Friday, August 15, 2008

Flatbush by way of Woodstock

One more Kaptain Kool and the Kongs/Krofft Supershow/World of Sid & Marty Krofft/CNN Center/Atlanta-related post and then I'll shut up.

A relatively unknown New York-based singer/songwriter named Bert Sommer played "Flatbush" in Kaptain Kool and the Kongs. Earlier in his career, Sommer replaced "Walk Away Renee" singer Michael Brown in the Left Banke and played with Leslie West in a band called the Vagrants before West left to form Mountain.

After starring in the West Coast and Broadway productions of Hair, Sommer released an album on Capitol Records in 1968. The label didn't keep him, but his career was promising enough to net a spot on the bill at Woodstock. However, his performance didn't make the movie and he doesn't even have his name engraved on the monument at the Woodstock site. Sommer died in 1990 at age 41 of respiratory problems.

Here's some footage shot by D.A. Pennebaker of Sommer performing a haunting love song called "Jennifer" at Woodstock 39 years ago today. I think it's quite good. Sommer's voice is distinctively emotive and guitarist Ira Stone's flowing solos remind me of Jorma Kaukonen from Jefferson Airplane.

According to the official Bert Sommer website, "Jennifer" was written about Jennifer Warnes, a fellow performer in the West Coast production of Hair. At the same time Sommer was playing Flatbush on Saturday morning TV, Warnes had a major pop hit with "Right Time of the Night." She later had the distinction of singing on two number one soundtrack duets - 1982's "Up Where We Belong" with Joe Cocker and 1987's "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" with Bill Medley. Warnes also lived in Austin for a time in the Seventies and the Nineties.

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