Even if you don’t recognise his name, you’ll know the music of John DeNicola, a legendary songwriter, probably most famous for writing and co-writing songs which featured on the soundtrack of the 1980s classic film, ‘Dirty Dancing’ – yes, he’s responsible for ‘(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life’, and ‘Hungry Eyes’.
In addition to ‘Dirty Dancing’, he’s also written songs for and with Eddie Money, and John Waite, among many more. In addition, produced plenty of artists you’ll have heard of – he discovered and produced Kara’s Flowers, who later changed their name to Maroon 5. With his boutique alternative label, Omad Records, he’s produced Fovea (which features his son Jake), pop artists The Sighs, and Peter Lewis, founding member of legendary group, Moby Grape.
In a career spanning 40 something years, it’s therefore surprising to discover that although he’s written and sung in bands, he’s never released a solo album. Until now that is – John DeNicola’s debut LP, ‘The Why Because’ is set for release on October 18, with single, ‘You’re The Only One’, out now.
With vocals reminiscent of Canada’s Bruce Cockburn, it’s confounding to think that he’s waited so long to go it alone.
Speaking of the release, DeNicola says,
“I always wrote for bands I was in, even sang some lead vocals here and there, but I never aspired to be a singular artist. Until this unfolded…”
The artist started his musical career back in the 70s, and by 1980 he’d signed to Motown as the bassist in the jazz-fusion band, Flight. He realised he much preferred working behind the scenes to up front:
“As I moved increasingly into producing and building tracks, I found myself writing with other vocalists in mind.”
Given his success behind the desk, it seems only reasonable then that his solo album came about as if by accident. He wanted to test out the acoustics in his newly set up studio, and, just for a bit of fun, laid down a vocal of his own. Following that, he decided to demo his song, ‘You’re The Only One’, which had previously been recorded by Steve Holy, for the soundtrack of ‘Avenging Angelo’.
“I heard it in my head like a Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb song and wondered, ‘Who can I get to sing it?”.
Realising the answer to that question was, “Me”, he set about recording more of his own creations.
‘You’re The Only One’, a gentle love story, as the title suggests, with pop rock, slightly country-tinged instrumentation. It’s easy-listening, with DeNicola’s vocals soft and sweet, the perfect song to put on and kick back to. The instrumentals, comprising guitar, drums and percussion, and keys, seem simple and unchallenging – but just like the lyrics and vocals, it takes a deeper listen to unravel the multiple layers of the track, and in so doing you fully realise DeNicola’s talent as a musician; he’s able to lure you, soften you up – then at about the one third mark he swoops in with his gently lilting falsetto, before rising up and out again with a warm and comforting tenor.