Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 21 June '51, Chicago) Singer- songwriter, guitarist. Brought up in Maryland by Swedish/Italian parents, gravitated to nearby Washington DC club scene. Formed Grin '69 with ex-Reekers drummer Bob Berberich (b '49), bassist Bob Gordon (b '51); live act impressed Neil Young, who hired him to play piano on After The Goldrush '70 and recommended him to sometime backing band Crazy Horse, whose eponymous debut LP he graced same year, writing two songs. Fame helped Grin get contract with Spindizzy/Columbia: Grin and 1+1 '71 were praised by critics; All Out '72 was strengthened by elder brother Tom on guitar; all three made the top 200 LPs without setting sales records. Guested with Young on Tonight's The Night tour and LP; after Grin's disappointing Gone Crazy '73 they split. Speculation of Lofgren link with Rolling Stones (he idolized Keith Richard) ended by Nils Lofgren '75 on A&M, first and best solo LP, incl. spunky rockers 'Back It Up' and 'Keith Don't Go (Ode To The Glimmer Twin)'; piano-based cover of Gerry Goffin/Carole King's 'Goin' Back' proved him more than just another guitar hero. Back It Up '76 was KSAN radio broadcast released on A&M, confirming promise with gritty live version of 'Beggars' Day', one of the songs written for Crazy Horse. But Cry Tough '76 set a patchy pattern, prod. by Al Kooper; soul-flavoured I Came To Dance and tired two-disc live set Night After Night '77 in comparison with first live disc showed that his undoubted talent was spread too thin; Nils '79 saw more reflective tack: three songs with lyrics by Lou Reed, fine cover of Randy Newman's 'Baltimore', improved quality of his own (fewer) songs (incl. 'No Mercy', story of a reluctant boxer) confirmed that he needed input from other writers to sustain an entire album. He yielded streetpunk image to Tom Petty et al.; new stance as reflective singer-songwriter found fewer takers: Night Fades Away '81 barely made top 100 LPs in USA, Wonderland '83 did not chart at all (both on new Backstreet label, MCA in UK). He returned to Young for Trans '82 LP and tour; signed by UK indie Towerbell but put solo career on hold '84 to join Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band on departure of Steve Van Zandt, touring '84--5; belated release of Flip '85 saw modest return to form, with rocker 'Secrets In The Street', ballad 'Delivery Night' all too reminiscent of former glory. Stage presence is remarkable: does back flip on trampoline (hence LP title), plays guitar hero convincingly. First solo set or hard-to-find (much bootlegged) Back It Up recommended; live two-disc set Code Of The Road '86 was much better than the first one. Nils Lofgren '88, Silver Lining '91, Crooked Line '92 all on Rykodisc; two-CD Live On The Test on Griffin from British TV's music show The Old Grey Whistle Test; Acoustic Live '97 on Demon from that year's US tour.