RARA-AVIS: Shawn Phillips

From: kip.stratton@ni.com
Date: 28 Sep 2000

This is on the cusp of off-topic, but since Shawn Phillips has come up and several people don't know about him, I thought I'd offer a few comments. Shawn Phillips hit his peak as a musician in the late-1960s/early-1970s. He, like Leon Russell, was widely known for his shoulder length prematurely gray hair and achieved some notoriety for a freakish accident when said hair got caught in a boat prop while he was swimming. He pretty much embodied the hippie ethos, for better or worse. His music was (and for all I know continues to be) soft, folk rock. However, he was different from most in the genre in that his lyrics were not saccharine. In fact, there is a bit of a dark streak, a melancholy that rescues him from being just another lightweight light-rocker. Musically, his songs were fairly sophisticated, employing jazz chords, and he was highly regarded for his voice, which had -- according to many accounts -- a three octave range. But you could not call his music hard-boiled in the way that Warren Zevon's music is hard-boiled. I'm not sure many people in this discussion group would find it to their liking. Not that I would advise anyone to do anything illegal, but if you were curious, you MIGHT go to Napster and download "Lookin Up Lookin Down" and "Song for Sagittarians" to get a sample of what his work was like.

He definitely was the yin to his father's yang.


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