News Column

Still all right after soundtrack heyday

September 18, 2013


Sept. 18--Kenny Loggins wouldn't be the first chart-topping performer to owe his success to luck and the right connections, but he is the rare guy who actually cops to it.

"My career has always been a series of lucky breaks, or at least that's the way it seems," said Loggins, during a phone interview from his home in Santa Barbara. "Or maybe just having the right kind of friends at the right time."

Lightning has struck more than once for Loggins, who made a name for himself with songwriting partner Jim Messina in the free-and-easy '70s and then as the go-to guy for the golden age of movie soundtracks a decade later. Loggins, 65, will draw on his genre-hopping and vast catalog when he entertains Bakersfield fans Saturday at the Fox Theater.

"Bakersfield will get the Kenny Loggins 'hits' show," the singer said. "I have a full band and will do all the songs people expect to hear."

As a fresh-faced twentysomething with a big smile, flowing mountain man locks and acoustic guitar, Loggins got his foot in the door when he met Messina, who, with his former band Poco, was a pioneer of California's country rock scene of the early '70s.

"My age at that time was considered to be pretty young, so it was a little hard to be taken seriously," Loggins said. "I came in through Jimmy Messina, who already had great credentials."

After the duo parted ways in 1976, Loggins set out on a solo career with an already substantial number of best-selling works on his resume and some high-profile industry contacts. Though he couldn't have known it at the time, his next big career phase would come courtesy of the big screen. His first project: "Caddyshack."

"The memories which stand out the clearest from after I went solo start with 'Caddyshack.' I was incredibly lucky to be the resident musician at a time when a lot of careers were about to take off, like Bill Murray's, and the apex of Rodney Dangerfield's career."

Loggins' song "I'm Alright" put him in regular radio and MTV rotation, and kicked off an unprecedented run of movie-inspired hits, including tunes from "Footloose" and "Top Gun." The latter film launched "Danger Zone," a hit penned by Italian disco composer Giorgio Moroder.

"'Top Gun' was a cattle call. Everybody was showing up to pitch material. I decided to write for the 'Top Gun' volleyball scene, called 'Playin' With the Boys,' because nobody else would. I got a call from Giorgio while I was in the studio asking if I was available to sing the song he'd written called 'Danger Zone.' I wasn't supposed to sing 'Danger Zone.' One of the acts on the list was Toto; the other was one of those hair bands from the time. I went in the next day, and they used it."

Today, the opportunity to write pop music for soundtracks is rare, with studios opting for the moodiness of silence over the need for a radio hit.

"Radio and MTV was excited to have a theme song to a movie in those days," Loggins said. "The song would sell the movie. The movie would sell the song. Now, you almost never get to write music for a screenplay. If you do, you're usually brought in at the end as an afterthought. With 'Footloose' it was the opposite. They loved the songs and so the actors in the movie are actually dancing to my music as it was recorded, not someone else's for the scene. I think that's the reason why that movie worked so well. It doesn't happen today, because it's become overdone."

As glorious as those days were, Loggins -- who also has written hits for others, including Michael McDonald, Barbra Streisand and Stevie Nicks -- said he'd much rather set his sights on the future.

"I have to give a shout to the legacy acts still out there working and want to keep working. They don't get the same encouragement after a while, because in the pop world, they don't wanna know about you after 40. It's something called 'ageism.'"


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