Richard Barone

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Richard Barone
Barone Carnegie.jpg
Richard Barone at Carnegie Hall, New York City, October 1, 2008
Background information
BornTampa, Florida, U.S.
GenresRock, alternative rock, folk rock, power pop, chamber pop
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, author, musical director, record producer, concert producer
InstrumentsGuitar, bass, Mellotron, Stylophone, Waterphone
Years active1980s–present
Associated acts

Richard Barone is an American rock musician who first gained attention as frontman for the Bongos. He works as a songwriter, arranger, author, director, and record producer, releases albums as a solo artist, tours, and has created concert events at Carnegie Hall, Hollywood Bowl, SXSW, and New York's Central Park. He serves on the Board of Governors for The Recording Academy (Grammys), the Board of Advisors for Anthology Film Archives, and is affiliated with the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.


Richard Barone was born in Tampa, Florida, and began his career at age seven on local top-40 radio station WALT (now known as WTIS) as the Littlest DJ.[1] By age sixteen he was producing recordings for local bands as well as for idiosyncratic performer Tiny Tim, who suggested Barone should live in Greenwich Village.[2] Moving to New York, he lived briefly at the Hotel Chelsea, modeled, and landed small acting roles.[3] An ad in the Village Voice newspaper[3] led him to co-found and become the lead singer and songwriter for the Bongos, a critically acclaimed new wave band[4] that helped to create the early 1980s Hoboken, New Jersey, music scene.[5] After a string of independent singles released on the UK-based Fetish label were compiled for the U.S. as Drums Along the Hudson (PVC), the group signed to RCA Records where, with the advent of MTV, they made commercial impact with the Barone-penned "Numbers With Wings". As a solo artist, Barone's albums have included chamber pop, orchestral, and narrative singer-songwriter material.[6] He has been called a "gifted pop-rock tunesmith" by The New York Times.[7]

Barone released his first solo album, Cool Blue Halo (recorded live at The Bottom Line in New York) before the Bongos' breakup in 1987. Anthony DeCurtis, writing in Rolling Stone, praised Barone's "spare, elegant arrangements" and credited him with fashioning "a kind of rock chamber music."[8] While Trouser Press described the record as "intimate but confused",[9] NPR's Tom Moon, in a more recent assessment, called the album "a plaintive masterpiece", and credited Barone with foreshadowing Nirvana's Unplugged performance of David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World," adding "Cool Blue Halo feels timeless, and maybe even exotic."[10]

Two studio albums followed: the rock-dominated Primal Dream (MCA Records) in 1990, and the more acoustic-based Clouds Over Eden (Warner Bros. Records), dedicated to his late friend, rock journalist Nicholas Schaffner, in 1994. Trouser Press championed the "fine set of yearning love songs" on Primal Dream, while calling their production and arrangements as a "step backwards" from his debut album.[9] But David Browne, writing in Rolling Stone, gave the album four stars and commented that "Barone is fast moving beyond the limited vocabulary of twelve strings and wimp-pop vocals."[11] Billy Altman, in The New York Times, called his next album, Clouds Over Eden "unquestionably the most fully realized effort of Barone's career,"[12] while Trouser Press described the album as "wrenching and thoroughly worthwhile" and "the great album fans always imagined [Barone] making."[9]

In the mid-90s Barone performed with experimental guitarist Gary Lucas and his group Gods and Monsters. Barone recorded "I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City" for the album For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson (BMG Records) and produced B-52's frontman Fred Schneider's version of "Coconut" for the project For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson, performing the song with Schneider on Late Night With Conan O'Brien [3]. In 1997, Barone released Between Heaven and Cello, an album recorded live at NYC's intimate Fez nightclub. A boxed set of his first three studio albums was released in Europe in 2000 as The Big Three.[13] In 2004 he released, on his own RBM label, a limited edition solo anthology entitled Collection: An Embarrassment of Richard, composed of personal favorites from his back catalogue.[14]

Barone then again turned his attention to producing, helming recordings including a duet between Liza Minnelli and pianist/vocalist Johnny Rodgers [4], a children's album for Jolie Jones (daughter of Quincy Jones) [5], Fred Schneider for his solo album Just Fred, and others. As a producer/director, he created large-scale concert events, including all-star tributes to Peggy Lee at Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and Chicago's Ravinia Festival in 2003 and 2004,[15] and concerts for New York's Central Park SummerStage [6].

Other projects included executive-producing The Nomi Song DVD (Palm Pictures, 2005), which includes his remix of operatic New Wave countertenor Klaus Nomi's "Total Eclipse" ;[16] musical direction and orchestration for the off-Broadway musical Bright Lights, Big City at the New York Theatre Workshop (with Rent director Michael Greif) ;[17] as well as directing and performing in The Downtown Messiah, a unique, multi-genre interpretation of Handel's baroque oratorio that was broadcast annually on over 200 public radio stations nationwide from 1999 to 2004 .[18][19] His songs and collaborations, including several written with singer-songwriter Jill Sobule, were heard on the TV shows The West Wing, Dawson's Creek, Felicity, and South of Nowhere.[20] In 2004, Barone joined his childhood inspiration Donovan for series of the latter's Beat Café concert events, including nine performances at New York's Joe's Pub at which he sang and read excerpts from Allen Ginsberg's Howl.[21] Later, in 2008, he was guest performer and musical director for a Donovan concert which was recorded and released on DVD.[22]

Richard Barone (right) with Moby in the studio mixing the Bongos in 2006. Photo by Brian T. Silak.

In 2006, he and the original Bongos reunited in the studio with Moby to create a new version of "The Bulrushes", an early Bongos single, and a music video for the special edition re-issue of the group's debut album. The expanded collection, Drums Along the Hudson - Special Edition, was released by Cooking Vinyl Records in June 2007. Several Bongos reunion concerts were held, culminating with an outdoor concert in Hoboken, at which the band was honored with a Mayoral Proclamation and the keys to the city [7].

In September 2007, Barone's memoir, Frontman: Surviving the Rock Star Myth, with a nude cover photo of the author by Mick Rock, was published by Backbeat/Hal Leonard Books. That same month, his complete solo catalog was re-launched at the iTunes Store.[23] In late 2007, he began staging a series of 'musical readings' of Frontman with excerpts of the book read by television actress Joyce DeWitt and radio personality Vin Scelsa, among others. On his birthday, October 1, 2008, he brought Frontman: A Musical Reading to the stage at Carnegie Hall in New York City, with "Special Guests and Legendary Friends," including Moby, Lou Reed, the Band's Garth Hudson, Marshall Crenshaw, Terre and Suzzy Roche, Randy Brecker, Carlos Alomar, DeWitt and others as a benefit for public radio station WFUV.[24]

In July 2009, Barone entered the recording studio to complete production work on the album he began at age 16 for performer Tiny Tim. The album, "I've Never Seen a Straight Banana - Rare Moments: Volume 1", was released in October 2009 on Collector's Choice Records [8].

In May 2010, Barone produced, a concert to benefit Anthology Film Archives and honor avant-garde filmmaker/author Kenneth Anger, who performed along with Lou Reed, Sonic Youth, the Virgins, Jonas Mekas and his ensemble, Moby, actors Ben Foster and Philip Seymour Hoffman. In July, he collaborated with Pete Seeger (then 91 years old), producing and performing in "Reclaim the Coast: Gulf Coast Oil Spill Benefit" at City Winery in New York. Then, in August 2010, he and co-producer Matthew Billy recorded Seeger performing aboard the Sloop Clearwater. The song and video, "God's Counting on Me, God's Counting on You" were released on Election Day 2012.[25][26]

Glow, Barone's fifth solo album, helmed by producer Tony Visconti, was released in September 2010 on Bar/None Records.[27] A majority of the album was also co-written with Visconti. Also working on the project were producers Steve Rosenthal and Steve Addabbo, songwriter Paul Williams, engineer Leslie Ann Jones (at George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch), photographer Mick Rock, and others.[28] That same month, a portrait of Barone appeared in Rock's career retrospective photography book Exposed: The Faces of Rock n' Roll [9].

A tour of the U.S. and the UK followed in early 2011. In August, Barone was named by Jonas Mekas to the Board of Advisors of Anthology Film Archives.[29] In that same month, he was named music supervisor on the feature documentary Addicted to Fame about Anna Nicole Smith. In Fall 2011, Richard made a cameo appearance in the film "Mr. Bricks: A Heavy Metal Murder Musical".[30][31]

On the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Barone and frequent collaborator Matthew Billy created a special version of the 1894 song The Sidewalks of New York.[32][33] In December 2011, Barone was appointed as a professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University where he began teaching "Stage Presence: The Art of Performance."[34] That same month, he released Collection 2: Before & Afterglow, mining his back catalogue to his pre-Bongos days and including recent work such as the Sidewalks single.[10]

Richard Barone (right) and frequent collaborator Matthew Billy on the set of the "Hey, Can I Sleep On Your Futon?" video in April 2012.

In March, 2012 Barone contributed a song to the Occupy This Album project.[35] The four-disc set, to benefit the Occupy Wall Street Movement, was released on May 15, 2012. Co-written with Matthew Billy, "Hey, Can I Sleep On Your Futon?" was a new song with contemporary references that was inspired by "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?", a popular song from the Great Depression. Both the track and music video were included on the original album download.[36] Barone also performed at a series of concerts with other artists on the Occupy album including Michael Moore, David Amram, and Tom Chapin [11].

On May 4, 2012, for the 25th Anniversary of the Cool Blue Halo album, a reunion concert was held at City Winery in New York. The concert was filmed and recorded as part of a multi-disc box set released by DigSin Records.[37] In September 2012, he released the first single from the project, "I Belong To Me".[38] That same month, the Anna Nicole Smith documentary was released, along with Barone's single "(She's A Real) Live Wire" from the film. In December, I Belong To Me: The 'Cool Blue Halo' Story premiered at Anthology Film Archives, followed by a performance by Barone and musicians from the album. On the occasion of the box set's release, Donovan wrote: "Well-deserved appreciation to Richard on this 25th anniversary release of his album 'Cool Blue Halo.' He displayed the stance early, like the minstrel/actor/playwright of Renaissance London. We met and have shared many a stage together... I have always loved Ricardo's 'Bar-oque and Roll' music. Shine On Ricardo, Shine!" [12]

In June 2013, Barone joined forces with Beach Boys co-founder Al Jardine and friends to record a version of Pete Seeger's folk anthem "If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)" for the ONE Campaign, produced by Steve Addabbo at Shelter Island Sound studios in New York. The video was released as ONE Campaign's worldwide protest song project.[39]

Richard Barone (right) & Al Jardine recording Pete Seeger's "If I Had A Hammer (The Hammer Song)" in June 2013.

The Bongos reunited on July 31, 2013, to perform the final concert at their home club, Maxwell's, in Hoboken where the original members had also performed the venue's first show.[40][41] From the stage Richard announced that the group's long-lost album Phantom Train, recorded in Compass Point, Bahamas in 1986, would finally be released on October 1, 2013 on the JEM label. The label also re-issued the Special Edition of the Bongos' Drums Along The Hudson shortly thereafter.[42]

On March 14, 2014, Barone partnered with longtime friend and collaborator Alejandro Escovedo to produce a tribute to the late Lou Reed at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, as part of the SXSW Music Festival. The three-hour concert featured over twenty-four acts including Suzanne Vega, Lucinda Williams, Sean Lennon, and Spandau Ballet. The house band included members of Blondie, the Patti Smith Group, and the Voidoids. The event was praised in Rolling Stone and other publications as a highlight of the festival.[43] Barone also released a recording of Reed's All Tomorrow's Parties, produced by Chris Seefried with a video by Jonas Mekas assembled from footage of the early Velvet Underground at Andy Warhol's Factory.[44] In October 2014 he launched a live, monthly musical talk show series at the SubCulture theatre in New York entitled "A Circle of Songs". Guests included Eric Andersen, Nellie McKay, and Holly Near.[45]

As 2015 began, Barone co-produced, with his friend and collaborator Tony Visconti, a retrospective concert of Visconti's most famous work at New York's City Winery entitled "The TV Show." [13] He had also begun work on a new album Sorrows & Promises: Greenwich Village in the 1960s, composed of songs that emerged from the early days of the Greenwich Village singer-songwriter scene. The album was curated by journalist/Columbia Records executive Mitchell Cohen, with sessions produced by Steve Addabbo and featuring guest appearances from Dion, John Sebastian and David Amram. The project was coordinated by PledgeMusic with fans invited to participate and pre-order. [14]. A series of musical panel discussions chronicling the music on Sorrows & Promises, hosted by the New York Public Library at the historic Jefferson Market Library branch in Greenwich Village preceded the album's October 14, 2016 release. [15] In March 2017, Barone brought the "Sorrows & Promises" project to the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas where he hosted a five-and-a-half hour concert official showcase based on the album, with over twenty international artists including Jesse Colin Young and Robin Hitchcock.[46][47]

Back in the studio, Barone produced an album for jazz singer Hilary Kole of songs made famous by Judy Garland [16] and a various-artists holiday album for the Miranda Music label on which he appears [17], as well as a second album of recordings made by Tiny Tim, entitled Tiny Tim's America, released in summer 2016 [18]. In addition, he served as executive producer of the musical Tiny, based on the life of Tiny Tim [19], and produced a songbook album for composer Tracy Stark featuring performances by Lesley Gore, Karen Black, and Nona Hendryx, released in October 2016 [20]. A tribute to David Bowie followed in December, which he directed and performed in along with Wesley Stace, Elvis Perkins, Jeffrey Gaines, and others [21]. Barone contributed liner notes to the vinyl re-issue of The Holy Mackerel, the debut of the 1960s band featuring his friend Paul Williams [22]. Later, in 2018, he would contribute liner notes for Williams' 1970 album Someday Man [23].

Richard Barone advocates for the Music Modernization Act (MMA) with Senator Patrick Leahy in April 2018, Washington D.C.

Throughout 2017, he toured in promotion of Sorrows & Promises with a variety of special guest performers including Elvis Perkins, Ricky Byrd, Eric Bazilian, Cliff Eberhardt, and others. In April 2017, he was elected to the Board of Governors of the New York Chapter of The Recording Academy (The Grammys) [24]. In December 2017 he began producing a Dean Martin tribute EP for NJ-based group Remember Jones that featured a duet with Martin's daughter Deana [25]. He also sang on recordings for producer Hal Willner's forthcoming Marc Bolan/T.Rex tribute album for BMG Records, contributing vocals to tracks by several artists including Kesha [26].

On March 29, 2018, Barone performed at Brooklyn Museum with Burnt Sugar Arkestra in The Bowie Songbook, a reinterpretation of David Bowie's catalogue as part of the museum's David Bowie Is installation [27]. In March, he also began a monthly Village Nights salon series at the historic Washington Square Hotel in New York City [28]. In April it was announced that Barone would host and curate Music + Revolution: Greenwich Village in the 1960s at City Parks Foundation's SummerStage in Central Park [29] on August 12, 2018. Performers included Jesse Colin Young, Melanie, José Feliciano, Maria Muldaur, John Sebastian, and a diverse roster of artists. The next week it was announced that Richard had joined the faculty of The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music and was set to teach a 15-week course with the same title as the Central Park concert.[48]

Also in April 2018, Barone represented the New York Chapter of the Recording Academy for Grammys on the Hill in Washington D.C., meeting with Congress in support of the Music Modernization Act (MMA), an omnibus bill supporting the rights of music creators. He met with Senator Patrick Leahy, Congressman David Cicilline, Representative Joseph Crowley, Representative Nancy Pelosi, and the office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.[49] Barone also met with New York Representative Jerrold Nadler, key supporter of the Music Modernization Act.[50] The bill passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and was signed into law on October 11, 2018.[51][52]

In January 2019, Barone accompanied Donovan for a series of recordings in Jamaica for a tribute to Harry Belafonte. Produced by Wayne Jobson at Zak Starkey's Trojan Jamaica studio, the album Jump in the Line: A Tribute to Harry Belafonte was released in May 2019. Barone also photographed Donovan for the cover of the album's first single. [53]

Richard Barone lives in Greenwich Village, New York City. Between continuing his production work, writing, and his professorship at The New School University, he tours and performs regularly.[54]

Selected Discography[edit]

For the Bongos' discography, see the Bongos.
  • Nuts and Bolts (1983), with James Mastro; produced by Barone, Mastro, and Mitch Easter (Passport Records)
  • Cool Blue Halo (1987), recorded live at The Bottom Line, New York City (Passport Records); Deluxe Edition released in 2012.
  • Primal Dream (1990), produced by Richard Gottehrer and Don Dixon (MCA Records)
  • Primal Cuts (1991), remixes by Ben Grosse and live tracks (Line Records, Germany)
  • Clouds over Eden (1993), produced by Hugh Jones (MESA/Bluemoon/Atlantic Records)
  • Between Heaven and Cello (1997), recorded live (Line Records, Germany)
  • The Big Three (2000), box set (Line Records, Germany)
  • Collection: An Embarrassment of Richard (2004), compilation (RBM Special Editions)
  • Glow (2010), produced by Tony Visconti, Steve Addabbo, Steve Rosenthal, and Richard Barone (Bar/None Records); Deluxe Edition released in 2019.
  • Collection 2: Before & Afterglow (2011), compilation (RBM Special Editions/Billy Barone Productions); Deluxe Edition released in 2014.
  • Cool Blue Halo: 25th Anniversary Concert (2012), Deluxe live album/concert movie, CD/DVD, produced by Matthew Billy (DigSin/RBM)
  • Sorrows & Promises: Greenwich Village in the 1960s (2016), produced by Steve Addabbo (RBM Special Editions/The Orchard; Ship To Shore PhonoCo)



  • Frontman: Surviving the Rock Star Myth, Backbeat/Hal Leonard Books, 2007, ISBN 0-87930-912-1, ISBN 978-0-87930-912-1
  • Tape Op Magazine; regular contributor

Concert Productions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ Barone, Richard (2007-03-28). "Sounds of the '80s, Minus the Artifice". NPR. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Rock: Richard Barone" New York Times Review, Robert Palmer, The New York Times, Dec. 16, 1987]
  8. ^ Cool Blue Halo review, Rolling Stone Archived 2008-10-12 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b c Richard Barone reviews, Trouser Press
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Primal Dream review, Rolling Stone
  12. ^ "RECORDING VIEW; Holding True To the Idealism Of the New Wave - New York Times". 1994-02-20. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Press". Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2013-03-29. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  15. ^ Peggy Lee Tribute press release
  16. ^
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  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ "iTunes - Music - Richard Barone". Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  24. ^ "Richard Barone Music - "I Belong To Me"". Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  25. ^ "Pete Seeger - God's Counting On Me, God's Counting On You (Sloop Mix) [feat. Lorre Wyatt & friends". YouTube. 2012-11-05. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  26. ^ "iTunes - Music - God's Counting On Me, God's Counting On You (Sloop Mix) [feat. Lorre Wyatt & His Friends] - Single by Pete Seeger". 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  27. ^ Bar/None Records
  28. ^ Glow Press Release
  29. ^ Anthology Film Archives Board of Advisors
  30. ^ "Brick By Brick Press Release" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-11-20. Retrieved 2011-09-30. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  31. ^ "RICHARD BARONE - Brick by Brick (Official Music Video)". YouTube. 2010-06-18. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  32. ^ "The Sidewalks of New York 2011 - Richard Barone". YouTube. 2011-09-09. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  33. ^ "News". HITS Daily Double. 2011-09-09. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  34. ^ "Richard Barone: Tisch School of the Arts at NYU". Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  35. ^ "Artists on the Music For Occupy Label". 2012-01-23. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  36. ^ "Richard Barone - "Hey, Can I Sleep on Your Futon?" (Official Video) - Occupy This Album OWS". YouTube. 2012-04-10. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  37. ^ "Home". Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  38. ^ "Richard Barone - I Belong To Me - 'cool blue halo' 25th Anniversary Concert - Official Video". YouTube. 2012-09-06. Retrieved 2013-03-29.
  39. ^ [2]
  40. ^ Thibodeaux, Tracy (14 September 2013). "Pods o' Pop-Richard Barone (The Bongos) Part 1". Interview. Pods o' Pop. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  41. ^ Thibodeaux, Tracy (14 September 2013). "Pods o' Pop-Richard Barone (The Bongos) Part 2". Interview. Pods o' Pop. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
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External links[edit]