Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tommy James Still Rockin' At 61

Tommy James(born Thomas Gregory Jackson) was one of the greatest American lead singers and of the 1960's with a huge string of highly successful singles with his group, The Shondells. "Crimson & Clover", "Mony, Mony", "Hank Panky", "I Think We're Alone Now", "Crystal Blue Persuasion" and many more huge selling hit singles. Although the group had roots that went back to 1959, in 1966 "Hank Panky" became the group's first surprise #1 hit.

Moving from a mere pop music act, the band began to adopt psychedelic songs and bizarre new musical effects in their songs such as "Crimson & Clover" enough that they were invited to play at the Woodstock music festival, but the band declined that invitation. However, drug use by Tommy James resulted in a serious incident during a 1970 concert in which the singer collapsed and was actually declared dead during the show. But the singer recovered, however it pretty much marked the end of the act as the band began to tour without James. James embarked on a solo career and had a big hit with "Dragin' The Line", but his other singles were far less successful although he continued to write, perform and record demos and other recordings. But the high-point of the band was during the 60's.

Tommy James has remained a huge influence on the music industry with artists such as Joan Jett, Billy Idol and others recording cover versions of the band's hits. Strangely, artists of the punk and new wave genres have been greatly influenced by the hit songs of Tommy James and certainly consider him to be one of the greatest musical acts of all time. While certainly not a punk rock or new wave performer himself, James strangely became like a "godfather" to their music giving these genre performers a wealth of concepts to work with because of the garage band-like roots of the act.

James may not top the charts these days. In fact, he hasn't had a huge hit since the early 70's. However, he continues to perform and do music. He started in 1959 at just age 12, so he has no good reason to stop now.