Van Dyke Parks

born on 3/1/1943 in Hattiesburg, MS, United States

Van Dyke Parks

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Van Dyke Parks

Van Dyke Parks (born January 3, 1943) is an American composer, arranger, producer, musician, singer, author and actor. Parks is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Brian Wilson, and especially for his contributions as a lyricist to the Beach Boys album Smile and Wilson's 2008 solo project, "That Lucky Old Sun (album)".

Parks has worked with such notable performers as Phil Ochs, Haruomi Hosono, Delaney Bramlett, The Byrds, Loudon Wainwright III, Rufus Wainwright, Harry Nilsson, Silverchair, Ry Cooder, Joanna Newsom, Inara George, Keith Moon, Frank Zappa, and Ringo Starr.

In addition to producing, Parks has released six studio albums of his own recordings: Song Cycle, Discover America, Clang of the Yankee Reaper, Jump!, Tokyo Rose, and with Brian Wilson, Orange Crate Art. He has also released a live album, Moonlighting: Live at the Ash Grove.

Early career

Born in 1943 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and reared in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Parks attended the American Boychoir School in Princeton, New Jersey. He began his career as a child actor. Between 1953 and 1958 he worked steadily in films and television, including the 1956 movie The Swan (which starred Grace Kelly). He appeared as Ezio Pinza's son Andrew Bonino on the NBC television show Bonino. One of his costars on Bonino was 14-year-old Chet Allen, who appeared as Jerry Bonino. Parks and Allen were roommates at the Boychoir School. Parks also had a recurring role as Little Tommy Manacotti (the kid from upstairs) on Jackie Gleason's The Honeymooners.

Parks originally studied the clarinet, but had moved to the piano before enrolling (majoring in music) at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he studied from 1960 to 1963. In January 1963 Parks learned to play the guitar; upon dropping out of Carnegie Tech, he relocated to Los Angeles to play with his older brother Carson Parks (writer of "Somethin' Stupid") as The Steeltown Two (later enlarged to the Steeltown Three), which eventually became the folk group The Greenwood County Singers. (Parks took a short hiatus from this group, moving to New England to be part of The Brandywine Singers).

By 1964, Parks had an artist contract at MGM Records. In 1966 he was persuaded by producer Lenny Waronker to switch to Warner Bros. Records. During this time he worked frequently as a session musician, arranger and songwriter. Parks met Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson through Terry Melcher (who was then producing The Byrds). During 1966, Parks performed on The Byrds album Fifth Dimension (David Crosby had once asked Parks to consider forming a group prior to the formation of the Byrds, but Parks refused) as well as on the ill-fated Beach Boys project Smile. Also during this period, Parks' compositions, such as the hit "High Coin" for Harpers Bizarre, were becoming known for their lyrical wordplay and sharp imagery.

In 1965 Van Dyke briefly joined Frank Zappa's The Mothers of Invention on stage, where he was referred to as "Pinocchio".

Smile and subsequent relationship with Brian Wilson

Main article: Smile (The Beach Boys album)

In February 1966, Parks became acquainted socially with Brian Wilson. In his 1991 autobiography Wouldn't It Be Nice, Wilson gives his first impressions of Parks being "a skinny kid with a unique perspective", and that he "had a fondness for amphetamines" at the time.[1] Unsatisfied with Pet Sounds collaborator Tony Asher's lyrics for "Good Vibrations", Wilson first asked Parks to help him re-write the lyrics to the song; Parks refused, stating, "No sense walking into someone else's problem."[1] During the recording of "Good Vibrations" in 1966, Parks suggested to Brian Wilson that he have cellos playing eighth notes.

However, Brian Wilson soon convinced Parks to write lyrics for the Beach Boys' next LP, the ambitious but ill-fated Smile. In preparation for the writing and recording of the album, Wilson purchased several thousand dollars worth of marijuana and hashish, and also joined Parks in popping "fistfuls of Desputols (amphetamines)".[2] Several members of the Beach Boys strongly opposed Smile, notably Wilson's former collaborator Mike Love, who derided Parks' lyrics as "acid alliteration".[3]

The bitter resistance from the group and their record company had a strong negative effect on Wilson's increasingly fragile mental state (which may also have been exacerbated by drug use). Following a December 1966 recording session in which he was involved in a heated argument with Mike Love (who vehemently criticized his lyrics for the song "Cabin Essence") Parks' involvement in Smile effectively ceased and he officially withdrew from the project in early 1967. Recording sessions ground to a halt soon after, as Wilson became increasingly withdrawn, and the album was shelved a few months later.

Although Smile had dissolved, Parks' collaborations with Wilson hadn't for the time. In the early 1970s, he made minor contributions to the tracks A Day in the Life of a Tree and Sail On, Sailor.

By 1984, Parks was refused future collaborations with Wilson, instead being informed by an unnamed representative that "Mike Love is Brian Wilson's exclusive collaborator".[4] They would not work together until a few years later, during the aborted Sweet Insanity album.

Parks teamed up again with Brian Wilson in early 1995 to create the album Orange Crate Art. Parks wrote all of the songs on the album, except "This Town Goes Down At Sunset" and George Gershwin instrumental "Lullaby", with vocals by Wilson. Orange Crate Art is a tribute to the Southern California of the early 1900s, and a lyrical tribute to the beauty of Northern California.

In 2004, following the great success of his acclaimed live performances of the Beach Boys Pet Sounds album, and with the support of his band's musical director Darian Sahanaja, Wilson made the surprise announcement that he was going to finish the mythical record using his current touring band. He contacted Parks, who helped fill in gaps in the original lyrics, and the duo re-recorded the album and then presented it on a world tour, beginning with the world premiere performance at the Royal Festival Hall in London, which Parks attended.

Parks followed up this collaboration with another song cycle titled That Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative), this time with almost completely new compositions written again by Brian Wilson.

In November 2011, after 44 years, a compilation box set of sessions from The Beach Boys' Smile was finally released by Capitol Records. Parks was personally absent from its advertising campaign and liner notes, and refused to comment on the box set despite initially giving his approval.[5][6] After Mike Love suggested that Smile collapsed due to drug use in a promotional interview, Parks responded with a post on his web site that accused Love of yet again "revising facts".[7]

Solo music career

In 1968, Parks released his first solo album, Song Cycle (produced by his friend Lenny Waronker) which combined orchestral textures and traditional Americana-meets-psychedelic pop song structure. AllMusic's Jason Ankeny has described the album as
an audacious and occasionally brilliant attempt to mount a fully orchestrated, classically minded work within the context of contemporary pop. As indicated by its title, Song Cycle is a thematically coherent work, one which attempts to embrace the breadth of American popular music; bluegrass, ragtime, show tunes -- nothing escapes Parks' radar, and the sheer eclecticism and individualism of his work is remarkable. ...[T]he album is both forward-thinking and backward-minded, a collision of bygone musical styles with the progressive sensibilities of the late '60s; while occasionally overambitious and at times insufferably coy, it's nevertheless a one-of-a-kind record, the product of true inspiration.[8]

Song Cycle established Parks' signature approach of mining and updating old American musical traditions, including ragtime and New Orleans-style jazz, and includes the Randy Newman song "Vine Street". The album reportedly cost more than US$35,000 to produce, making it one of the most expensive pop albums ever recorded up to that time. Despite rave critical reviews, it sold very poorly so Warner Bros publicist Stan Cornyn wrote a tongue-in-cheek advertisement hoping to promote it. Opening with a declaration that the label had "lost $35,509 on 'the album of the year' (dammit)", the ad suggested that those who had purchased the album had probably worn their copies out by playing it over and over, and encouraged listeners to send these supposedly worn-out copies back to Warner Bros, who would exchange it for two new copies, including one "to educate a friend with". Incensed by the tactic, Parks accused Cornyn of trying to kill his career.[9]

Four years later, Parks' travels to the West Indies inspired his second solo album Discover America. Discover America was a tribute to the islands of Trinidad and Tobago and to calypso music. Parks re-arranged and re-produced obscure songs and calypso classics. This direction was continued in the 1976 release Clang of the Yankee Reaper.

Parks described himself in the 1970s as being "dead for five years", because of his abuse with prescription drugs, and trying to "regain an interest in living".[4]

After spending time as a near-recluse, Parks made a slight comeback with the 1984 album Jump! featured songs adapted from the stories of Uncle Remus and Brer Rabbit. The album features a Broadway-style reduced orchestra plus Americana additions like banjo, mandolin, and steel drums. Parks composed the album but did not arrange or produce it. Martin Kibbee contributed to the lyrics.

Following Jump!, in 1989 Warner Brothers released Tokyo Rose. This concept album focuses on the history of Japanese/U.S. relations from the 19th century to the "trade war" of the time of its release. The songs are pop tunes with an orchestral treatment including Japanese instruments and old Parks Caribbean favorites like steel drums. The album did not sell well and was not widely critically noticed.

1998 saw the release of Parks' first live album, Moonlighting: Live at the Ash Grove, which shows a love of the work of 19th-century American pianist Louis Moreau Gottschalk as well as performances of several of Parks' better (and lesser) known songs. The live ensemble includes Sid Page as concertmaster.

In March 2013, Parks announced the release of Songs Cycled, the first album of new material since 1989's Tokyo Rose. The album is set to be released May 6, 2013 through Bella Union and will feature new originals, collaborations, and cover tracks, along with re-recordings of older tracks, and guest spots from singers Gaby Moreno and Inara George of The Bird and the Bee.[10]

Work for other artists

Parks has produced, arranged, or played on albums by artists including Tim Buckley, Phil Ochs, Delaney Bramlett, Vic Chesnutt, U2, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, The Byrds, Cher, Rufus Wainwright, Sam Phillips, Ringo Starr, Frank Black, The Beau Brummels, The Manhattan Transfer, Medicine, Keith Moon, Sixpence None the Richer, Carly Simon, Little Feat, T-Bone Burnett, Stan Ridgway,[11] Toad the Wet Sprocket, Victoria Williams, Bonnie Raitt, Peter Case, Gordon Lightfoot, Fiona Apple, Sheryl Crow, Ry Cooder, Joanna Newsom, The Everly Brothers, Saint Etienne, Silverchair, The Thrills, Scissor Sisters, Laurie Anderson, and Susanna Hoffs/Matthew Sweet's covers collection.

In 2006 he collaborated with singer Joanna Newsom on the orchestral arrangements for her second album, Ys. He and David Mansfield are co-credited with the music for the 2006 mini-series Broken Trail. He also contributed orchestrations to the Danger Mouse produced second album by UK psychedelic three piece The Shortwave Set in 2008.

He also composed orchestral arrangements for Silverchair's fourth album, Diorama, released in 2002, contributing orchestral arrangements on "Across The Night", "Tuna In The Brine", and "Luv Your Life". He returned for the following Young Modern album in 2007, providing orchestral arrangements on "If You Keep Losing Sleep", "Those Thieving Birds/Strange Behavior", and "All Across The World". Daniel Johns, the band's lead singer, traveled to Prague with Parks to have the arrangements recorded by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. The album's title is a nickname Parks uses for Johns.

Music in film and television

Parks has also scored a number of motion pictures, including Sesame Street 's Follow That Bird, Jack Nicholson's The Two Jakes and Goin' South, Casual Sex?, Private Parts, Popeye (with Harry Nilsson), and The Company, and for the Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special.

Disney hired Parks to arrange Terry Gilkyson's Academy Award nominated song "The Bare Necessities" for the 1967 feature The Jungle Book. Parks had four songs featured in the 1987 direct-to-video Disney film, The Brave Little Toaster. He worked closely with David Newman on the film's score as well. He composed the theme song for Rudy Maxa's Savvy Traveler radio program on NPR.

The HBO Family series Harold and the Purple Crayon, is narrated by Sharon Stone with music and lyrics written and sung by Parks.

Parks composed the faux-psychedelic song "Black Sheep" (a parody of Smile and Brian Wilson's style in general) for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, sung by John C. Reilly, who portrays the titular character.

Other career

Parks has taken small TV and film roles including appearances in Popeye, The Two Jakes, and as Leo Johnson's defense attorney Jack Racine in episode #2005 of Twin Peaks.

Parks wrote a series of children's books (Jump (with Malcolm Jones), Jump Again and Jump on Over), based around the Br'er rabbit tales, illustrated by Barry Moser, and loosely accompanied by Parks' own album Jump!. The books contain sheet music for selected songs from the album.

Parks was given the job of heading the audio/visual department of Warner Bros. records in September, 1970.[12] This department was the earliest of its kind to record videos to promote records.[13]

Recent projects

He contributed to the new record by The Shortwave Set, titled Replica Sun Machine, which features a 24-piece orchestra and further input from John Cale. This was released on the 12th of May 2008 by Wall of Sound.

Parks worked with Inara George on a record released in 2008, An Invitation, and they performed two songs together on 8 January 2008 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, as part of the program Concrete Frequency: Songs of the City.

Parks is a guest musician on Echo by Mari Iijima, released in August 2009. Iijima sang "Calypso," on Parks' album Tokyo Rose.[14]

In 2009, Parks performed in The People Speak, a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans, based on historian Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Parks performed with Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder on the documentary broadcast on Dec. 13, 2009 on the History Channel. They played "Do Re Mi" and reportedly a couple of other Guthrie songs that were excluded from the final edit.[15]

Parks performed as a guest artist on the Grant Geissman Cool Man Cool album released in 2009.



  • "Number Nine / Do What You Wanta", 1966, single 45
  • "Come to the Sunshine / Farther Along", 1966, single 45
  • "Donovan's Colours, Pt. 1 / Donovan's Colours, Pt. 2" 1968" single 45 (under the pseudonym George Washington Brown)
  • "The Eagle and Me / On The Rolling Sea When Jesus Speak to Me" 1970, single 45
  • "Occapella / Ode to Tobago" 1972, single 45
  • "Wall Street / Money Is King", 2011
  • "Dreaming Of Paris / Wedding In Madagaskar (Faranaina)", 2011
  • "Black Gold / Aquarium", 2012
  • "Amazing Graces / Hold Back Time", 2012
  • "The All Golden / Sassafrass", 2012
  • "Missin' Missippi / The Parting Hand", 2012

Solo albums

  • Song Cycle, 1968 album
  • Discover America, 1972, album
  • Clang of the Yankee Reaper, 1975 album
  • Jump!, 1984 album
  • Tokyo Rose, 1989 album
  • Fisherman & His Wife, 1991 Book with cassette.
  • Idiosyncratic Path: Best Of Van Dyke Parks 1996
  • Moonlighting: Live at the Ash Grove 1998 album
  • Songs Cycled 2013 album

Compilation albums

  • "The All Golden/Music for a Datsun TV commercial" on The 1969 Warner-Reprise Songbook, Loss Leaders promo series, 1969
  • "Ice Capades Commercials" on Record Show (Son of Songbook), Loss Leaders promo series, 1969
  • "On The Rolling Sea When Jesus Speaks to Me" on Loonie Tunes & Merrie Melodies, Loss Leaders promo series, 1972
  • "G-Man Hoover" on Burbank, Loss Leaders promo series, 1972
  • "Come To The Sunshine" on Deep Ear, Loss Leaders promo series, 1974
  • "Clang Of The Yankee Reaper" on The Works, Loss Leaders promo series, 1975
  • Arranged and conducted three instrumental pieces on the Hal Willner-produced Lost in the Stars: The Music of Kurt Weill, 1985
  • "On the Rolling Sea When Jesus Speaks to Me" on On the Rolling Sea: A Tribute to Joseph Spence, charity tribute album 1994 (song previously released)
  • "Keep Me In Your Heart" on Enjoy Every Sandwich: Songs of Warren Zevon, tribute album 2004
  • "Greenland Whale Fisheries" on Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys (2006)
  • "Sail Away Lady" on Hal Willner's The Harry Smith Project: Anthology of American Folk Music Revisited, tribute album 2006
  • "Yellow Magic Carnival" on a Japanese release Tribute to Haruomi Hosono, 2007

With Brian Wilson

  • Smiley Smile (1967)
  • Orange Crate Art Brian Wilson & Van Dyke Parks (1995)
  • Smile (2004)
  • That Lucky Old Sun (A Narrative) (2007)
  • The Smile Sessions (1967/2011)

Other albums

As producer

  • Phil Ochs, Greatest Hits (1970)
  • Happy End, Happy End (1973)
  • Steve Young, Switchblade of Love (1993)
  • The Mighty Sparrow, Warner Brothers
  • The Esso Trinidad Steel Band, Warner Brothers

As arranger


  • Goin' South (1978)
  • The People Speak (2009)


  • Jump
  • Jump Again
  • Jump on Over
  • (2010) The Oxford American Book of Great Music Writing (Foreword by Van Dyke Parks), University of Arkansas Press.


  • Pirore, Dominic, Smile, Omnibus Press


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wouldn't It Be Nice, Brian Wilson, 1991, pp. 145-146.
  2. Wouldn't It Be Nice, Brian Wilson, 1991, pp. 148.
  3. cit. Barney Hoskyns, "All But Done".
  4. 4.0 4.1 Interview with Bob Claster, 1984.
  8. Jason Ankeny, Review: Van Dyke Parks, "Song Cycle." AllMusic website. 3 April 2008. Van Dyke Parks at All Music Guide
  9. Fred Goodman, The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen and the Head-on Collision of Rock and Commerce (Jonathon Cape, London, 1997, ISBN 0-224-05062-1), p.79
  10. Snapes, Laura, Van Dyke Parks to Release Songs Cycled, First Album of New Material Since 1989, March 1, 2013. URL accessed on 1 March 2013.
  11. Stan Ridgway discography, Mosquitos,
  12. Hoskyns, Barney (2007). Hotel California: The True-Life Adventures of Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, Mitchell, Taylor, Browne, Ronstadt, Geffen, the Eagles, and Their Many Friends, John Wiley and Sons.
  13. Frank, Josh; Buckholtz, Charlie (August 2008). In Heaven Everything Is Fine, New York: Free Press.
  14. Message from Mari Iijima.

External links

  • The Music of Van Dyke Parks
  • musicOMH interview with Van Dyke Parks, 2011
  • 80-minute 1984 KCRW radio interview by Bob Claster A Visit with Van Dyke Parks
  • Van Dyke Parks on creativity, an interview with May 3, 2007
  • The People Speak at the Internet Movie Database
  • Van Dyke Parks at the Internet Movie Database
This page was last modified 18.03.2013 18:12:11

This article uses material from the article Van Dyke Parks from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.