Friday, January 27, 2012

Bread On the Waters

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the 1970s-era soft-rock band Bread.  (I have a "greatest hits" CD and have listened to it several times in the last week or so.)  When I was a teenager, I was mostly into hard rock music, but, around 1974, after Bread had broken up the first time, I bought an 8-track tape of The Best of Bread (see illustration) and a Bread songbook (Bread Complete, which I still have).  Something about their music appealed to me -- perhaps starting with the fact that so many Mormon girls liked them in that era -- and I learned to play several of their tunes on the guitar.  Most of their hits, starting with 1970's "Make It with You," were syrupy love songs penned and sung by David Gates, but I have to admit they had the whole "soft rock" thing down cold.  I remember there was a "faith-promoting rumor" going around that Gates's grandfather, about whom he supposedly wrote "Everything I Own," had been a Mormon bishop; I don't know about that, but I do suspect that the biblical references in the titles of a couple of their albums (On the Waters, Manna) helped to endear them to a certain religious segment of the population.  I read sometime back that Larry Knechtel (upper left in the photo above) had died of a heart attack in 2009; Knechtel was not only well-known for his studio work -- he played the epochal piano accompaniment on Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" in 1969 -- but also as a side man (having, for example, been part of The Mamas and the Papas' backing group at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967).  However, I hadn't known before this week that James Griffin and Mike Botts both died from cancer in 2005 at age 61, which leaves David Gates as the sole survivor of the "classic" Bread lineup.  (Robb Royer, a founding member of the group whose place Knechtel took in 1971, also survives.)  Reportedly Gates, now 71 years old, is presently a full-time cattle rancher in northern California, although I have to think he'd make a ton of money doing live performances.

There aren't too many things about the 1970s now that make me nostalgic for that period, but Bread's music is one of them.  At this point, "Diary" is the only one of their songs that I can still play all the way through, although I remember performing "If" at both a Heritage Halls "candle passing" at BYU in ~1978 (if you have to ask what that was, you'll never know -- I only know it's not a common practice these days) and at my mission Christmas party (in Santiago, Chile) in 1979.  (The latter involved my singing the song, too, which didn't work out well since I don't have the vocal range to sing the whole song in the same octave, at least without hitting some really low notes.)  It's too bad that there is no "soft" pop-music genre nowadays that doesn't involve a lot of scatting or ululation -- in which the song is the thing and not the vocal gymnastics.

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