When Elliott Murphy emerged with his 1973 debut Aquashow, late Rolling Stone critic Paul Nelson said it was the best Dylan album since 1968. Up until he left to become an American ex-pat in Paris in 1989, Murphy made his hay releasing a string of critically acclaimed albums produced by the likes of Paul Rothchild (The Doors/Janis Joplin) and his former sideman and future Talking Head Jerry Harrison and having plenty of famous friends guesting on these outings including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Phil Collins and Shawn Colvin.
While commercial success eluded him, the Garden City native culled quite a devoted European following that led to his moving overseas. He’s continued releasing albums, with the latest being his thirty-fifth release, last year’s Prodigal Son. And now it’s come full circle, with longtime friend Joel inducting him into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. During a recent chat over French onion soup at a Parisian cafe, the 69-year-old rock and roll fan shared who some of his favorite singer-songwriters are.
Bruce Springsteen (Sept. 23, 1949 to present)
“Bruce Springsteen can put a smile on rock and roll. Before Bruce, things were turning a little decadent with rock bands. With Bruce, there’s just something very pure and positive about him. Bruce wrote about some very hard realities, but always with optimism. His work ethic is just unbelievable. Every time I see Bruce play, I learn something. Even though we were born around the same time and we’re around the same age, he’s like an older brother to me. He’s really shown me the way. He comes from New Jersey, and I do hold that against him. But our roots are the same.”
Bob Dylan (May 24, 1941 to present)
“He is the Picasso of rock and roll. He opened the door for lyrics being about more than falling in and out of love. All the songs before that were were about how you were in love and happy or you were out of love and you’re unhappy. It was just nonsense. And Bob Dylan just expanded it exponentially.”
Lou Reed (March 2, 1942 to October 27, 2013)
“Lou is a homeboy like me. He’s a New Yorker—a Long Islander. He was the one who was not afraid to push rock and roll and say it was art. So I really admire that about him. He wrote some songs—I still love to play ‘Sweet Jane.’ He was always pushing the envelope. Lou was complicated. He could be your best friend or you didn’t want to be near him sometimes. And it was even worse if you were a journalist.”
Paul Simon (October 13, 1941 to present)
“He’s incredible. In terms of constructing songs, he may be the master. When he started working with the South African musicians on Graceland that was a real breakthrough.”
Jackson Browne (October 9, 1949 to present)
“It’s foreign for a Long Islander, but he captures that teenage Californian vibe, but smart. It was the Beach Boys but smart. Just the rhyme structure in ‘Take It Easy.’ ‘It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford/Slowin’ down to take a look at me.’ Plus all the activism he did. He was the next generation with No Nukes and all that stuff.”
Joni Mitchell (November 7, 1943 to present)
“She’s like the Dali of rock and roll. She writes songs like nobody else.”
Lucinda Williams (January 26, 1953 to present)
“I love Lucinda Williams. That southern Gothic vibe she gets is great.”
Elliott Murphy will be getting inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on Nov. 8. The induction ceremony will take place at The Space at Westbury, 250 Post Ave., Westbury. For more information, www.limusichalloffame.org. Murphy will also be appearing on Nov. 9 at My Father’s Place at the Roslyn Hotel, 1221 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn. For more information, visit www.myfathersplace.com or call 516-625-2700.