Roger McGuinn is 70


The Byrds, as this video makes clear, were a group of ex-folkies who were under the influence of the Beatles. They took a Bob Dylan song, processed it with a touch of Beach Boys!, which led to a number one single in the US and the UK, Mr. Tambourine Man (listen) in 1965. McGuinn’s “jangly” twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar also is featured on the US #1, Pete Seeger’s take on the book of Ecclesiastes, Turn! Turn! Turn! (to Everything There is a Season) (listen).

As the Wikipedia notes, the Byrds “were pivotal in originating the musical styles of folk rock, psychedelic rock, raga rock, and country rock. The band underwent several line-up changes throughout its existence, with frontman Roger McGuinn remaining the sole consistent member of the group until their disbandment in 1973.” And I followed them through the many sometimes stormy permutations. When David Crosby left the group just before the release of The Notorious Byrd Brothers (1968), he was pictured on the album cover as the backside of an equine.

In those early days, the “Beatles were vocal in their support of The Byrds, publicly acknowledging them as creative competitors and naming them as their favorite American group. A number of authors…have noted The Byrds influence on The Beatles’ late 1965 album Rubber Soul, most notably on the songs Nowhere Man and If I Needed Someone (listen), the latter of which utilizes the same guitar riff as The Byrds’ cover of The Bells of Rhymney (listen).”

Other hits by the Byrds – with musical links:
Eight Miles High (1966), one of the first examples of psychedelic rock
Mr. Spaceman (1966)
So You Want To Be A Rock N Roll Star (1967)
My Back Pages (1967) – another Dylan cover
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (1968) – from the classic country rock album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo

And though the group broke up back in 1973, Roger McGuinn has kept busy in the music business, as one can read on his website. The group was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

But my favorite factoid about the leader of the group is this:
James Roger McGuinn (born James Joseph McGuinn III), known professionally as Roger McGuinn…When he originally started with The Byrds, he used the name Jim, which he thought to be too plain. During 1965 McGuinn briefly explored the Subud spiritual association… McGuinn changed his name in 1967 after Subud’s founder Bapak told him it would better “vibrate with the universe.” Bapak sent Jim the letter “R” and asked him to send back ten names starting with that letter. Owing to a fascination with airplanes, gadgets and science fiction, he sent names like “Rocket”, “Retro”, “Ramjet”, and “Roger”, the latter a term used in signalling protocol over two-way radios, military and civil aviation. Roger was the only “real” name in the bunch and Bapak chose it.

Good pick. Happy birthday, Roger McGuinn.

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5 thoughts on “Roger McGuinn is 70

  1. Man, Rich beat me to the Roger Ramjet reference! The Byrds get heavy play in praise services when the Book of Ecclesiastes comes around… Turn, Turn, Turn is perhaps the best pop song to come from the Bible, along with “One of Us”!

    So Roger, do a piece on health care if you haven’t already, please. My post cited numerous reasons why Americans DON’T want it (as George Harrison would sing, “I, Me, Mine,” also the fear struck in their hearts. Could not believe how many FOX talking points turned up on my blog!! Let me hear about it soon! Love your blog and you, Rog. Peace, Amy

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