Al Stewart, you might remember his name from one of his biggest hits..."Year of the Cat". Remember that one? He is a very talented songwriter and is very interested in history. Many of his songs will make you bring out your history book to refresh your memory on historical figures...
WAIT...let me just come out from behind my teacher's desk and tell you something that I did once. Oh, you might not believe I did this but I did! When I worked as a travel agent in the 1980's and 1990's, I noticed that Al Stewart was scheduled to perform at a casino at Lake Tahoe in Nevada. (This was 1988, I believe.) I thought to myself...if he is performing there, he must also be staying there that week. WHAT IF I were to send him a note to that hotel address along with a postcard addressed to myself and ask him if he would send it back to me...would he do that? (I put a stamp on it, of course, I did!) I asked him when would his next album be released. And the post card was a postcard from Scotland with bagpipers in their colorful kilts, since I knew that Al Stewart had been born in Scotland, that might make him know that I was a fan. (Although he moved as a child to England and was brought up there). What do you think? HE MAILED IT BACK! Yay!
He told me that his next album would be "Last Days of the Century" and would be released on Sept. 1st of that year! Okay...let me get back to my serious self...
"Joe, The Georgian" is a great tune but can you believe it...Al Stewart wrote this song about Joe Stalin, who was responsible for millions of deaths. Strange that such a lively tune is about Stalin, but that is Al Stewart for you! Must tell you something that my son and I still laugh about...when Christopher and I went backstage to ask Al Stewart to sign one of his CD's (which he did), I told him that "Joe the Georgian" was one of my son's favorites. Al Stewart then replied, "It's about Stalin, you know.". To which I replied, "Yes, we know".
Now, my son has told me that I said this in such a way...
I can't describe it...it is so funny. "Yes, AL...we KNOW!"
Honestly, no one ever thinks I know anything but you all know that I know everything, right? HA! Well, musical lyrics anyway!
Al Stewart had a birthday this past week, he turned 74 on Sept. 5th.
As a British artist, he is well known in the folk music scene. He played at the first Glastonbury festival in 1970 and he shared a flat with Paul Simon. (I hope you all know that famous songwriter/singer! Paul Simon is American, of course, and is also well known as 1/2 of the famous Simon/Garfunkel duo but he was in London in the 1960's, when he shared that flat with Al Stewart.)
At that time, Al Stewart and Paul Simon played at a folk club in Soho (in London, of course.) and performed alongside Cat Stevens, Bert Jansch, Van Morrison, Roy Harper and Ralph McTell.) Wow!
Ralph McTell playing a guitar on a single stage like that and singing his own songs! Paul Simon and Cat Stevens, can you imagine?
Anyway, back to Al Stewart...I found it very interesting to read what he had to say about songwriting.
"I think of songs as aural cinema...I want to show you a movie when I'm playing a song. One of the ways that I get inspired to write a song is to look at a world atlas and whatever page I am looking at, at least six songs occur to me. So, if you look at pretty much any of my songs, a lot of them are geographical, historical and form a movie".
Here is more songwriting advice...
"Don't use words that other people use."
And "write about subjects that no one else writes about".
Al Stewart moved to Los Angeles after the release of "Year of the Cat". He is still performing and does tours all over the world. You may find his website just here.
Oh! I just thought to tell you...I had a bright red "Year of the Cat" T shirt that I bought when I saw him in concert in the late 1970's. Years later, my son wore it when he was in middle school. He didn't care that no one knew who Al Stewart was...he just thought it was a cool shirt!
Yeah, that's me...I am one cool cat!
Now, I must tell you...we saw Al Stewart in concert when our son was in middle school and he was in concert with A.J. Croce...I will have to tell you about him in another post! Just a taste of the talented A.J. (son of Jim Croce, but he is extremely talented in his own right, I promise you!)