Midnight Album Spotlight: Ted Hawkins - The Next Hundred Years

Greetings, My name’s Michele Myers. I’ve got a show Friday nights at 9pm on KEXP called Nite Life.

At midnight every Friday, after a 3-hour marathon of danceable sets, I choose one of my favorite releases for the Midnight Album Spotlight.

This Friday we’ll visit my friend Ted Hawkins. Okay, he’s not actually my friend, but after years of playing with this record/CD library at KEXP, I feel surrounded by the artists (dead and alive). Some nights I like to set up covers of albums where I can see the soul of the artist in their eyes. This cover of Ted Hawkins The Next Hundred Years is one of my favorites.

My man Ted had a hard life. As a kid he suffered from poverty and abuse and was in reform school by the age of 12. When he was 15 he stole a leather jacket and was put in a penitentiary for 3 years. As an adult he traveled the country with his guitar. His home base was Venice Beach. I saw him there once (before I knew who he was). His voice made an impression on me, and his stare was intense, yet very kind. The words he sang were heart-tugging and personal. He was a sad figure in a way, yet somehow majestic.

Ted has a very distinctive voice, and his songs range from soul to rock to country. Even when he became big in Europe ,he still spent most of his time playing for change on Venice Beach. He was discovered by a record label executive who heard Ted’s music coming through his Venice Beach hotel window. Many recordings were made of Ted Hawkins all through the 80′s but it wasn’t until this 1994 release that we got an album that captures all of Ted’s dusty elegance and raw talent. The production on this record does justice to Ted’s sound. Sadly, Ted died from as stroke shortly after he started to catch on in the U.S. We miss you Ted.

Since I can’t find YouTube videos of any of his songs, and since clips of songs (30 seconds is the legal limit) are totally unsatisfying (let’s face it, we’re kind of spoiled on the KEXP Blog because Blogmaster Jim is able to get full songs for almost all artists for us), I’m going to just describe his sound. Then, after Friday’s Spotlight, we’ll link you to the archive so you can hear the whole set of songs the way I played them on the show... ‘kay?

The Next Hundred Years opens with a breeze of warm air carrying acoustic guitar. The effect somehow makes it hum. Ted floats the most gorgeous vocal hum into this mix. And then he sings. And you believe him. The song is “Strange Conversation”:

I had a strange conversation.
My baby called me on the phone.
She said your next lover’s gonna be the blues.
And now I’m gonna be gone.

Picture this smoky voice hovering over the busy voices of Venice Beach. Tourists pass by punk rockers, street vendors, rollerbladers and junkies. A man with a guitar sits on a milk crate. He’s in a world of his own. And as you see this man, you glimpse his world, and it has nothing to do with the beach, the boardwalk or the passers by. He is in love. And he’s lost her. He pulls you in.

Listen in Friday night at 9pm for my show Nite Life and if you’re still up, check us out at midnight for this feature on the album The Next Hundred Years by my friend Ted Hawkins.

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