Having charted for the first time exactly 45 years ago in 1972, few artists have experienced a lengthy musical career like Eric Carmen. In the early 1970s, Carmen was the lead singer and principal songwriter of the Raspberries, who first hit it big with “Go All The Way.” More chart hits — including “Don’t Want To Say Goodbye,” “I Wanna Be With You,” “Let’s Pretend,” and “Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)” — would follow before the Ohio-based group disbanded in 1975. 1976 brought the launch of Carmen’s solo career, and his first single “All By Myself” peaked at number two in the United States and number 12 in the United Kingdom.
Massive success followed Carmen into the 1980s as he charted plenty more singles. 1987 was a major year for Carmen as his contribution to the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, “Hungry Eyes,” went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Just a few years prior, his composition for the Footloose soundtrack, “Almost Paradise,” was also a radio staple around the world. Along the way, songs written by Carmen have been recorded by many key artists, including Celine Dion, Olivia Newton-John, John Travolta, Frankie Valli, Diana Ross, Victoria Justice, and Eric Benét.
In 2017, the catalog of Eric Carmen remains high in demand as new generations of music listeners have discovered his work. The Almost Famous soundtrack prominently featured “Go All The Way” in 2000. The same song was recorded by Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs for their 2009 Under The Covers, Vol. 2 album, The Killers for the 2012 film Dark Shadows, and appears in the 2014 blockbuster film Guardians Of The Galaxy. Meanwhile, a 2004 reunion concert of the Raspberries, as recorded at the House Of Blues in Cleveland, is finally getting a proper release through Omnivore Recordings on August 18th. A 2-CD set, Pop Art Live finds founding members Carmen, Wally Bryson, David Smalley and Jim Bonfanti in top form. Pop Art Live also includes liner notes from filmmaker Cameron Crowe, Bernie Hogya, and Ken Sharp.
Eric Carmen answered some Q&A for the Inquisitr about his past, present and future.
The popularity of the Raspberries’ catalog increased substantially in the 1990s and 2000s, when the band wasn’t active. When did you first realize that your work with the Raspberries was influential to key artists?
Eric Carmen: In 1974, when the band was recording our fourth album Starting Over at The Record Plant in New York, John Lennon was in the studio next to us producing, Harry Nilsson’s Pussycats album. John frequently would come by and stick his head in the door, while we were mixing and he later told me that he was “absolutely blown away by ‘Overnight Sensation'” and jokingly said that he and Ringo [Starr] were going to “do promotion.” That was certainly an amazing moment. Later on when Bruce Springsteen told me that while he was writing The River, all he listened to was Woody Guthrie and the Raspberries’ Greatest Hits, I began to realize our music was having an impact on some really great artists.
Do you have a favorite Raspberries cover version? Not the Motley Crue version of “Tonight,” I would assume?
Carmen: I enjoyed The Killers’ take on “Go All The Way” that appeared in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows.
For you, is there a favorite Raspberries song to perform live?
Carmen: I enjoy them all.
The band sounds very tight on Pop Art Live. How much rehearsal was needed before performing this reunion concert in 2004?
Carmen: We rehearsed on and off for about three months. Sometimes one or two of the band members weren’t available, so I would work with Paul Sidoti, Jennifer Lee, and Billy Sullivan on background vocals and string and horn parts.
What was the impetus to reunite in 2004? Was it simply someone from House Of Blues reaching out?
Carmen: Yes! The booker for the House Of Blues’ grand opening wanted to do something really special for Cleveland. His wife suggested, “Why don’t try to get the Raspberries to reunite?” He called Jim Bonfanti and Jim called me and we said, “If not now, when?”
How did this working relationship with Omnivore Recordings come about?
Carmen: I met Brad Rosenberger years ago when he was with Warner/Chappell Music Publishing. I was recording in L.A. in late 2013 with The Wondermints and Jeff Foskett and Ken Sharp brought Brad to the recording session. Brad had been sending me new Omnivore releases for years! I thought they were doing a wonderful job for their artists, so when this project came up, I thought Omnivore would be the perfect home for the recordings.
Notably your voice has held up very well throughout your career. Do you do a lot of vocal warm-up? Or do a lot to take care of yourself?
Carmen: I’ve never done any vocal warm ups, ever. As a matter of fact, I learned to sing playing three sets a night in smoky clubs. As luck would have it, my voice is best when it’s kind of blown out.
Pop Art Live aside, what is coming up for you in your career? Do you have plans for any solo recordings?
Carmen: I’ve been considering the possibility of performing again and I wouldn’t rule out making a new record.
Is there something you wish more people knew about Eric Carmen?
Carmen: I’m a very private person. If you want to know more about who I am, just listen to my music.
Finally, Eric, any last words for the kids?
Carmen: Dream big!
[Featured Image by Gene Taylor]