Richard Barone is a recording artist, performer, producer, and author. Since pioneering the indie rock scene in Hoboken, NJ as frontman for The Bongos, Barone has produced countless studio recordings and worked with artists in every musical style. Rolling Stone described his first solo album "cool blue halo" as 'chamber rock’, helping give rise to the popular genre. Recent collaborators and cohorts include Tony Visconti, Beach Boy Al Jardine, Sean Lennon, folk-rock luminary Donovan, the late rock legend Lou Reed, and American icon Pete Seeger. He has scored shows and staged all-star concert events at such world-class venues as Carnegie Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. His memoir Frontman: Surviving The Rock Star Myth was published by Hal Leonard Books. His most recent studio album, Glow (Bar/None), was produced by Visconti. A deluxe CD/DVD set, “'cool blue halo' 25th Anniversary Concert” and the legendary “lost” Bongos album, Phantom Train were released in fall 2013 on JEM Records. Barone lives in Greenwich Village, NYC where he was recently appointed as a Professor at NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music.
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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 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.
The 80s: The Bongos’ debut album, Drums Along the Hudson, compiled from a 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 90s: 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. He ended the decade as musical director and orchestrator for the musical 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 the next six consecutive holiday seasons.
The 2000s: Major concert productions included his sold-out, all-star tributes to Miss Peggy Lee at Carnegie Hall, the Chicago Ravinia Festival, and the Hollywood Bowl in 2004, The (not so) Great American Songbook for New York's Central Park SummerStage, as well as his own eclectic series of thematic performances at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater. He served as an 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. Throughout the decade, his songs and collaborations were 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 catalogue thus far. 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 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, guitarist Carlos Alomar, his fellow Bongos, and other legendary friends and collaborators. FRONTMAN continues to appear in Amazon’s Top 100 music industry books.
The 2010s: 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, and others. In July of that year, 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, and many others at New York’s City Winery. In August, Barone and co-producer Matthew Billy recorded Seeger performing his new song referencing the Spill, “God’s Counting On Me, God’s Counting On You,” aboard Seeger’s legendary symbol of environmental preservation, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater.
Fall of 2010 saw the release of Barone's next solo effort, the lavish modern pop collection Glow (Bar/None Records). The album was produced by Tony Visconti (Bowie, T. Rex) with 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. U.S. and U.K. tours followed in support of the album.
For the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in September 2011, Barone and frequent collaborator Matthew Billy co-created a special version of the 1894 song “The Sidewalks of New York,” which was released to excellent reviews and radio popularity. In December, Barone was appointed professor at the prestigious Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, and to the board of advisors for Anthology Film Archives. 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.
“Hey, Can I Sleep On Your Futon?” a new song written by Barone and Billy for the historic, four-disc Occupy Wall Street album project, was released in May 2012. Also that month, on May 4th, Richard performed an expanded “cool blue halo 25th Anniversary Concert” with special guests at City Winery NYC, which was filmed and recorded for release later that year in a deluxe CD/DVD edition through a special arrangement with Jay Frank’s DigSin Records. Following a series of shows on the East Coast, the first single “I Belong To Me” was released in September, with the special edition albums released in late October. The Pete Seeger single was released the next week, on Election Day, November 6, 2012, and on November 27th Barone released a new track “(She’s A Real) Live Wire” from the Anna Nicole Smith documentary, Addicted to Fame, for which he served as music supervisor. On December 10, 2012, “I Belong To Me: The ‘cool blue halo’ Story,” a documentary, premiered at Anthology Film Archives in New York City.
In June 2013 Richard joined forces with Beach Boy Al Jardine to record a version of Pete Seeger’s “If I Had A Hammer” for Bono’s ONE Organization’s Protest Song project. On July 31st he reunited with The Bongos to perform the final show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, the club where they began. A single “My Wildest Dreams” was released the next day. The long-lost Bongos studio album Phantom Train was released in Fall, 2013 by JEM Records, along with a relaunching of Barone’s “cool blue halo” 25 Anniversary albums.
Richard lives in Greenwich Village, where he is currently performing, writing songs for his next album, and has several production projects in the works.
"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