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Eric Burdon’s life has been a musical journey matched by few other performers in rock and roll music history. He has gone from the driving force of the grittiest British Invasion band, to pioneering the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene. Thereafter, he fronted WAR – the biggest funk band of the 1970’s, cut an LP
Eric Burdon’s life has been a musical journey matched by few other performers in rock and roll music history. He has gone from the driving force of the grittiest British Invasion band, to pioneering the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene. Thereafter, he fronted WAR – the biggest funk band of the 1970’s, cut an LP with an early influence, jazz-blues great Jimmy Witherspoon, then coming full-circle and reuniting his original band, The Animals, for a series of projects and world-wide tours, to forming new groups of “Animals” and releasing a series of studio CDs, live CD’s, a DVD. To date he has written two autobiographies, which has been translated into several languages.
Eric took a part in many movies, one example is semi-autobiographical film Comeback, directed by Christel Bushmann, which featured Eric’s performance as well as Eric scoring the entire film. His numerous other acting forays include everything from television appearances on shows such as China Beach, to made-for-television movies like The Eleventh Victim. Burdon’s ongoing interest in film has also resulted in roles in major motion pictures such as Gibbi West Germany and The Doors. He can be found in two very well received film-festival outings, the 1999 Greek film “My Brother and I” by Antonis Kokkinos – which was singled out at the Cannes and Karlovy Vary Film Festivals- and the 2000-release by Thorsten Schmidt, Snow Fall on New Year’s Eve. Burdon’s soundtrack work has appeared in more than two-dozen projects ranging from the television’s The Wonder Years, to documentary films such as The London Scene & The Big Pink, to cult films Going to War & The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart. Major motion picture production credit include Joe vs. The Volcano, American Me, Hamburger Hill, Casino, and Boogie Nights.
Burdon’s lengthy recording career began in Newcastle, England, where he first covered songs by his idols such as Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Josh White, Brownie McGhee, John Lee Hooker and Jimmie Reed. Eric and The Animals quickly gained notoriety as England’s best R&B band when they were selected by the pirate radio station Radio Caroline as the feature for the first broadcast to the U.S. They were a part of the first live R&B recording in the U.K. when they joined Sonny Boy Williamson for the now famous 1963 New Year’s Eve concerts. This raw performance was followed by a more polished outing when The Animals appeared with Jerry Lee Lewis & Gene Vincent on renegade Granada TV in 1964, for the Whole Lotta Shakin’ concert feature (released on film as Don’t Knock the Rock); the film showcased their rendition of Talkin’ Bout You. Shortly thereafter, The Animals took the music world by storm when they recorded and released an electrified version of the traditional folk number, The House of the Rising Sun. Afterwards they followed with such classics as Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, It’s My Life, I’m Crying, Inside Looking Out, The Story of Bo Diddley, Bring It On Home to Me and See See Rider.
As the original Animals slowly disbanded, Burdon completed a solo project backed by the Horace Ott orchestra. This venue, Eric Is Here, was featured On This Side of Goodbye, Losin’ Control and the title-track for the MGM film The Biggest Bundle of Them All. He then re-appeared in California with his new group at the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival, where he performed Paint It Black, Hey Gyp, San Franciscan Nights and a soulstirring cover of
Gin House Blues. Burdon & the New Animals can be found on both the edited concert footage, The Monterey Pop Festival, as well as in documentary-director D.A. Pennebaker’s Monterey Pop: The Film. The band went on to define the era musically with, the addition of San Franciscan Nights and such classics as Colored Rain, When I Was Young, White Houses, the fiercely anti-war song Sky Pilot, and the now famous homage to the festival itself, Monterey.
Burdon disbanded the New Animals in favor of other artistic interests. However, shortly thereafter he and harp-great Lee Oskar formed a new percussion-based outfit and quickly began touring as Eric Burdon & WAR. The debut album Eric Burdon Declares WAR included two immediate classics: Tobacco Road, and worldwide hit, Spill the Wine. The follow-up LP’s, Black Man’s Burdon & Love Is All Around contained their own hits, such as They Can’t Take Away Our Music, Paint It Black, Home Dream and A Day in the Life. Burdon subsequently left WAR and shortly thereafter joined up with jazz-blues great Jimmy Witherspoon, a fusion which ultimately lead to the collaborative LP Guilty! (renamed Black & White Blues for CD release) featuring The Laws Must Change, Have Mercy Judge, and Soledad. This innovative LP included live songs recorded with Ike White & the San Quentin Prison Band. Burdon’s blues projects continued in a new vein when the original Animals regrouped to record two new studio albums. Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted, released in 1976, featured It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Brother Bill and Fire on the Sun. The second Animals reunion in 1983 resulted in Ark, featuring The Night, My Favorite Enemy, No John No and Prisoner of the Light. The final reunion release was the live LP, Rip It to Shreds! Which was also released as Greatest Hits Live. Burdon returned to a solo career and his touring ultimately led to film, namely the motion picture Comeback. The material for the movie and soundtrack of the same name was culled from two recent solo LP’s The Last Drive & Darkness, Darkness, supplemented with new material, later released as Devil’s Daughter, Power Company, & Wicked Man. He then completed the manuscript for part one of his autobiography, I Used To Be An Animal, But I’m All Right Now. Shortly afterwards, a full length biography appeared written by fellow Englishman Jeff Kent, entitled The Last Poet: The Story of Eric Burdon. Burdon then released his long-awaited autobiographical LP/CD, I Used To Be an Animal, featuring the title track, Run for Your Life, and I Will Be With You Again. After touring he assisted on The Late Show With David Letterman’s bandmaster Paul Shaffer’s CD Coast to Coast, where he performed Room With a View. In 1991, Good Times, a massive Burdon recording history was published by Dionisio Castello. As all of these projects were evolving, Deliliah Music Pictures was completing the 1991 video documentary, Finally…Eric Burdon & The Animals. That same year he was consulted by Jenny Boyd for her study of music and creativity, later published as Musicians in Tune.
Burdon followed his guest appearance in Oliver Stone’s film The Doors with a collaboration with ex-Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. The Eric Burdon-Robby Krieger Band toured North America, featuring Animals classics as well as their own renditions of Roadhouse Blues, Back Door Man, Don’t Bring Me Down and Louie, Louie. During this tour he was reintroduced to keyboard-great Brian Auger. The two later formed The Eric Burdon-Brian Auger Band, which led to a world tour and the critically-acclaimed, live, double-CD, Access All Areas; this CD set featured, in addition to all the Burdon classics, I Just Want To Make Love To You, Elmore James, and the bonus studio-track, 16 Tons. In 1994 he and the original Animals were inducted into Cleveland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and in 1995 he made a special guest appearance at the HBO Concert For The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Burdon and his duet partner Jon Bon Jovi were singled out by reviewers for their no-nonsense renditions of It’s My Life & We Gotta Get Outta This Place. Thereafter, he was invited to the 1995 Bumpershoot Jimi Hendrix Tribute Concert where he joined Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell, Dr. John and others for a long overdue memorial performance. The year was capped off by a 30-minute British documentary on Eric Burdon & The Animals, featured as part of the My Generation television series. Before the end of the decade childhood friend George Pearson would publish his autobiographical tale, Sex, Brown Ale, and Rhythm & Blues: The Life That Gave Rise to the Animals; and, in 1996, Burdon (covering Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man”), James Taylor, Ian Anderson, Gino Vannelli and many others assisted in the Mark Craney Benefit CD, Something With a Pulse!.
Throughout the mid 1990’s Burdon toured as “Eric Burdon’s I-Band” featuring ex-Tower of Power & Jethro Tull-drummer Mark Craney, guitarists Larry Wilkins & Dean Restum and bassist Dave Meros. After Craney was forced to retire and awaiting a kidneytransplant, the band regrouped around legendary ex-Bluesbreakers-Mothers of Invention- Jeff Beck-Journey-Jefferson Starship-Whitesnake percussionist Aynsley Dunbar. It was at this time that the band’s sound took final form and the plans were laid for live recordings – done primarily to compete with the ever-growing bootleg industry. The result was two “Official Live Bootleg” CD’s issued under the Flyin’ Eye Records-label. This incarnation of the band toured relentlessly throughout the mid-to-late1990’s. In May 1997, Wilkins passed away following a long battle with cancer. Neal Morse stepped in on both guitars and keyboards, and the I-Band was eventually back on track. In short fare, the band was again ready to record another live project, Official Live Bootleg #2 – which includes an excellent version of an often-recorded Jagger-Richards track, Paint It Black; the addition of Morse, and his work on Paint It Black reminded many fans of the keyboard significance of any Burdon-based project. By 1999 Morse had retired to pursue other projects, but not before assisting Burdon on the charity-based project, The British Rock Symphony; Morse was replaced by keyboardist and violinist Martin Gerschwitz. In 2000 Eric published his second autobiography “Don’t let me be misunderstood” with the help of J. Marshall Craig. “I put my life in a box and now I move into the new century”, Burdon said about his second book. It was translated to German and Greek and published in many countries worldwide. In the Australian, German and Greek version a special bonus CD comes with the book featuring 3 previously unreleased songs, including a string version of House of the Rising Sun. On Eric’s 60th birthday, Eric and the original members of The Animals were inducted into the Rock Walk of Fame and had a birthday party at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles where Burdon for two nights joined musicians and friends on stage. That was the last time Burdon played with Dave Rowberry before he passed away. With Dean Restum on guitars, Dave Meros on bass, Martin Gerschwitz on keyboards, and Bernie Pershey replacing Aynsley Dunbar on drums. This group of Animals toured together very successfully until 2005. They released a live CD together called Athens Traffic – live, recorded in Athens, Greece during the 2004 European tour.
In 2004 Burdon released his first solo studio album in many years called My Secret Life. Produced by Grammy-award winner Tony Braunagel, recorded in Johnny Lee Schell’s recording studio in Studio City, CA, musicians include Braunagel, Schell, Ivan Neville, Hutch Hutchinson and Red Young who in 2006 joined the latest incarnation of The Animals.
In early 2005 Burdon ventured into new frontiers with a boogie-woogie project featuring Pete York on drums and Christoph Steinbach on piano as The Blues Knights. The trio completed a very successful mini-tour through Greece.
In late 2005 Burdon found himself back in the studio with the same pool of musicians and Tony Braunagel as producer. This album was released in January 2006. Where can you find Eric Burdon these days? As made explicit in his autobiographical song The Road, “I don’t live – if I don’t play this rock ‘n’ roll”. Albeit, the road is where he is. The proof of this is a world tour with a new group of Animals featuring Eric McFadden on guitars, Paula O’Rourke on bass, Red Young on keyboards and Tony Braunagel on drums.
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