Friday, November 22, 2019 - 8:00 pm
More than four decades have passed since Steve Forbert made his way to New York City from his Meridian, Mississippi birthplace in quest of a career in music. It was the most unlikely time and place for a folk singer to leap into the fray in a burgeoning scene where new wave and punk were emerging while he took the stage as a the archetypal folkie, armed with just an acoustic guitar and sheaf of very personal songs. After busking on the street for change from passers by, he rose to sharing bills at CBGB’s with the likes of Talking Heads, The Shirts and John Cale as well as headlining more traditional venues such as The Bitter End and Kenny’s Castaways. Against staggering odds, he found blazing success early on with a string of critically acclaimed and commercially accepted albums including Alive on Arrival (1978), Jackrabbit Slim (1979), and Little Stevie Orbit (1980) and a most unlikely smash hit single, “Romeo’s Tune.”
His career had its share of triumphs as well as stumbles and disappointments as did his private life. Through it all, over the course of a marriage, divorce, raising three children, writing and recording 18 studio albums and fronting an ever changing line-up of supporting musicians, he persevered and stayed true to his roots and the folk ethos.
Now, those life-changing experiences have been chronicled by Forbert in Big City Cat: My Life In Folk Rock, co-written with Therese Boyd, that will be released September 14 by PFP Publishing. The memoir, originally conceived as a stage play, offers a uniquely introspective view of a life and career during a period of cultural upheaval and the author’s emerging self-awareness. Sharing reflections and journals he kept at the time, Forbert weaves an absorbing narrative that fully addresses the trials, travails and triumphs that would eventually play out over the course of his prolific 40+ year career. With a colorful cast of characters that includes managers Danny Fields and Linda Stein, along with such music legends as Doc Pomus and John Simon, it offers a revelatory look at his personal life and family, as well. Big City Cat: My Life In Folk Rock features first-person commentary from those who worked with Forbert on the road and in the studio.
The book will, in a manner of speaking, be accompanied by its own soundtrack. Simultaneous with the release comes an evocative new Steve Forbert album from Blue Rose Music entitled The Magic Tree. Produced by Karl Derfler (Tom Waits, No Doubt, Two Gallants), it offers a series of songs gleaned from previously recorded acoustic demos, augmented with new backing tracks. The collection rings with the verve and vitality that Forbert’s fans have always come to expect. It takes on special meaning in light of the recent health scare that sidelined him for several months while he recovered from kidney surgery and chemotherapy with the help of his girlfriend of 17 years. Consistently upbeat and optimistic, the album’s songs recorded in Meridian, Nashville, New York, and New Jersey and Virginia convey a firm sense that age ought not diminish a lust for living. Big City Cat and The Magic Tree underscore what revered critic the late Paul Nelson wrote about Forbert in Rolling Stone almost 40 years ago: “..Nothing, nothing in this world, is going to stop Steve Forbert, and on that I’ll bet anything you’d care to wager.”