Folk-rocker Al Stewart comes to University Auditorium
Published: Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 12:24 p.m.
In a career of which he’s traveled the world to perform, singer Al Stewart said he never made it to Gainesville.
What: Folk-rock singer/songwriter performs
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: University Auditorium, 333 Newell Drive
Tickets: $20-$30, $10 for UF students
Info: 392-2787, Ticketmaster.com
But he does remember living in an apartment in East London with Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel when the folk-duo first received a 45 rpm of the electrified version of “Sounds of Silence” from producer Tom Wilson.
“Apart from Tom, we were probably among the first to hear it,” said Stewart, who was born in Scotland but grew up in London.
“It didn’t play properly,” he continued, “and I recall Paul didn’t like it much. He asked them to not use that version, and the record company told him: Frankly we can’t do that because it’s No. 1. And, incidentally, you better get back here to the states.”
That was in 1965, Stewart said, and since, the singer/songwriter has gone on to establish his own solo career and produce such popular songs as “Year of the Cat,” which hit No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977; and “Time Passages,” a No. 7 hit the following year.
On Saturday, Stewart will perform in the city for the first time at the University Auditorium at 7:30 p.m.
“We’re excited to bring Al in,” said Michael Blachly, director of University of Florida Performing Arts. “He’s always been a signature voice and had a very prominent role in the singer/songwriter role in pop history.”
Launching his career beside other folk-pop acts like Stealer’s Wheel, Stewart, now 67, said his interest in music blossomed when he saw The Beatles perform in 1963.
“I managed to climb backstage and meet them all,” Stewart recalled. “And play John Lennon’s guitar!”
“Then I joined a band,” he laughed.
Shortly afterwards, he heard Bob Dylan’s music.
“I remember thinking: ‘Whoa, this is really different,’” he said. “All these words. It really occurred to me early on that I could rhyme all these words.”
So, he sold his electric guitar and picked up an acoustic one, because he only had enough money for one. He believed “there was something to this folk business.”
Now, after a long and still rolling career, Stewart still plays 60 to 70 shows a year. “All you can do is your best,” he said.
To Stewart’s credit, fans like Blachly — who said he had the singer booked about a year and a half in advance — pick up on his humbleness and thrive on it.
“He’s one of the singer/songwriters who truly emerged from the folk rock period,” Blachly said. “Everyone knows the world is filled with talented songwriters, talented singers and talented guitarists. But to do all three and to sustain a career back to the ’70s, that’s a significant accomplishment.”