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Music interview – Dean Friedman is still thanking his Lucky Stars

Dean Friedman. Picture: Howard Copeland
Dean Friedman. Picture: Howard Copeland
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AT the height of the punk rock explosion in the late 70s, a song by a relatively unknown American singer-songwriter drifted into the charts.

Dean Friedman’s Lucky Stars followed his first chart entry, Woman Of Mine, which got to number 52 in the early summer of 1978.

September saw Lucky Stars climb to number three and has since become a cult favourite.

Lydia completed the trio of UK hits for Dean, and Ariel was also very nearly a hit for him and was played numerous times on the radio.

The album that spawned Lucky Stars was Well, Well, said the Rocking Chair, which spent just over three months in the UK album charts.

Friedman has since become known as a songwriter par excellence and has also provided TV music, most notably for Boon, the TV series starring Michael Elphick.

For me personally it’s a chance to revisit the songs and my plan is to perform the whole album solo and unplugged. In fact there are some songs I haven’t performed live before.

Dean Friedman

He has made a point of touring Britain every year, and this year will also see his 15th appearance at the Edinburgh Festival. A feat that he is proud of as he tells me from his home in Peaksville, in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains.

“Edinburgh is a great place to be in August,” he says. “The town is besieged by performer of all kinds, and to be surrounded by such creative people is very inspiring.”

This year’s tour is to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ‘Rocking Chair’ album and as well as appearing in Edinburgh, there are over 40 dates on the tour.

“I love coming to Britain,” Friedman smiles. “It’s always worthwhile to get on stage in front of an appreciative audience.”

Yet there is a downside.

“Well, the commute is a little long, but it’s worth it,” he laughs. “I’m going to try and get them all to come over here so I don’t have to travel as much.”

The strange fact is that Friedman has had more hits in this country than anywhere else in the world.

“I put that down to boring business and politics,” he opines. “If the songs receive airplay they will have success, it’s just a matter of getting on the playlists.

“The thing is, I’ve been an independent for most of the last four decades so it’s difficult to compete. But my songs are successful in spite of that.

“I wrote a song called McDonald’s Girl which was banned and I lost my record deal. That was then, but later on McDonald’s used it in an advertising campaign and Barenaked Ladies had a hit with it.”

The reason for this years’ celebration is simple, according to Friedman.

“I acknowledged the 40th anniversary of Ariel in the States last year [Ariel was Dean’s only hit in his homeland], so I thought I’d do the same for Rocking Chair in the UK. In Britain, it’s considered a bit of a classic, so it seemed appropriate.

“For me personally it’s a chance to revisit the songs and my plan is to perform the whole album solo and unplugged. In fact there are some songs I haven’t performed live before.”

Lucky Stars is a ballad for two, with a couple talking about their relationship, and the song featured uncredited vocals by Denise Marsa, however, she won’t be joining Friedman on the tour.

“It’s not really possible logistically. I’m still in touch with her – she’s a talented songwriter in her own right and I always support her efforts.

“I love singing the song – it’s a fun song to do – especially when the audience sings the girl parts. It’s great seeing these big, burly men singing along.”

And Friedman has a treat for fans this time, as there is a competition on his website where a lucky fan gets to sing the girl part at a show of their choice.

“I’m always getting offers from talented singers to sing it on stage with me and I usually say ‘no’ because I like the audience to join in. But I thought it would be a fun idea to do this time around.”

And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman.

“No, I have specifically put on my website that the competition is open to ‘all citizens of the planet Earth’”.

Go to www.deanfriedman.com/luckystarscontest for more details.

And the album itself is being reissued in time for the tour.

“It’s just the album, intact; but I’ve remastered it ever so slightly. It sounds great.”

For the future, Friedman is going to be kept busy.

“I do videos, books and albums and I hope to continue doing all of the above.”

Dean Friedman plays at Leeds City Varieties on May 19. www.deanfriedman.com