Rest in Peace, Singer/Songwriter Emitt Rhodes: 1950-2020

Rock Cellar Magazine StaffCategories:Latest News

Rock Cellar Magazine

Emitt Rhodes has passed away at the age of 70, it was announced on Sunday evening.

A post on the singer/songwriter’s official Facebook page made it official.

Chris Price, who produced Rhodes’ 2016 album Rainbow Ends and was especially close with him, shared a message of condolence as well.

The supremely gifted Emitt Rhodes released five albums in the 1970s (the first with The Merry-Go Round) and then waiting 43 years before putting out another, 2016’s Rainbow Ends.

Rainbow Ends featured contributions from The Bangles’ Susanna Hoffs, Roger Joseph Manning, Jr., Jason Falkner, Nels Cline, Aimee Mann, Jon Brion, Richard Thompson, Bleu and members of Brian Wilson’s band, among others.

The record came together after a PledgeMusic drive:

The official Emitt Rhodes website features a biography contextualizing his 1970 solo debut, The American Dream, illustrating what made him such a noteworthy musical talent at the time:

In 1970, and with little fanfare, ABC/Dunhill Records released a self-titled album by a young man named Emitt Rhodes. With more than a slight nod to the Beatles (particularly Paul McCartney), each of its twelve tracks is a lesson in pop perfection. More amazingly, the entire album – every song – was written, sung, performed, engineered and produced by Emitt himself, a feat he accomplished nearly simultaneously with McCartney. The album and Emitt had what seemed to be a promising future ahead, breaking into the Top 40 (peaking at a respectable #29) and spawning a single that nearly cracked the Top 40 as well. But, through a number of marketing and contractual flubs, Emitt Rhodes – the man and the album – faded into the shadows of rock-and-roll obscurity, along with his subsequent releases. 

Billboard magazine called him “one of the finest artists on the music scene today” (4/3/71) and later referred to his debut as one of the “best albums of the decade” (11/23/96.) Alternative Press described it as “essential listening…a true pop gem…” (2/96) It’s a shame that to your average person-on-the-street today, the name Emitt Rhodes doesn’t mean much. But to many who bought that first album, it occupies a special place in their record collection; a pure pop masterpiece that endures countless listens. 

It would be too easy upon first listen to dismiss Emitt as just another of the Beatle mimicking hordes. The music does bear a striking resemblance to “the lads.” And this was certainly no mistake. But whereas anyone can affect a British accent and wear the right clothes, Emitt had the musicianship and sheer talent the other wannabes lacked. Few artists sport an album as thoroughly solid as his debut in their discography. And as his follow-up albums (and earlier Merry-Go-Round albums) demonstrate, this was no fluke. Here was a truly gifted songwriter and musician, capable of creating music equal in quality to that of his musical idols, at times surpassing them. But Emitt was destined to stand in the shadows of McCartney et al. As the early seventies saw the demise of the Beatles and the start of their initially less-than-stellar solo careers, Emitt was making what one fan called “the music Paul should have been recording.”

Rest in peace, Emitt Rhodes.

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