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Latest induction honors Bob Seger's songwriting legacy
By his own estimation, Bob Seger wrote his first song when he was a teenager, playing in a Detroit area group called the Decibels.
"The guitar player, Pete Stanger, wrote a song called 'Jackie the Thief,' and I said, 'That sounds like a good idea. I'll write, too,' " Seger recalls. "I think I was 16 or 17 years old. The first one I wrote was called 'The Lonely One' -- it's actually not bad for a first song."
The Oakland County-based Seger, of course, went on to write hundreds of other -- and better known -- songs, including enduring Top 10 smashes such as "Night Moves," "Still the Same," "Against the Wind" and "Fire Lake." And he'll be honored for that particular aspect of his career on Thursday, June 14, when he's inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.
"It's a really nice honor. They've been doing it since '69, so they haven't taken it lightly," says Seger, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. He'll be inducted by Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl that night as part of a class that also includes Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Steinman, Don Schlitz and the team of Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones and plans to perform "Turn the Page" with members of his Silver Bullet Band.
"Songwriting...I really work hard on that. I like to think that, like (Don) Henley says, I leave a little blood on the page and work really hard on my lyrics chord changes, structure and everything. So it's pretty heartening to get that nod."
The honor has given Seger an opportunity to consider all the writing he's done over the years. He concludes that he has "about five" songs that are iconic, including "Turn the Page," "Night Moves" and "Against the Wind." "Like a Rock" from 1986 is also on his list, primarily because of the Chevy truck ads it appeared in for the better part of 12 years.
"That was just a huge thing for Chevy and all those workers," Seger says. "I think it did a lot of good in the auto industry. They had profitable years on trucks all 12 years that (ad) was out -- that's why we kept (renewing) it. I'm not bragging; that's just what they kept telling me."
Ironically, Seger does not have a writing credit on what's arguably his best-known song, 1978's "Old Time Rock and Roll," even though he "re-wrote every verse" from the original demo tape submitted by Memphis songwriters George E. Jackson and Thomas E. Jones III. The song ranks No. 2 on the Amusement & Music Operators Association's Top Jukebox Singles of All Time and is on the Recording Industry Association of America's Songs of the Century list.
"It was a rush thing at the time," says Seger, who recorded the song shortly before heading to Europe on tour. "Punch (Andrews, his manager) said, 'Well, you re-wrote some of the lyrics. You've got to take some credit,' and I said, 'Ah, they haven't got a pot to p*** in. I'm doing fine. Let them keep the money.
"But, man, that was a bad mistake, you know -- not because of the money, but because we could've controlled where (the song) went. We could've had a say about all the stupid commercials they put it in."
Seger had no problems with its inclusion in the film "Risky Business," accompany Tom Cruise's dance scene in his underwear, but he laments that "we could've kept it out of the Wendy's commercials and all the...places they put it in."
Even as the Hall of Fame honor looms, Seger continues to build his songwriting catalog. He's hard at work on his next album -- the follow-up to 2006's "Face the Promise" -- with, he says, five (songs) that I really, really like, and then I'm sifting through the other 70 that I've got in the can. Some of them aren't that old. Some of them are just last album stuff that I really liked and I got talked out of and I'm really sorry I did.
"I could actually put (an album) out for this fall right now if I wanted to, but I'm just going to write a little more before I make a final decision."
Among the tunes Seger has lined up are "The Price," a duet with Trisha Yearwood, and a rock ballad called "You Take Me." He's also considering a pair of live recordings from the 2006 tour with his Silver Bullet Band, his own "Sometimes" and a cover of Little Feat's "Fat Man in the Bathtub."
"They're just firecrackers, pure rage, and I've been sitting on those for 20-some years and I'd love for people to hear them," Seger says. "There's mistakes in them, but I don't give a s***. They've just got this thing that is so powerful, and I think it'd be a nice kind of change-up to go from the contemporary feel back to that mid-80s feel."
Meanwhile, Seger is also penning music for the trailer to "Threshhold," a "psycho-thriller" film co-written by his son Cole, who just finished his freshman year of college.
New album or not, Seger also plans to take his Silver Bullet Band back on the road for two weeks in November, not playing near home but hitting either the North American west coast -- including San Diego, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver and Denver -- or Australia, where his 2011 compilation "Ultimate Hits: Rock and Roll Never Forgets" has spent six weeks in the Top 10 this year.
"The promoters are kind of bidding against each other, and whoever comes up with the best deal is going to get it," says Seger, who played 54 shows in 2011 and early 2012. "Or," he adds with a laugh, "we could get greedy and do both -- North America and Australia! We'll see what happens."
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