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Van Dyke Parks - Venerable, indispensible local composer

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Kevin Ferguson

Van Dyke Parks holding his companion, Jubal Early.

Off-Ramp's Kevin Ferguson talks with Van Dyke Parks on the heels of a new book on his 1968 debut album, Song Cycle.

But Parks is much more than an influential solo artist: composer for films like "The Jungle Book," "Popeye," Sesame Street's "Follow That Bird," lyricist behind the wildly acclaimed but never released Beach Boys album Smile, producer and collaborator with artists new and old like the Byrds, Phil Ochs, Joanna Newsom, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman and many more.

This story comes in three parts. In part one, Van Dyke talks about his introduction to music: as a young child listening to Spike Jones, then later a session player and arranger for Walt Disney Pictures. Part two, he talks about his infamous solo album, Song Cycle, which at the time was the most expensive album Warner Brothers Records had ever produced. In part three, Van Dyke talks about what is probably his most enduring collaboration: Smile. The botched Beach Boys album has been released on the internet in various different incarnations, and Brian Wilson himself took a stab at doing the album again in 2004. But Van Dyke has trouble seeing what all the fuss is about, and he talks about his more recent collaborations with even more fervor.


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