Spectropop remembers

JAMES GRIFFIN (1943 - 2005)

Singer-songwriter James Arthur (Jimmy) Griffin, a founding member of the group Bread and of country band the Remingtons, died at his home in Nashville on January 11th. He was 61, and had been battling cancer. A gifted singer and guitarist, he wrote country hits including Conway Twitty's 'Who's Gonna Know' and Restless Heart's 'You Can Depend On Me', and won an Academy Award for co-writing the Carpenters' hit 'For All We Know'.

In the wake of Griffin's death, his friends told stories of an atypical life: stories of him acting in None But The Brave, the only movie Frank Sinatra ever produced; stories of him walking past Burt Bacharach and Henry Mancini to receive the Academy Award in 1971 for best song from a motion picture; stories of a man whose voice never lost its power or fluidity, and who could still impress the ladies with his supple singing. "He had such a soft sound," said John Ford Coley, a close friend who often performed with Griffin. "Jimmy could have looked at you and said, 'I hate your guts,' and it would have sounded like, 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.' And he wasn't your typical road musician who went wild and crazy. Jimmy was kind of quiet. He sang a lot of harmony and played great guitar. He was just . . . easy."

Jimmy Griffin was raised in Memphis, and that city's healthy music scene afforded him early exposure to a bevy of American roots music forms. He moved to Hollywood in the early 1960s, and his 1963 Reprise Records debut album, "Summer Holiday", was produced by Jimmy Bowen, who would later become one of Nashville's most notable producers and record moguls. After that, he released some pop singles, acted in movies and wrote songs for artists including Rudy Vallee and Bobby Vee.

He, David Gates and Robb Royer released Bread's first album in late 1968. With a line-up of Griffin, Gates, Michael Botts and Larry Knechtel, the band found considerable success in the early 1970s, but tensions arose. Though he wrote and sang lead on half of Bread's songs, Griffin's works were elbowed out by Gates' compositions when it came time to choose singles, but his harmony vocals and guitar work were crucial elements in the band's soft rock success. Hits included 'Baby I'm-a Want You' and 'Everything I Own'. Griffin left the band in 1973 and rejoined in 1976 before the group disbanded in a swirl of rancor and lawsuits.

After leaving Bread, Jimmy Griffin recorded a solo LP on Polydor Records and made an album in the early 1980s with Terry Sylvester of the Hollies. "He had an amazing voice, and never lost a bit of quality," said longtime friend Sylvester. "We played some shows with John Ford Coley a couple of years ago, and he was still singing so high. He was in his late 50s and he still had the girls going nuts for him. I couldn't compete." In the 1980s, he formed Black Tie with Billy Swan and ex-Eagle Randy Meisner, and he became a staple on the Nashville scene in the early 1990s with the Remingtons. The latter group combined three-part harmonies with an adventurous melodic approach. Even after that group fell from radio favor, Griffin continued to perform his hits and to write and record new music. "His musicality was strong, but his voice was always the star in that package," said Nashville singer-songwriter Bill Lloyd, a label-mate of the Remingtons. "He played guitar, of course, but I was knocked out by a piano song he was working on that he played me in the studio while we were writing. A real nice human being, to boot."

He is survived by his wife, Marti; daughter, Alexis; and son, Jacob.

Peter Cooper - The Tennessean

James Arthur (Jimmy) Griffin, singer-songwriter: born 1943 - died January 11th, 2005.