Kenny Loggins wonders where yacht rock came from

The theme of yachting rock can be a polarizing one—particularly what works and doesn’t fit the genre. Kenny Loggins could be considered the godfather of this format, but he wonders where it came from.

The topic came to light during a lengthy discussion on It’s still fine, a new memoir that spares no effort when it comes to covering Loggins’ career in great detail. He spoke with UCR on a number of topics, including his huge success on movie soundtracks, as well as his long-running collaboration and friendship with Michael MacDonald.

Loggins says he tried to get MacDonald and Tom Johnston together as collaborators long before the Doobie Brothers’ ongoing reunion tour. He also gives insights into yachting rock, of which his music eventually became a huge part – although Loggins would have changed things if he had input on the subject.

I enjoyed the things you wrote in the book about your collaborative relationship and friendship with Michael MacDonald. What interests you about what Michael would do with your songs versus what you did with your own versions?
The main thing I learned is that when you record a song you wrote with Michael, he has to be on the piano. No studio pianist comes close to what he does – because he’s self-taught and he’s [learned] From the direction of the black gospel and [artists like] Ray Charles. With Michael, the sense of melody is always in his hands. even when [David] Me and Foster Choir [1982’s] “Heart to Heart” When I went to Michael for the verses, he set the tone for the song. This was the part [Loggins imitates the section] That tuned the entire tune from that point on.

It’s really in Michael’s hands, the way he plays it, she says.
definitely. The most important thing about Michael and his style is in their hands. I’ve pushed him out of his style a few times. You’ll notice when we co-wrote [1988’s] “It’s dangerous,” that’s more of a Kenny command — but he’s still trying to personalize it. I love his voice in that song. He really sings his ass [with that] something faster rhythm. We did one too [in 2003] It’s called “It’s time”, with which we met later. I wanted Tommy Johnston to write the verses, just because I wanted to be the force of reconciliation between these two. Not quite meet. Tommy didn’t want to cross the bridge. So I went for a white type of James Brown [approach] on the verses. [Loggins imitates a bit of Brown’s signature vocal style.] I mean, it’s like a verse speaking and then getting into that big melodic chorus.

Hear from Kenny Loggins and Michael MacDonald in From Heart to Heart

How does Michael push you technically?
Oh, for simplicity. I think its melodic forms are all about the sine and all the essential elements of that melody. Keep it simple. You can hear the difference in [1982’s] “I have to try,” as the groove road returns. [Loggins sings the verse.] I’m not sure what era Four Tops came from, but it looks something like this. [Laughs.] And for me, I always end up with more of the white frontal nervous thing. To me, that was probably akin to Daryl Hall’s version of Philadelphia [soul]The tempo is more loud and a little aggressive. [Loggins demonstrates the rhythm.] I’m not sure, this could be the Four Seasons, you know. They always put that four straight hand clap. I love the R&B era that Michael seems to focus primarily on. It’s very easy, very cute.

Where do you think the yacht rock came from? I get asked about it all the time. As for me, I always say we didn’t try to invent a new style of pop music. We were internalizing the spirit in which we were raised. We were kind of doing the Isley Brothers. We were doing Marvin Gaye. You can see in Michael Motown’s albums, his influence from that era. We would all come to him and bring with him what jazz really took, [with] R&B. That era of smooth jazz was absorbing R&B and R&B was in a much smoother place at the time. Speaking of Tommy Johnston, Tommy was coming from an earlier air. To me, Tommy was closer to the Aretha Franklin era. [Loggins sings a section of “Long Train Runnin.’] “Down around the corner/half a mile from hereThis is R&B. I always thought Tommy and Michael should write together, because they come from very similar eras, where their roots are – but that’s neither here nor there.

Now that Michael is back on tour with the Doobie Brothers, we hope so. It’s going to be a really fun match.
Yes, pairing Tommy’s rock rim with Michael’s soul rim would be an interesting thing to hear, if they could marry him. But yeah, where the hell did we invent that thing that came to be called yachting rock? I host a rock yacht show for SiriusXM when I arrive in New York. They wanted me to pick 25 of my favorite yacht-rock songs. Well, I didn’t have 25 of my favorite yacht rock songs. [Laughs.] Some of these songs aren’t great, but they have that smooth pop thing that has been very popular for a while. I don’t know where it actually came from.

It’s interesting, because he seems to have started with a little bit of humor about the whole thing.
If you listen, they seem to have identified yacht rock as a blue-eyed spirit. In other words, the white men’s version of black music, and that would be its death. This racist attitude toward music would be really – you know, I could have picked 25 yacht-rock songs by black artists who officiated by the Isley Brothers.

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