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Somewhere along the way, Mr. Frishberg discovered that he had a knack for writing songs. Unlike most people who make that discovery, though, he then put himself through a rigorous course of self-training and turned into something so improbable as to boggle the minds of those who know what it takes: He is now the last of the old-time professional songwriters. He was influenced not by James Taylor or Ani DiFranco but by Frank Loesser, who wrote the scores for “Guys and Dolls” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” “There was dignity in everything Loesser wrote—no cheap lines, no cheap rhymes,” Mr. Frishberg has said. “He made the vernacular classy.” The fact that he embraced the fine art of golden-age songwriting long after the golden age of songwriting was over and done with didn’t faze him: Mr. Frishberg, who calls himself a “retromaniac,” is not only content to live in the past but prefers to do so. For him, nostalgia is not merely a state of mind but a way of life.
I know plenty of aging jazz musicians who don’t much care for the directions in which American popular music has traveled during the past half-century. Some are grumpy about it, others downright choleric. Mr. Frishberg runs more to the former than the latter, but his longing for days gone by is productive, not angry. Instead of cursing the darkness, he prefers to write superlatively well-crafted songs that sound as though he’d sat down in a time machine, set the controls to 1950 or 1961, and come back with a song…
* * *Read the whole thing here.
Dave Frishberg sings and plays his “Do You Miss New York?”: