Richard Barone is an acclaimed recording artist, performer, producer, and author. Since his beginnings on radio at age seven as “The Littlest DJ” and later fronting indie-pop icons The Bongos, Barone has produced countless studio recordings. He has collaborated with artists in every musical genre - from Lou Reed and Moby to Liza Minnelli, Tiny Tim and most recently, Pete Seeger. As musical and theatrical director, he has scored shows and staged all-star concert events at such venues as Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. His memoir FRONTMAN: Surviving the Rock Star Myth was published by Hal Leonard Books and performed as a Musical Reading at Carnegie Hall. Barone lives in Greenwich Village, New York City where he was recently appointed to the Board of Advisors for Anthology Film Archives and as a Professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University. His 2010 solo album, Glow (Bar/None Records), was produced by Tony Visconti.
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Richard Barone began his career at age seven as "The Littlest DJ" on a local, Tampa, Florida top-40 radio station. At age sixteen, a chance meeting with Tiny Tim led to Barone producing recordings of the pop culture icon. A few years later, another fortuitous meeting, with the Monkees, led Barone to New York City, where he gained attention as the frontman of The Bongos, the new wave band that ignited the Hoboken, N.J. music scene of the early 80s.
Their debut album, Drums Along the Hudson, compiled from their first string of singles released on the U.K.-based Fetish label, instantly won favor on both sides of the Atlantic for its unusual combination of tribal rhythms, Beatlesque chord changes, and Sex Pistols overdrive. Stateside, along with comrades R.E.M. and a handful of others, the Bongos helped to create an exploding college radio market and amassed a fierce cult following. RCA Records took notice and signed the group.
The ensuing disc Numbers With Wings spawned the hit MTV video of the title song, and the new wave dancefloor smash "Barbarella." The follow-up, Beat Hotel, along with relentless touring, raised the Bongos' profile even further. They quietly split in '87, soon after Barone released his first solo album, Cool Blue Halo, recorded live at New York's legendary Bottom Line. A departure from the usual alternative rock format, its distinctive chamber pop backing of acoustic guitar, vibes, and cello highlighted Barone's lush voice, and became an instant college radio favorite that foreshadowed the 'Unplugged' movement.
The next few years saw two more solo albums; Primal Dream (MCA) and Clouds Over Eden (WEA). Billy Altman, writing in The New York Times, called the latter work, dedicated to his late friend, rock journalist Nicholas Schaffner, "unquestionably the most fully realized effort of Barone's career." It saw the artist strike a balance between the chamber pop feel of Cool Blue Halo and the rock punch of Primal Dream. In 1997, he released Between Heaven and Cello (Line Records, Germany). Recorded live at NYC's intimate Fez nightclub, it gave his more recent tunes an appealingly stark Cool Blue Halo treatment.
By the end of the 90s, the Barone had shifted his focus to co-writing, arranging, and producing other artists (including the B-52s' Fred Schneider, Jill Sobule, and many others), including co-writing and production work on the first two albums for Johnny Rodgers, featuring duets with Liza Minnelli and Ben Taylor. He was musical director and orchestrator for Bright Lights, Big City at the prestigious New York Theatre Workshop, and developed, directed, and performed in The Downtown Messiah, a modern interpretation of Handel's masterpiece performed live and beamed to over 200 public radio stations nationwide for six consecutive holiday seasons. He served as executive producer of the The Nomi Song (Palm Pictures, 2005), the award-winning documentary on the life of the late new wave countertenor Klaus Nomi. As a songwriter, his songs and collaborations have been heard on television programs including The West Wing, Dawson's Creek, Felicity, South of Nowhere, and others.
In 2004, COLLECTION: an embarrassment of richard (RBM Special Editions) was released, combining Richard’s favorite recordings from his past catalog. In 2006, he and original Bongos reunited in the studio with Moby producing, to create bonus material for the special edition re-issue of Drums Along The Hudson (Cooking Vinyl). Several reunion concerts were held, culminating at an outdoor event in Hoboken, at which the band was honored with a Mayoral Proclamation and Key to the City. Soon after, The Bongos’ RCA entire catalogue was re-issued for digital distribution by Sony/Legacy.
Barone's memoir, FRONTMAN: Surviving the Rock Star Myth, was published in Fall, 2007 by Backbeat/Hal Leonard Books. A book tour followed, with guest readers including actress Joyce DeWitt and radio personality Vin Scelsa. On October 1, 2008, FRONTMAN: A Musical Reading was performed at Carnegie Hall, with an expanded cast of performers including Moby, The Band's Garth Hudson, Lou Reed, Marshall Crenshaw, Mick Rock, Terre and Suzzy Roche, Randy Brecker, Carlos Alomar, his fellow Bongos, and other legendary friends and collaborators. FRONTMAN continues to appear in Amazon’s Top 100 music industry books.
Other major concert productions include his sold-out, all-star tributes to Miss Peggy Lee at Carnegie Hall, the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, and the Hollywood Bowl, in 2003-2004, The (not so) Great American Songbook for New York's Central Park SummerStage, and his own eclectic series of performances at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater. In May 2010, he produced Return To The Pleasure Dome, featuring a rare performance by - and honoring - avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger in a benefit concert for New York’s Anthology Film Archives that also included performances by Lou Reed, Sonic Youth, Moby, The Virgins, and others.
In July 2010, he produced and hosted Reclaim the Coast, a concert to benefit the clean up efforts of the Gulf Oil Spill featuring Pete Seeger, The Roches, Freedy Johnston, and many others at New York’s City Winery. In August, Barone and co-producer Matthew Billy recorded Seeger performing a new song referencing the Spill aboard Seeger’s legendary boat the Sloop Clearwater, symbol of environmental preservation since first sailing the Hudson in the late 1960’s. The song is set to be included on Seeger’s forthcoming 2012 release.
Barone's next solo album, Glow, was produced by Tony Visconti (Bowie, T. Rex, Morrissey) and a dream team of rock royalty, including Steve Rosenthal (Lou Reed, Monster Magnet) and Steve Addabbo (Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin), with help from veteran engineer Leslie Ann Jones at Skywalker Ranch, legendary tunesmith Paul Williams, Jill Sobule, and photographer Mick Rock. The album featured Barone playing the Gibson HD.6x-Pro Digital Les Paul guitar, an instrument to which he contributed as artist consultant. Glow was released in fall 2010 on Bar/None Records, followed by U.S. and U.K. tours in support of the album.
In July, 2011 Barone was named to the Board of Advisors of the prestigious Anthology Film Archives, and named music supervisor for the upcoming documentary on the tragic fame of Anna Nicole Smith, to be released in 2012.
For the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in September 2011, Barone and frequent collaborator Matthew Billy created a special version of the 1894 song The Sidewalks of New York, which was released to excellent reviews and radio popularity. In December 2011, Barone was appointed adjunct professor at the prestigious Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music at New York University. That same month, he released Collection 2: Before & Afterglow, mining his back catalogue to his pre-Bongos days and including recent work such as the Sidewalks single. He closed 2011 with an appearance at the 31st Annual tribute to John Lennon in New York City, along with Steve Forbert, Bettye Levette, and others.
Barone lives in Greenwich Village, where he is currently writing and producing for others as well as planning the followup to Glow.
"Is there a musician more deserving of the moniker Man About Town than Richard Barone?" - The New York Times
"Prince of New York" - Village Voice
"Barone knows the alchemic formula for converting an everyday thought into a powerful refrain." - Tom Moon, NPR
For more info, visit RichardBarone.com