Forbert, like Dylan, left the hinterlands for New York City, guitar in hand, harmonica hanging from his neck, and a cocksure grin on his boyish face. Even the straight-up wiry, unmanageable hair -- as if the owner had received an electric shock of Woody Guthrie -- seemed to be part of the folk-rock legacy. Each brought a distinctive voice: in Forbert's case, a kind of kicked-in-the-throat raspiness. Then there were the Dylanesque song titles, such as "Steve Forbert's Midsummer Night's Toast."
A touch of success followed. A late-night, half-drunken interview with Rolling Stone and a single, "Romeo's Tune," that reached No. 11. But record-company squabbles forced the singer-songwriter into a six-year period of near-invisibility, save for a cameo in Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," where he played the flower-toting boyfriend at clip's end.
If Steve Forbert ever went away, he has now returned. Any Old Time, his latest release, is a tribute to country music and Jimmie Rodgers, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and fellow native of Meridian, Mississippi. The album was nominated for a Grammy; perhaps as a bitter irony, the first Forbert record not self-penned is the one to gain this recognition.
"I have to say it's a pleasant surprise all around," Forbert says. "I did this thing almost out of a feeling of obligation. I grew up with some of his relatives. I was taught guitar by one of his cousins. I had recorded some of his songs before, but when I focused on this, I was even more impressed."
Forbert tours by himself nowadays, guitar and harmonica keeping him company. He performs an energetic mix of his own classics, Rodgers tunes, and material from an album to be released in April. He stops at local record stores when he has the time, and he tries not to leave his lane when an unexpected lyric comes to him as he drives. He keeps to the road, a folk-rock troubadour in the tradition of Rodgers and Guthrie and, yes, even Dylan, reaching out to touch the timeless.
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at [email protected].
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.