Christmas Fund Raiser Adds To Andy Kim’s legacy
By Keith Sharp
There are three events which define annual Christmas traditions in Toronto. The Nutcracker Ballet, Ross Petty’s quirky pantomimes and on Wednesday December 9th at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, Andy Kim’s Annual Christmas Party.
This star-studded event, celebrating its 10th year of operation brings this famed singer/songwriter together with a lineup of top Canadian artists to raise funds for charity, for the third year in a row, the proceeds are going to the Centre for Addiction And Mental Health.
“I’m thrilled to announce both the return of many of my musical friends as well as a number of artists joining me for the first time as is the case every year,” noted the Montreal native in confirming appearances by the likes of Tom Cochrane, the Bare Naked Ladies, Ron Sexsmith, Honeymoon Suite, The Trews, Finger Eleven, Kardinal Offishall, Cowboy Junkies’ Margo and Michael Timmins, Colin Linden, Tomi Swick, Tom Wilson and the Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and Brendan Curry already pencilled in for the event.
“I can always count on the generosity and spirit of wonderful performers who join me in support of a wonderful cause,” enthused Kim with tickets selling for $25 or a special $125 VIP pass which grants the ticket holder photo access to the evening’s entertainers plus a special photo op with Santa (rumoured to be in the guise of music impresario, Gary Slaight”.
A song, co-written with Ron Sexsmith, titled “Whatever Happened To Christmas” in 2005 sparked the idea for a Christmas charity benefit and it’s grown in
stature annually, staged in Toronto at either the Phoenix or The Mod Club and last year also at Montreal’s Corona Theatre, co-organized by Sam Roberts.
“When you get guys like Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson on stage playing “Rock Me Gently”, that’s a special feeling for me and it’s always great to get major stars involved in a charity raising event,” noted Kim who also utilizes the show for his own once-a-year performance to air out classics like “Sugar Sugar”, “Rock Me Gently” and “How’d We Ever Get This Way.”
It’s been a good year for Kim in more ways than one with confirmation that he will be inducted into the Canadian Music Association’s Hall Of Fame, Thursday May 5th during the Canadian Music and Broadcast Awards to be handed out at Toronto’s Sheraton Hotel during the annual Canadian Music Week conference.
“Wow! It’s such an honour to be recognized in the company of so many notable artists and music industry personnel,” commented Kim, a modest response from a singer-songwriter who dominated the U.S music scene in the late 60’s and early 70’s due to his song-writing partnership with Music Hall Of Famer, Jeff Barry.
It was Kim and Barry who joined forces to write “Sugar Sugar” for the Archies’ animated television show in 1969, a song that soared to No.1 on the Billboard charts and was cited as `Song Of The Year’ by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) later that year, also winning a 1970 Gold Leaf Award in Canada (a forerunner to the Juno Awards).
Kim penned other hits such as another Billboard chart-topping single in 1974, “Rock Me Gently”, his initial hit, “How’d We Ever Get This Way” in 1968 as well as performing covers of “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You” which Barry. wife Ellie Greenwich and the legendary Phil Spector initially wrote for The Ronettes.”
“The late Sixties and Early Seventies was a magical time to be a songwriter in New York,” reminisced Kim over the phone from his Los Angeles’ home whose exploits for Barry’s Steed Music company in the famous Brill Building in New York brought Kim into daily contact with the likes of Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka and Carole King as well as working directly for Barry as a staff songwriter. “You had TV shows like The Monkees and The Archies to write songs for and the team of Barry, Greenwich and Spector must have written about 70% of all of the hits in America at that time”.
Because Kim is a recording artist as well as a songwriter, it is assumed by many that he was the lead singer on “Sugar Sugar” but that honour fell to a performer called Ron Dante. “I was supposed to sing lead vocals but I was working at Steed Music and it was thought that to be the singer on a kid’s TV show would be a distraction to my regular job. But I have got the original tapes of me singing those songs (he also co-wrote a number of other Archie tracks including “Jingle Jangle”) somewhere and I of course sing them at my concerts.”
Despite the fact Billboard Magazine, pegged “Sugar Sugar” at No.73 in their all time Hot 100 (up until 1983) and the track has been subsequently covered by the likes of Wilson Pickett and Bob Marley, many critics initially derided “Sugar Sugar” as `Bubblegum Music”
“Well if you call “Love Me Do” by The Beatles or “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley `bubblegum music’ then fair enough but like those songs, “Sugar Sugar” , was written at a particular time for a particular purpose,” noted Kim. “It was written for a kids’ TV show for heavens sake, It wasn’t supposed to be a profound piece of music!
Kim found redemption from the critics when “Rock Me Gently” soared to No.1 on the Billboard charts in 1974, selling three million singles, but his talent eventually fell out of favour as newer artists and bands started to write their own material.
Kim made a brief comeback as Baron Longfellow in 1980, releasing two albums; a self-titled release that year and `Prisoner By Design’ in 1984, without much radio and consumer response but in 1995, he came to the attention of Bare Naked Ladies’ Ed Robertson when BNL and Kim played together at a music festival. Over a decade later, Robertson coaxed Kim back into the recording studio for a 5-song EP “I Forgot To Mention” which prompted a full comeback in 2010 with his eOne Music release of “Happening Again”.
A collaboration with Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew resulted in “It’s Decided” being released on Arts & Crafts label earlier this year and Kim received a jolt of confidence when he opened for Broken Social Scene in New York. “I go on stage and everyone is singing my songs, it was a great boast of self-confidence to know that people still remembered me.”
Kim still writes songs “because that’s what songwriters do” and he is bolstered by the idea that music from the 70’s and 80’s is making a comeback in movie soundtracks and in commercials (“Rock Me Gently was used in a recent Jeep commercial) and that younger generations are re-discovering the classics.
“Say what you want but “Sugar Sugar” was and always will be a classic and that’s not a bad legacy to be credited with,” Kim concluded.