You would think a musician whose career includes more album sales than Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, or J. Lo* would be at least slightly affected by his massive success. You would think that someone who has had his songs covered by the likes of Bob Marley and Ike and Tina Turner might be sick of hearing his decades-old hits played over and over.
But you would be mistaken in the case of Andy Kim. Fame and fortune has not changed his friendly, down-to-earth outlook on life.
The Montreal-born singer/songwriter remains solidly grounded, thanks to a stability that comes from being the third of four brothers: “I understand the pecking order.” Andy graciously assured me that being the oldest of six did not translate into a lack of groundedness: “You have your own way of understanding the hierarchy of where you are.”
“I try not to analyze. I read a quote that I think was by Martin Luther King, ‘To analyze is to paralyze,’ so sometimes I just don’t think. I just kinda live each moment as best I can, knowing the values that my mom and dad had given us and represent them at every turn.”
This man has never forgotten and will never forget that he is the third of four brothers. He understands hierarchy, and knows that he will gain very little by getting puffed up about his fame and fortune.
Does he enjoy them? Certainly.
One of Andy’s most famous songs, “Rock me Gently,” was recorded and produced independently, making Andy an indie performer. This song, written in 1974, sealed Andy’s place in music history. He was established for life. Later, to Andy’s delight, the song was featured in a Jeep Liberty commercial in 2007. It was “a gift,” says Andy emphatically about both the song and the commercial. “It’s been able to give me a phenomenally wonderful lifestyle!”
A wonderful lifestyle that allows him to have fun and live in the moment like he does best. He told me the story of running into a fan who was so excited to have met him and who asked Andy to play at his sister’s birthday. Andy fondly remembers the experience: “There’s a reason why… it’s a reminder that I’ve been really lucky!”
Andy Kim was born into a warm and friendly family of Lebanese heritage living in an apartment building in Montreal in the early fifties. In 1969, when he was still a teenager, Andy co-wrote the very popular “Sugar Sugar”, performed by the Archies and originally presented in an animated clip featuring the characters of the Archie comics. Andy went on to cram eight other top 40 Billboard hits under his belt, including his first, “How’d we Ever Get This Way? and “Baby I Love You.”
Later in his career, Andy was named to the Billboard Hits Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and awarded two JUNO awards, one for Outstanding Achievement in the Recording Industry, and an “Indie Award” for Favourite Solo Artist.
After “Rock me Gently”, Andy’s career slowed down significantly. He had no more billboard hits after that, though he did produce some tunes under the pseudonym Baron Longfellow. For more than twenty years, the world heard very little from Andy Kim.
Then, in the late nineties, things came together once again for Andy, thanks in part to Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies. BNL were big fans of Andy’s, and becoming a Canadian institution in their own right. Andy, Ed, and Stephen Page, formerly of BNL, successfully performed a song together for an Ontario music festival. Ed was instrumental in convincing Andy that he should get in the studio again. Andy was on his way to a new place in the consciousness of music fans.
In 2010, more than forty years after his first hits, Andy released Happen Again, a collection of ten songs written throughout his lifetime but never heard by the public.
“It has taken a different shape,” Andy says of the experience of recording this latest album. The world is different, the industry is different, the scene is different. And Andy is no longer a teenager.
Regardless of his age, Andy will always be Canadian, through and through. He will always be proud of his Montreal roots and all of the culture that came with his upbringing: “No matter where I went around the world, even at the beginning, I really represented my mom and dad and my brothers and then my country.”
Andy lives between LA and Toronto, and feels like he has the best of both worlds. He gets to escape Montreal winters while enjoying the warmth of southern California. But in Canada, he says, nine out of ten people will not only give you directions but take you to show you where you need to go: “It’s part of us.”
Bayfield, Ontario, where Andy will be performing on June 16th as part of the Bayfield Concert Series, is one of the places in Canada where Andy felt at home on his first visit. Ron Sexsmith, a favourite of the Bayfield Town Hall stage, invited Andy to join him in Bayfield last summer, and Andy was captivated:
And of course, you know I agree!
Enjoy both Bayfield and Andy Kim on June 16th. For more information, visit the Bayfield Concert Series website, or simply book your tickets at Ticketscene.ca. Tickets are also available at Ernie King Music in Goderich and The Black Dog Village Pub in Bayfield.
The last word I will leave for Andy:
“Being an icon? That’s for others to decide. I just see myself as living out this wonderful dream.”
*Don’t quote me on this. A website told me so. I chose to believe it.