We’ll dress him up warmly and we’ll send him to school…

While helping my son pack (and later unpack) during his recent move from Denver to Austin, I somehow managed to reign supreme over the music selection. Naturally I didn’t stint in dragging up the old-school stuff (after all, it’s been a long time since I did the stroll…), which has always been a reliable balm to life’s slightly wistful occasions.

Or at least it used to be. When this old favorite came around I was struck by certain parallels … Substitute 1991 for 1951 in “He was born on a summer day in 1951″ and ‘93 for ’53 “In the summer of ’53 his mother brought him a sister” and the song could be about my own kids … except that Giles was never a “lonely boy” who “thought he was the only one.” And he and Mary have always (well, almost always) been great friends.

Back in 1977, when Lonely Boy reached Number 7 on the Billboard charts (Number 11 in the UK), I’d assumed that it was autobiographical and was fascinated to learn that the songwriter’s mother had required a great deal of reassurance that he’d made it all up.  Yes, he was born on a summer day in 1951, and yes, he left home on a winter’s day in 1969 (Giles left home in 2009, by the way) but he promised up and down that it had never occurred to him that anyone would actually think the lyrics were true.

On the other hand, his sister – a psychotherapist (really) born in the summer of ’53 – opined that the story went a long way in explaining her brother’s great success, adding, “When Andy felt deeply he would just make it a song.”

Born the eldest of three in Burbank, California in August of 1951, Andrew Maurice Gold,  had parents who excelled at teaching him what they’d learned. His father, Ernest, was an Academy Award-winning composer (for the 1960 film Exodus). His mother was Marni Nixon, who famously provided the singing voices for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (“Oh wouldn’t it be loverly…”), Natalie Wood in West Side Story (“I feel pretty…”) and Deborah Kerr in The King and I (“Shall we dance…”)

Indeed, nobody’s fool, “Andy” – who died of complications from renal cancer in 2011, just shy of his 60th birthday – would grow up to be a talented singer, songwriter, multi-instrumental musician, producer, arranger, and sound engineer, whose versatility kept him busy for the rest of his life.  Much sought after for his session work, his favored instruments included: keyboards, guitar, bass, accordion, saxophone, harmonica, flute, drums, percussion, musette, harmonium, and ukulele.

After serving as an engineer on Joni Mitchell’s Blue album, he backed Linda Ronstadt through much of her 1970s peak, playing most of the instruments on such hits as Heart Like a Wheel, You’re No Good, When Will I Be Loved, and Heat Wave.

Andrew Gold also recorded and/or toured with James Taylor, Carly Simon, Maria Muldaur, Jackson Browne, Loudon Wainwright III, the Eagles, America, Stephen Bishop, Neil Diamond, Eric Carmen, Juice Newton, Leo Sayer, Roy Orbison, Don Henley, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Art Garfunkel, Brian Wilson, Cher, and three out of four of the former Beatles: John, Paul, and Ringo, among others.

As a solo singer/songwriter he released over a dozen albums, memorably charting with Thank You For Being A Friend and Never Let Her Slip Away, on which his friend, Freddie Mercury harmonized as an uncredited background singer.

Then there’s this onefirst featured as a track (with Ronstadt providing backing vocals) on Gold’s 1976 album, What’s Wrong With This Picture. Released at a time when album covers were fun, the self-designed picture included no less than 32 anomalies (e.g. a guitar that’s plugged into a phone, red wine in the glass, white wine in the bottle, a
 closed window with billowing curtains, and open window with still curtains, etc.).  The album itself had no title track.

gold_wrongWhile Lonely Boy would prove to be Andrew Gold’s biggest hit, as the father of three he came to slightly regret the similarities between the lyrics and his life. “Maybe it was a mistake to do that,” he once said, “but I simply put in those details because it was convenient. I hadn’t been a lonely boy at all — I had a very happy childhood.”

Lonely Boy

He was born on a summer day, 1951

And with the slap of a hand

He had landed as an only son

His mother and father said “what a lovely boy”

We’ll teach him what we learned

Ah yes, just what we learned

We’ll dress him up warmly and

We’ll send him to school

We’ll teach him how to fight

To be nobody’s fool

Oh, oh, what a lonely boy

Oh, what a lonely boy

Oh, what a lonely boy

In the summer of ’53 his mother

Brought him a sister

But she told him “we must attend to her needs”

“She’s so much younger than you”

Well, he ran down the hall and he cried

Oh, how could his parents have lied

When they said he was an only son

He thought he was the only one

Oh, oh, what a lonely boy

Oh, what a lonely boy

Oh, what a lonely boy

He left home on a winter day, 1969

And he hoped to find all the love

He had lost in that earlier time

Well, his sister grew up

And she married a man

He gave her a son

Ah yes, a lovely son

They dressed him up warmly

They sent him to school

It taught him how to fight

To be nobody’s fool

Oh, oh, what a lonely boy

Oh, what a lonely boy

Oh, what a lonely boy

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