I never could place it, I never could put my finger on it, but there has always been something about Nils Lofgren’s songwriting that I just love. I know I should be able to describe it in more concrete terms, but I just can’t. I’m not even referring to his guitar playing, we know that he has a whole second career as a great side-man guitarist, but I always loved his songs and his music as a front man on his own.
Nils’s first step into a music career was actually in Crazy Horse, he was just 17 when he appeared on Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush album. He not only played guitar but also piano on the album. He’d also appear on Tonight’s the Night. (Note: If you haven’t read the story about Neil in the Tonight’s the Night piece, you’re missing a classic.) Like, “Tonight’s the Night”, Nil’s also has a song for fallen Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten, It can be found here, its called “Beggar’s Day (Eulogy to Danny Whitten)”
His first recording band was called Grin. He does numerous tunes from that band on Night after Night including the opening number “Take Me to the Movies Tonight” and “Like Rain.”
Give a listen to “Back it Up” or “Keith Don’t Go (Ode to the Glimmer Twin)” These two songs have the quality that is just simply classic Nils, “Cry Tough” could be added to the list just as easily. He released a live DVD called “Cry Tough” in 1979. I have many of those songs on the video playlist below.
Nils has always been known as a master guitarist that many know from his days playing in Bruce Spingsteen’s E-Street Band. There he replaced Stevie Van Zandt, but when Stevie wanted to return, Nils still stayed in the band. What many people don’t know is how strong a pianist he Nils is.
Check out his take on Carole King’s “Goin’ Back.” This song has been recorded and performed by bands and artists like The Byrds, Freddie Mercury, Heartsfield and Phil Collins, but no version is anything close to this. He turns the acoustic guitar singer/songwriter ballad and makes it into a piano romp. It’s completely different and I love it. You can hear it below as well.
Nils is still busy on that solo career. He has a new album coming out soon. Look for info on his website.
Spend some time with Nil’s tunes. I think you’ll like them. I surely do.
All tracks composed by Nils Lofgren; except where indicated
- “Take You to the Movies Tonight”
- “Back It Up”
- “Keith Don’t Go (Ode to the Glimmer Twin)”
- “Like Rain”
- “Cry Tough”
- “It’s Not a Crime”
- “Goin’ Back” (Carole King, Gerry Goffin)
- “You’re the Weight”
- “Beggar’s Day (Eulogy to Danny Whitten)”
- “Moon Tears”
- “Code of the Road”
- “Rock & Roll Crook”
- “Goin’ South”
- “Incidentally It’s Over”
- “I Came to Dance”
- Nils Lofgren : lead vocals, guitars, piano (07)
- Tom Lofgren : guitar, organ, background vocals
- Wornell “Sonic Prince” Jones : bass, timbales, background vocals
- David Platshon : drums, percussion
- Rev. Patrick Henderson : piano, organ, background vocals