R.I.P. Dan Hicks

February 8, 2016

Another one bites the dust! Of all the pop music titans who’ve left us recently, Dan Hicks mattered most of all to me. His quick-witted, sophisticated folk-jazz brought great joy into my music-loving life, from the very first minute that Jay Junker, my high school cultural mentor, sat me down in 1971 and played me Where’s the Money?, the great second album from Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. I’ve always loved dreamy-creamy close-harmony singing (the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Manhattan Transfer, the Hi-Los, the Roches, etc.) but Dan Hicks brought out the potential for comedy, wit, and sheer exhilaration in his fast funny songs. As Peter Keepnews noted in his New York Times obituary of Hicks, “He drew from the American folk tradition but also from the Gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt, the Western swing of Bob Wills, the harmony vocals of the Andrews Sisters, the raucous humor of Fats Waller and numerous other sources.” He was great in concert, droll and dry in his humor. Not dry in his substance intake — the man liked his liquor and probably other substances. (When I met Maryann Price, one of the original Hot Licks, in 1980, she mentioned darkly that the band had gone off the deep end with their drug use and she “had go in there and clean up!”) Anyway, you can listen to Where’s the Money? yourself and see how thrilling they were live (click on the YouTube video below). And check out the Oxford American magazine’s dense appreciation of the album here.

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