Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Chris Hillman: Clear Sailing

An important artist from the sixties - Christopher "Chris" Hillman (born December 4, 1944 in Los Angeles, California) was one of the original members of The Byrds, which in 1965 included Roger McGuinnGene ClarkDavid Crosby and Michael Clarke.  With frequent collaborator Gram Parsons, Hillman was a key figure in the development of country rock, defining the genre through his work with The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and the country-rock group Desert Rose Band.  Early on, Hillman considered quitting music and enrolling at UCLA - but then he received an offer from The Hillmen's former manager and producer, Jim Dickson, to join Jim (later changed to Roger) McGuinn, David Crosby, Gene Clark and Michael Clarke in a new band, called the The Byrds.  

       Hillman was recruited to play bass guitar, although he had never picked up the instrument before.  Thanks to his bluegrass background, he quickly developed his own melodic style on the instrument.  The Byrds' first single, a jangly cover of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", was an international hit and marked the birth of folk rock.  During the mid-1960s the Byrds ranked as one of the most successful and influential American pop groups; they recorded a string of hits, including "Turn! Turn! Turn!", "Eight Miles High" and "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star".  Hillman kept a low profile on the band's first two albums, on which McGuinn and Clark shared lead vocals with Crosby adding high harmony. However, Clark's departure in 1966 and Crosby's growing restlessness allowed Hillman the opportunity to develop as a singer and songwriter in the group. He came into his own on the Byrds' 1967 album Younger Than Yesterday, co-writing and sharing lead vocals with McGuinn on the hit "So You Want to Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star."  Hillman also wrote (and sang) the minor hit "Have You Seen Her Face", "Thoughts and Words", "Time Between" and "The Girl with No Name", the latter two demonstrating his bluegrass and country roots. Hillman's prominence continued with the Byrds' next album, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, on which he shared songwriting credit on seven of the album's eleven songs.

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