Van Dyke Parks has been known mostly for his behind-the-scenes work in music, as a composer, arranger, producer and lyricist for the likes of the Beach Boys, Randy Newman, the Byrds, Ringo Starr, Grace Kelly and many others.
But it was only last year that Parks decided to step out as a performing artist, touring -- primarily with a trio -- to present the music he's made with others as well as on his own albums.
"A lot of my peers, especially people like Randy Newman and James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt...you just look around at the people I know well that have enjoyed being able to perform, and I stayed in Los Angeles, hermetically sealed, working in a studio...and basically comfortable in my anonymity," Parks, 69, explains. "My mother once observed that she and my father marveled at how I put my retirement before my career.
"So I guess you can say it feels like I'm coming out of retirement. I've played an occasional festival, but the idea of going out on the road and having an organized tour and an agent, that's all new, and quite an adventure. If I'd have known how rewarding it is..."
Parks has only added to his repertoire recently. He's released a series of six vinyl singles, each sporting specially created art by Billy Edd [cq] Wheeler, Klaus Voormann, Sally Parks and others, and he also released a compilation of his previous work called "Arrangements Vol. 1." But while he's happy to reference his past -- "There is a great deal of validation in the associations I've had," he notes -- Parks is mostly excited about creating more new music.
"The old songs, I think, are evocative, almost nostalgic," Parks acknowledges. "But I think I have a winning formula here, and that is not to rest on any imagined laurels. I want to see what I can do to bring things of value forward. I have that obligation.
"There is much to do, I believe. My greatest victories are ahead of me, not behind."
Van Dyke Parks performs at 9 p.m. Saturday, April 7, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, 4454 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Admission is $10. Call 1-313-832-6622 or visit www.mocadetroit.org.
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