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The pop-minded singer/songwriter Marshall Crenshaw built up an impressive body of work over the course of his career, showing a fine craft for everything he approached while stubbornly following his own creative muse to reach that end. To call Crenshaw's career "interesting" would be putting things mildly. He starred in several movies and portrayed John Lennon in the road-show version of Beatlemania. His songs were featured on several film soundtracks and covered by such diverse artists as Robert Gordon, Bette Midler, Kelly Willis, Marti Jones, and the Gin Blossoms. He assembled a bunch of like-minded show business acquaintances and issued a book about rock & roll movies entitled Hollywood Rock & Roll. He assembled compilations for record companies (most notably Hillbilly Music...Thank God! for the short-lived Bug Music label) and contributed chapters to books on vintage guitar collecting. In short, Crenshaw is a true rock & roll renaissance man, and his own music remains as commendable as his alternate projects.
Born in Detroit and raised in the surrounding area, Marshall played in a number of different bands in high school, eventually landing in his first professional combo, ASTIGAFA (an acronym for "A Splendid Time Is Guaranteed for All," cribbed from the back of Sgt. Pepper's). Although nothing releasable came from this venture, the experience cemented the basic ingredients of Crenshaw's style that would surface full bloom at the dawn of his solo career. According to Crenshaw, "That band really didn't have a high profile in Detroit, but I was using that time, working alone, woodshedding, gathering information. Around '73, I just stopped listening to the radio and just became immersed listening to old 45s from the '50s and early '60s. It seemed to me that there was more immediacy in those records than the stuff that was on the radio at that time." But just as his ears learned to love echoey mono '50s records, his songwriting influences went in an opposite direction: "One batch of stuff that I really feel that I was strongly influenced by was a lot of the R&B-pop kind of stuff that was around in the early '70s. I just love that romantic kind of R&B kind of sound, all those chord changes in those tunes."
Unfortunately, Detroit was not a musical hotbed during the late '70s, so Crenshaw responded to an advertisement in Rolling Stone and auditioned for the Broadway musical Beatlemania instead. Hired as a John Lennon understudy, Crenshaw moved to New York City and quickly found himself in a heady, competitive situation. After completing his six-month "Beatle boot camp" training, he appeared in the show for six months in Hollywood and San Francisco, then finished up his remaining six months with the production on the road. Though he found the show creatively stifling, it made him sit down and figure out what kind of music he wanted to create. After buying a four-track recorder, Crenshaw began making demos whenever he was home.
Marshall was soon armed with demos galore and began dropping them off to any show business connection who might listen. Additionally, his younger brother was playing drums in Crenshaw's trio, which was starting to plug into New York City's burgeoning new wave club scene. An early fan of the trio's music was local scenester Alan Betrock, who had recently launched his own label, Shake Records. It was Crenshaw's debut single, "Something's Gonna Happen," on Betrock's label that kicked up enough noise to bring major-label interest knocking at his door. Signing with Warner Bros. in 1982, Marshall recorded five well-crafted studio albums before parting ways seven years later to sign with MCA for one album, Life's Too Short. During this flurry of activity, Crenshaw also flexed his acting muscles, portraying a high school bandleader in Peggy Sue Got Married, Buddy Holly in La Bamba, and making a guest appearance on the Nickelodeon series Pete and Pete.
Emerging from a three-year hiatus, Marshall then signed with the independent label Razor & Tie and released a live album, Live: My Truck Is My Home, in 1994. He also penned the Top 10 single "Til I Hear It from You" for the Gin Blossoms, providing the band with their highest-charting single to date. A new studio effort, Miracle of Science, followed in 1996. The 9 Volt Years, a collection of demos and home recordings, appeared in 1998, and a year later Crenshaw returned with a new studio effort, #447. Although Crenshaw's audience had waned considerably since his '80s heyday, his albums still received critical accolades for their power pop prowess, and he was enlisted to write the humorous title track for the film Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story in 2005. Following the movie's release two years later, Crenshaw returned to his own work with 2009's Jagged Land.
Marshall Howard Crenshaw (born November 11, 1953) is an American singer, songwriter and guitarist best known for his song "Someday, Someway", a top-40 hit in 1982.
Crenshaw's music has roots in classic soul music, British Invasion songcraft, Burt Bacharach and Buddy Holly -- the latter to whom Crenshaw was often compared in the early days of his career, and whom he portrayed in the 1987 film La Bamba. Crenshaw is also a noted guitarist who uses offbeat chord progressions (almost verging towards jazz) and concise solos.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, he grew up in the northern suburb of Berkley, Michigan. Crenshaw graduated from Berkley High School in June 1971. Crenshaw began playing guitar at age ten. From 1968 to 1973 he led the band Astigafa (an acronym for "a splendid time is guaranteed for all", a lyric from The Beatles' "Being For The Benefit of Mr. Kite"). He got his first break playing John Lennon in the off-Broadway touring company of the musical Beatlemania.
While in New York, he recorded a single, "Something's Gonna Happen", for Alan Betrock's Shake Records, after which he was signed to Warner Bros. Records. Retro rocker Robert Gordon took Crenshaw's "Someday, Someway" to #76 in 1981, and Crenshaw's own version made #36 the next year; it would be his only solo Billboard Top 40 'Pop' hit. On the Cash Box magazine chart the song reached #31. The song Til I Hear It from You, sung by the Gin Blossoms and co-written by Crenshaw, reached #11 on the Billboard U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Throughout the rest of the decade Marshall enjoyed considerable airplay on AOR (Album-Oriented Rock) stations nationwide with many tracks and became very well known in his native Michigan.
Crenshaw's eponymous first album included the US hit Someday, Someway. His second album, Field Day, released in early 1983 sported a somewhat heavier sound, as evidenced on "Whenever You're On My Mind," that displeased some listeners, but which is regarded by many critics as Crenshaw's best, and one of the classic power pop statements, although Crenshaw's work, like Alex Chilton's, transcends the genre. "Some of the stuff I've done you could call power pop," he told an interviewer, "but the term does have sort of a dodgy connotation."
In 1989, he compiled a collection of Capitol Records country performers of the 1950s and '60s called Hillbilly Music...Thank God, Vol. 1, which was extremely well received.
In 1993, he made an appearance in the cult TV show The Adventures of Pete and Pete, in the role of a guitar-playing meter reader, and in 1994, he published a book, Hollywood Rock: A Guide to Rock 'n' Roll in the Movies.
He continued to record in the 1990s and 2000s, and, in 1999, released the critically acclaimed #447.
In the 2000s, Crenshaw played guitar as a special guest with the reunited members of the MC5.
Crenshaw penned the title track from the 2007 film Walk Hard starring John C. Reilly; the song, as sung by Reilly, was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.
Jaggedland, was released in June 2009 on his new record label 429 Records.
In 2011 Crenshaw began hosting a radio show called The Bottomless Pit on WFUV in New York, featuring his vast collection of recorded music.
Many notable artists have recorded cover versions of Crenshaw's songs, including:"Brand New Lover" – covered by Lou Ann Barton"Communication" - covered by Ronnie Spector"For (Her) His Love" - covered by Ronnie Spector"Some Hearts" - penned by Diane Warren, covered by Carrie Underwood"Someday, Someway" - covered by Robert Gordon and S Club (then known as S Club 7)"Something's Gonna Happen" - covered by Robert Gordon and Ronnie Spector"Til I Hear It from You" - written with members of and performed by Gin Blossoms"Whatever Way the Wind Blows" - covered by Kelly Willis"Whenever You're on My Mind" - covered by Marti Jones and Ronnie Spector"You're My Favorite Waste of Time" - covered by Freedy Johnston, Bette Midler, Owen Paul, Ronnie Spector and Kevin Johnson and the Linemen