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    Lofgren, Nils (21 June 1951 – Present)

    Multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter from Chicago, Illinois, whose family relocated to Garrett Park, Maryland, while he was still young.  He started playing the accordion when he was only five years old and studied jazz and classical music for about ten years.  Rock captured his imagination when he was in his teens and he set aside his accordion for an electric guitar.  Early bands with which he was involved included Crystal Mesh, Paul Dowell and the Dolphin, and The Shot. 

     

    In 1969, he started a new band called Grin with Bob Berberich and Bob Gordon.  The group was a sensation in the D.C. area and attracted the attention of Danny Whitten and Neil Young.  Neil asked Nils to join his band and Nils wound up playing guitar and piano and pitching in on vocals on the LP, After the Gold Rush.  Meantime, Grin inked a deal with Spindizzy/Columbia and released a self-titled debut album.  Grin’s follow-up, 1+1, had 1 top-40 hit entitled “White Lies”.  The band label-hopped to A&M but it proved to be an ill-fated move, as Gone Crazy turned out to be their last album.  They broke up in 1974. 

     

    A&M may have had it up to the neck with Grin, but they kept Nils on as a solo artist, and he released his eponymous debut in 1975.  Nils began releasing albums at a pace of one a year:  Cry Tough, I Came To Dance, and Night after Night.  His songwriting skills came in handy in 1978 when he penned “Bullets Fever”, an homage to Washington’s NBA champion basketball team, and “Nobody Bothers Me” which was used in a commercial for Jhoon Rhee Tae Kwon Do.  He even appeared on the big screen in the Beatles tribute, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. 

     

    In 1979, he continued his frantic recording clip by releasing another self-titled LP, Nils.  “Shine Silently” became a top-40 hit in Europe.  He followed this up with Night Fades Away and an accompanying international tour in 1981.  In 1983, he reunited with Neil Young on his album, Trans.  He also released another solo effort, Wonderland. 

     

    Opportunity knocked in 1984 when Bruce Springsteen needed a replacement for Steve Van Zandt in his E Street Band to go on a world-wide tour in support of Born in the U.S.A.  In 1985, Nils released another solo album, Flip, so-called because of his on-stage antics, which sometimes involved flipping or bouncing on a trampoline while playing the guitar.  It spawned a top-40 hit in Europe, “Secrets in the Street”. 

     

    In 1987, he arranged the theme song for the television program, Hunter.  Then he appeared on Bruce Springsteen’s next album, Tunnel of Love.  Bruce dissolved the band in 1989 but the always in-demand Nils was recruited by Ringo Starr to join his All-Starr Band.  He somehow managed to find time to moonlight as the Musical Director for The Paul Poundstone Show on ABC-TV. 

     

    In 1991, he issued another solo album, Silver Lining, and it produced a top-40 AOR hit, “Valentine”.  It was followed up in short order by Crooked Line.  Both albums were released by the Rykodisc label.  In 1992, he reunited with Ringo Starr and the All-Starr Band for their second world tour.  It was captured on CD and issued as a live album in 1993.  He also appeared on MTV Unplugged with Neil Young and that performance was also immortalized in CD form, going platinum, no less. 

     

    In the meantime, he kept a foot in the door of film and television, recording music for the film, Everybreath, and appearing on The Beatles Songbook on PBS-TV.  He teamed up with Branford Marsalis on Buckshot LeFonque, which was released in 1994.  In 1995, Nils released another solo album, Damaged Goods.  He also acted as composer and musical director for TV’s CableAce Awards from 1991 to 1996. 

     

    In 1997, he released another live album, Acoustic Live, and followed this up with a brutal tour schedule that lasted for about three years, first in support of his own album, then on the E Street Band’s reunion tour.  In 2001, a CD and DVD of the tour were released, and Nils soon had another solo album on the shelves, Break Away Angel.  It was unusual because of its extensive use of harp.  His band included Timm Biery, Mike Botts, Lee Sklar and Wade Matthews. 

     

    In 2002, he appeared on Bruce Springsteen’s 9/11-themed album, The Rising, and multi-tasked on the subsequent tour, playing bottleneck, dobro, lap steel, pedal steel, and six-string banjo.  He released Shine Silently in 2004 and accompanied Patti Scialfa in the studio on her CD, 23rd Street Lullaby, and on the road, in support of the album. 

     

    In 2005, he performed at The Kennedy Center Honors with Willie Nelson in Washington, D.C.  Willie appeared on Nils’s next release, Sacred Weapon, which also included the talents of Timm Biery, David Crosby, Kevin McCormick, Graham Nash, and Martin Sexton.  Nils Lofgren & Friends:  Acoustic Live, a DVD, was recorded in 2006.  It featured Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Paul Bell, Bob Berberich, and Mary Ann Redmond. 

     

    Nils made a guest appearance on Jerry Lee Lewis’s CD and DVD, Last Man Standing, playing the pedal steel guitar on the song, “Sweet 16”.  In 2007, he co-wrote “Whatever Happened to Muscatel” with novelist Clive Cussler, accompanied Patti Scialfa in the studio on Play it as it Lays, and joined the E Street Band on tour in support of Magic.  He paid tribute to Neil Young in 2008 with The Loner:  Nils Sings Neil.  In September of the same year, he had both hips replaced.  No word on whether he’ll be flipping on Bruce Springsteen’s Working on a Dream tour. 

     

    Sources:

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nils_Lofgren
    2. http://www.last.fm/music/Nils+Lofgren
    3. http://www.amazon.com/Nils-Lofgren/dp/B000XCZHBW
    4. http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:kifuxqe5ldde~T1
    5. http://www.nilslofgren.com/History07.html

           

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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