Al Kooper (born Alan Peter Kuperschmidt; February 5, 1944) is an American songwriter, record producer and musician, known for organizing Blood, Sweat & Tears, although he did not stay with the group long enough to share its popularity. Throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s he was a prolific studio musician, playing organ on the Bob Dylan song "Like a Rolling Stone", French horn and piano on the Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want", and lead guitar on Rita Coolidge's "The Lady's Not for Sale", among many other appearances. Kooper also produced a number of one-off collaboration albums, such as the Super Session album that saw him work separately with guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. In the 1970s Kooper was a successful manager and producer, recording Lynyrd Skynyrd's first three albums. He has also had a successful solo career, written music for film soundtracks, and has lectured in musical composition. He is currently retired.
|Birth name||Alan Peter Kuperschmidt|
|Also known as||Roosevelt Gook|
|Born||February 5, 1944|
Brooklyn, New York, US
|Genres||Blues, R&B, pop rock|
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, producer|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, percussion, mandolin|
|Years active||1958–2021 (retired)|
Kooper's first professional work was as a 14-year-old guitarist in The Royal Teens, best known for their 1958 ABC Records novelty 12-bar blues riff "Short Shorts" (although Kooper did not play on the recording). In 1960, he teamed up with songwriters Bob Brass and Irwin Levine to write and record demos for Sea-Lark Music Publishing. The trio's biggest hits were "This Diamond Ring", recorded by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and "I Must Be Seeing Things". recorded by Gene Pitney (both 1965). When he was 21, Kooper moved to Greenwich Village in Manhattan.
He first performed with Bob Dylan playing the Hammond organ riffs on "Like a Rolling Stone". He had been invited to watch the recording by producer Tom Wilson. It was in those recording sessions that Kooper met and befriended Mike Bloomfield, whose guitar playing he admired. He worked with Bloomfield for several years. In 1965, Kooper played with Dylan in concert, and played Hammond organ with Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival, as well as in the recording studio in 1965 and 1966. He played organ once again with Dylan during his 1981 world tour.
Kooper joined the Blues Project as their keyboardist in 1965. He left the band shortly before their gig at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, although he did play a solo set, as evidenced by bootlegs of the event. He formed Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1967, leaving due to creative differences in 1968, after the release of the group's first album, Child Is Father to the Man. He recorded Super Session with Bloomfield and Stephen Stills in 1968, and in 1969 he collaborated with 15-year-old guitarist Shuggie Otis on the album Kooper Session. In 1972, he rejoined the Blues Project at a charity concert promoted by Bruce Blakeman at Valley Stream Central High School.
Kooper has played on hundreds of records, including ones by the Rolling Stones, B. B. King, the Who, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Alice Cooper, and Cream. On occasion he overdubbed his own efforts, as on The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper and other albums, under the pseudonym "Roosevelt Gook".
In 1969, Kooper produced, arranged, and conducted the album Appaloosa, a "folk-baroque" style of music that combined rock and classical. Among other artists who were all arranging folk-oriented material with classical-influenced orchestration were Judy Collins, Donovan, Tim Hardin and Tom Rush. Kooper was joined by Boston musicians John Parker Compton, singer and acoustic guitarist, Robin Batteau on violin, Eugene Rosov on cello, and David Reiser on electric bass. Contributing to the album was saxophonist Fred Lipsius and Blood, Sweat and Tears drummer Bobby Columby. After moving to Atlanta in 1972, he discovered the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and produced and performed on their first three albums, including the singles "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird". In 1975 he produced the debut album of the Tubes.
He wrote the score for the TV series Crime Story and for the film The Landlord and wrote music for several made-for-television movies. He was the musical force behind many of the pop tunes, including "You're the Lovin' End", for The Banana Splits, a children's television program.
During the late 1980s, Kooper had his own dedicated keyboard studio room in the historic Sound Emporium recording studio in Nashville, next to studio B.
Kooper's status as a published author enabled him to join (and act as musical director of) the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band made up of writers including Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, and Matt Groening.
Kooper wrote a column named "New Music For Old People" for online publication The Morton Report from April 2014 to April 2015. This later led to a radio show by the same name, which began in October 2018, for Martha's Vineyard community radio station WVVY. The first 11 editions of this can be found online.
In May 2001, Kooper was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music, in Boston. He taught songwriting and recording production at Berklee College of Music. He plays weekend concerts with his bands the ReKooperators and the Funky Faculty. In 2008, he participated in the production of the album Psalngs, the debut release of Canadian musician John Lefebvre.
Kooper published a memoir, Backstage Passes: Rock 'n' Roll Life in the Sixties (1977), which was revised and published as Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'n' Roll Survivor (1998). The revised edition includes indictments of "manipulators" in the music industry, including his one-time business manager, Stan Polley. An updated edition, including supplementary material, was published by Backbeat Books in 2008.
|1965||Bob Dylan||Highway 61 Revisited||Piano, organ|
|1966||Blonde on Blonde||Organ, guitar|
|Tom Rush||Take a Little Walk with Me||Electric guitar, celesta, liner notes|
|The Blues Project||Live at The Cafe Au Go Go||Organ, vocals|
|1967||The Blues Project Live at Town Hall||Keyboards|
|The Who||The Who Sell Out||Organ|
|1968||Blood, Sweat and Tears||Child is Father to the Man||Organ, piano, vocals, ondioline|
|The Jimi Hendrix Experience||Electric Ladyland||Piano|
|1969||The New Don Ellis Band Goes Underground|
|The Rolling Stones||Let It Bleed||piano, French horn and organ|
|B.B. King||Live & Well||Piano|
|1970||Bob Dylan||Self Portrait||Guitar, horn, keyboards|
|New Morning||Organ, piano, electric guitar, French horn|
|1971||The Who||Who's Next||Hammond organ|
|Bo Diddley||Another Dimension||Keyboards, guitar|
|Rita Coolidge||Nice Feelin'||Organ|
|1972||The Lady's Not for Sale||Lead guitar|
|1973||Betty Wright||Hard To Stop||Arranger, composer, keyboards, main personnel|
|Frankie & Johnny[a]||The Sweetheart Sampler||Producer|
|Atlanta Rhythm Section||Back Up Against the Wall||Synthesiser, ARP|
|Lynyrd Skynyrd||Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd||Producer, engineer, bass, Mellotron, back-up harmony, mandolin, bass drum, organ|
|1974||Second Helping||Producer, backing vocals, piano|
|Roger McGuinn||Peace on You||Guitar, piano, clavinet, arrangements, conductor|
|1975||Lynyrd Skynyrd||Nuthin' Fancy||Producer|
|The Tubes||The Tubes|
|1979||Leo Sayer||Here||Organ, synthesizer, keyboards, performer|
|4 on the Floor||4 on the Floor||Producer|
|1981||George Harrison||Somewhere in England||Keyboards, synthesisers|
|Ringo Starr||Stop and Smell the Roses||Piano, electric guitar|
|1985||Bob Dylan||Empire Burlesque||Rhythm guitar|
|1986||Knocked Out Loaded||Keyboards|
|1989||Roy Orbison||Mystery Girl||Organ|
|1990||Bob Dylan||Under the Red Sky||Hammond organ, keyboards|
|1991||Dave Sharp||Hard Traveling||Guest artist|
|Green On Red||Scapegoats||Producer|
|1996||Neil Diamond||Tennessee Moon||Hammond organ|
|1998||Phoebe Snow||I Can't Complain||Guest artist, Hammond organ|
|2000||Dan Penn||Blue Nite Lounge||Keyboards|
|2003||Chris Catena||Freak Out||Guest artist, Keyboards|
|2010||Peter Parcek||The Mathematics of Love||Keyboards|
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