warning song ‘Rain Falls Down in Amsterdam”, describing the rising tide of neo-fascism in Europe.
Goldmine called Memory of the Future, "a strong, ambitious album, if not Andersen's best…let's hope it won't be another decade between albums."
In 1999, Eric and Lou Reed co-write the title song for Andersen’s new album called You Can’t Relive the Past. It is recorded in New York and Oxford, Mississippi with the members of R.L. Burnside’s Fat Possum label blues band.
The New York sessions featured the back up harmonies of Lucy Kaplansky, guitar work of Artie Traum and a duet with Lou Reed on the title track, “You Can’t Relive the Past.” In addition to the Lou Reed co-write, he recorded another four that he had co-written with Townes Van Zandt in New York in the mid-eighties.
In 1999, he spent most of the year writing in the prose world, starting with a program essay on the Robert Wilson/William Burroughs/Tom Waits production The Black Rider for the Norwegian National Theater.
Andersen wrote a travel piece called “Coastal Norway” about the Norwegian Midsummer Night for National Geographic Traveler, alongside other writing contributions from Salman Rushdie, Jan Morris, Paul Theroux, George Plimpton, Gore Vidal, David Halberstam, Jean-Michel Cousteau, Walter Cronkite and others.
He also contributed an essay called ‘My Beat Journal’ for The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats.
Other contributors included William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Robert Palmer, Anthony DeCurtis, Richard Hell, Annie Leibovitz, Lester Bangs, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Carolyn Cassady, Ira Cohen, Hunter S. Thompson and Johnny Depp.
That autumn, he performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at a Phil Ochs Tribute concert, and in Central Park, New York at a Joni Mitchell celebration with Chaka Kahn, Joe Jackson, Jane Siberry, Ravi Coltrane, Jon Hendrix and Annie Ross.
In the summer of 1999, a newly re-mastered version of his classic album, Blue River, with two previously unreleased tracks, was released, on Sony Legacy Records.
In December, his good friend and singing partner, Rick Danko, died. “Someone once said about Rick,” Eric recalled, “that when you were born and the angels sang, Rick Danko was singing harmony.”
In 2000, You Can’t Relive The Past, his second Appleseed Recordings album, was released.
That same year, The Smithsonian’s The Best of Broadside box set was released, featuring Andersen’s “Plains of Nebrasky-o” with a duet with Phil Ochs and “Long Time Trouble Road”. Eric wrote the Afterward testimonial for the box set booklet.
In 2001, he contributes the track “Snow, Snow” to an anthology album called If I Had A Song: the Songs of Pete Seeger, Vol. 2.
In 2002, Appleseed releases a double album, One More Shot, by DANKO/FJELD/ANDERSEN, that features their first studio album and the 1991 live concert at the Molde Jazz Festival.
In the spring of 2002, Andersen attends the literary festival, Festival Letteratura, in the renaissance Lombard city of Mantua, in northern Italy. He reads from his writings in the Rolling Stone Book of the Beats alongside the writers Frank McCourt and Gore Vidal, and performs a concert next evening, in the ancient 500 year-old square.
That fall, he conducts a songwriting seminar at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York.
In 2003, Andersen releases the double CD set, Beat Avenue, featuring 14 original compositions, including the 26-minute recitative title track recounting his experiences among the Beat poets and writers of San Francisco on the evening of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
The musicians on this project created a special rock ‘n roll chemistry. This included violinist Joyce Andersen, guitarist Eric Bazilian (the Hooters), drummer Shawn Pelton (Saturday Night Live, Sheryl Crow, Billy Joel), bassist Mark Egan (Pat Metheny and Ornette Coleman), accordionist Garth Hudson (The Band), multi-instrumentalist Robert Aaron (Wylcef Jean, David Bowie, Laurie Anderson) and the harmony vocals of Lucy Kaplansky, Sari Andersen and the late Phoebe Snow.
Beat Avenue was the subject of an Anthony DeCurtis feature in the New York Times Sunday Arts and Leisure section that included an album review. The headline was “Eric Andersen Distills the Present From the Past.”
He performed the title track “Beat Avenue” at the Bowery Poetry Club with his music collaborator Robert Aaron. The performance is repeated later in November at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’s “Poetry in Motion” event with poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who gave a poetry reading at the occasion.
“It was honor and a privilege to share the stage with one of my poetical heroes,” Eric told friends.
In October, he flew to San Remo, Italy to receive the Primio Tenco Music Prize, along with Patti Smith. Previous winners include Joni Mitchell, Laurie Anderson, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Randy Newman.
That same year, Eric appeared in the Joni Mitchell American Masters documentary and again in the Festival Express Train tour concert film, with both performing (on DVD) and interview footage.
The nationally syndicated FM Odyssey radio program ran a lengthy interview and retrospective of Eric’s career.
After concert dates in Belgium and Switzerland, four shows in the UK and several interviews with the BBC, he returns to the US to commence work on his new Appleseed CD.
In 2004, Eric, Robert Aaron and a diverse group of top musicians, including special guests Wyclef Jean, the internationally famous hip-hop/rap star, whose band Aaron was leading, former Lovin’ Spoonful leader and solo artist John Sebastian, Woodstock musician Happy Traum, singer-songwriter Patrick Sky, country-rock singer and player Pete Kennedy, record The Street Was Always There.
On this album, Eric recorded songs of his fellow songwriting friends and compatriots in New York’s Greenwich Village – such as Peter LaFarge, Phil Ochs, Tim Hardin, Fred Neil, Bob Dylan, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Paul Seibel, and David Blue.
No Depression magazine said of the release, “Respecting the timelessness and conscience of these songs, Andersen puts an entirely new spin on the tribute album concept.”
The DVD Festival Express of the trans-Canadian Concert tour is released.
In the summer, Andersen performed with the band Spoonful of Blues at the Notodden Blues Festival in Norway.
“After learning to play guitar on 50’s rockabilly, then listening to Woody Guthrie and the Weavers, my biggest influence was the blues. I spent a year sitting at the feet of all those great blues masters at the Gaslight Café in the Village. My debut New York show was opening for John Lee Hooker at Gerde’s Folk City. In the end, you always return to the blues.”
In 2005, Andersen recorded the second Appleseed album in the two part series of the Greenwich Village writers called Waves. This time he included songs by Tom Paxton, John Sebastian, Happy Traum, Tom Rush, Lou Reed, Richard Fariña, Tim Buckley, and a bonus track live version of “Thirsty Boots” accompanied by Judy Collins, Arlo Guthrie and Tom Rush from her film where Eric appears, called the “Wildflower Festival.”
He wrote a new song for the album called “Hymn of Waves.”
That year he also recorded his first live album, Blue Rain, in Oslo at Rockefeller’s club John Dee’s with Spoonful of Blues. It included live versions of his songs, including “Sheila,” Blue River,” Don’t It Make You Wanna Sing the Blues” and selected blues interpretations.
He made a long tour in Japan in September that year, accompanied by the harmonies of Inge Bakkenes from Holland.
He performed the song “Ghosts Upon The Road” at two shows in Antwerp and Rotterdam in Marc Didden’s Belgian Theater production, Beat, with singer and guitarist Roland Van Campenhout.
In 2006, the album Blue Rain was released. That summer, Eric plays the Voss Blues Festival in Norway and the Moncenx Guitar Festival in France.
Also that summer, Eric marries Dutch singer-songwriter and scientist Inge Bakkenes, in the Netherlands. Later, he would help produce her first album of original songs.
In 2007, Raven Records in Australia releases a special compilation of songs chosen by Eric called So Much On My Mind, drawing from both recorded and live performances on Columbia, Arista and Warner Brothers records.
In February of 2008, Eric performs at the Andy Warhol Week Celebration at the Gershwin Hotel and receives an “Andy” award with Lou Reed, Ultra Violet, Billy Name and Holly Woodlawn. He and Debbie Harry perform sets that the evening.
Over several years, Eric worked alongside Woodstock video-maker and music producer Chris Andersen on a project called Woodstock Under The Stars, for a CD based on three Woodstock concert that were recorded live in 2001, 2003 and 2004.
At those shows he was joined by legendary Woodstock performers Happy Traum, John Sebastian, Garth Hudson, Paul Siebel and Philadelphia rocker Eric Bazilian from the Hooters.
The forthcoming album will also feature two studio bonus tracks produced by John Sebastian (The Lovin’ Spoonful) and a DVD. In 2012, it is in the can and yet to be released.
In 2009, Andersen performed on the BBC program “Greenwich Village Revisited,” hosted by Billy Bragg. Guests on the show include Carolyn Hester, Roger McGuinn of the Byrd’s fame and Judy Collins. He and McGuinn performed a duet on Eric’s song, “Thirsty Boots.”
In Paris, in July that year, he attended the book launch of William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch @ 50 – The Anniversary Essays (edited by Oliver Harris and Ian MacFadyen , 2009, Southern Illinois University Press).
Eric had contributed an essay entitled “The Danger Zone.” At the launch at the British Council in Paris, he headlined the musical performances, and reads an episode from his novel-in-progress.
The event was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Burroughs’s landmark novel.
The following November, in New York, there are other William Burroughs activities and events commemorating Naked Lunch’s 50th birthday, starting at Columbia University and continuing around the city.
Andersen read an episode from Naked Lunch at St. Marks Church (Hauser and O’Brian) and performed a set at the new School of Visual Arts Theater across from the Hotel Chelsea. Other performers included Hal Wilner, Anne Waldman, and Michael McClure. He said at the time, “Burroughs is it – one of my all time favorite writers, up there with Joyce, Rimbaud and Cervantes.”
In March 2010, Eric performed a show and recorded a live concert album in Cologne, Germany, featuring his Dutch wife Inge Andersen on harmonies and Italian Michele Gazich on violin (Victoria Willams, Michelle Shocked, Mark Olson, Mary Gauthier). It would be his second live recording. Eric and Michele began producing Inge’s new album in Brescia, Italy. He continues work on his novel and abstract photography.
Also in 2010, Andersen embarks on a three-year recording project with his Ghosts Upon The Road collaborator, Steve Addabbo, at Shelter Island Studios in New York. It will become a part of his “Great American Song” series, a double album in the works.
In May of 2011, Eric’s live album, The Cologne Concert is released on audiophile vinyl and CD formats on Meyer Records.
New songs in the show included “The Dance of Love and Death” and “Sinking Deeper into You.” It received an excellent review in No Depression on-line magazine: “The collective quality of this album makes each song reflect in a way that causes them to sound like a new and fresh experience.”
That fall, in Woodstock, New York, they recorded and filmed him for a live international webcast. Members of his performing entourage included Inge Andersen on harmonies, Joe flood on mandolin, vocals, and violin, Happy Traum on vocals and guitar and John Sebastian on the mouth harp. It was sent by subscription all over the world. It is rumored it will become a concert DVD.
In 2012, Paul Lamont, an independent PBS filmmaker from Lockport, New York, started a film about Eric Andersen’s life. It will include both concert and interview footage from the US and Europe.
In May, Inge Andersen’s album Fallen Angel is released on Meyer Records. All songs were original compositions, both music and lyrics, with the exception of “The Prodigal Son” (Fred Rose, Floyd Jenkins) and Eric’s own, “Round The Bend” (originally recorded on Blue River). www.ingeandersen.com
Andersen commented to No Depression. “Her album started out as a simple idea. Inge only wanted to record a demo and preserve a memory – a simple document of her songs.
“Instead, she made a beautiful album. It turned out to be the real deal. Her songs were honest, poetic, and direct with a voice that is melodious. But her stories can be hard. She sings them with heart and soul – and also from the gut. I was proud to work with her.”
Eric toured that spring, recorded in New York. Returning to Europe, he traveled to Morocco with his wife, Inge, to spend days in Tangier walking in the shadows and souks where in the Fifties, Paul Bowles wrote Sheltering Sky, and William Burroughs’s wrote Naked Lunch. Then they spent two days in the lower Rif mountains with their host Bachir Attar listening to the music of the master musicians of Jajouka.
In May, he became a member of the newly created European Beat Studies Network under the auspices of the William S. Burroughs scholar Oliver Harris. (Two websites of interest are: www.ebsn.eu and www.realitystudio.org).
In the fall of 2012, he will lead a seminar on “Music and Social Change” and “Music as a Soundtrack to Our Times” at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. This year is special because it will mark the 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birth. His special guest will be Grammy Award winning songwriter, Ani DeFranco.
A new studio album by Eric Andersen is currently being recorded in New York.
Andersen has also been invited to write original material by Catherine Camus for a celebration of her father Albert Camus’s 100th year anniversary of his birth in Aix en Provence, France. It will also feature a painting exhibition by the German painter Oliver Jordan, who studied under Josef Beuys. It will be held at the Grand Théâtre de Provence in Aix-en-Provence on September 28th, 2013.
Eric is looking forward to this special commemoration event. “Camus was a great writer. Much observation and deep thought went into every penetrating, liberating sentence.”