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Dean Friedman

Dean Friedman scored one of the great one-hit AM wonders of the 1970s with "Ariel," a soft rock satire of the suburbs. "Ariel" climbed to 26 in 1977, right when the Billboard charts were filled with ambitious singer/songwriters and smooth, supple soft rock, and Friedman's eponymous debut straddled those two extremes. Friedman never managed to replicate that success in America -- in the U.K., he'd take "Lucky Stars," a duet with Denise Marsa, to number three in 1978 -- but his clever songcraft earned him a cult following he'd later parlay into work as a jingle writer. Later still, he'd maintain that cult through steady tours, idiosyncratic singles like "Lydia," "Rocking Chair (It's Gonna Be All Right)," "McDonald’s Girl," and "Woman of Mine," and late-career efforts like Submarine Races (2010) and American Lullaby (2021). A native of the New Jersey suburb Paramus, Dean Friedman purchased his first guitar at the age of nine and soon started writing songs. He whiled away his adolescence doing odd jobs to support his interest in music, eventually settling into a group called Marsha & the Self-Portraits, who played the wedding and bar mitzvah circuit. At City College, he majored in music, taking a course from folk guitarist David Bromberg, who put him in touch with Allen Pepper and Stanley Snadowsky, a management pair who also owned the New York City club The Bottom Line. The duo signed Friedman to a management deal in 1975, when he was a mere 20 years old. Pepper and Snadowsky helped Friedman line up a deal with Cashman & West's Lifesong label, which released his eponymous debut in February 1977. "Ariel" first made headway on FM stations before crossing over onto AM radio, launching the single's 22-week climb to 26 on Billboard's Top 40. A second album, "Well, Well," Said the Rocking Chair, was rushed to market at the start of 1978, but it didn't do much on the U.S. charts. Over in the U.K., "Lucky Stars" reached number three at the end of the year. Rumpled Romeo arrived in 1981 and included the controversial "McDonald's Girl," which the BBC banned for mentioning the tradename of the popular fast food restaurant – A Friedman-worthy twist of fate saw the McDonald’s corporation license the song for a 2011 National TV/Radio campaign. The LP failed to find much commercial success, so Friedman reconnected with the showbizzy aspect of his career that had lain dormant during his run at the charts. As he pursued hits in the '70s, he had moonlighted in television advertising. Once the hits dried up, he began contributing music and songs to a series of television shows and films. He also tried his hand in synthesizer scholarship, publishing a book called The Complete Guide to Synthesizers, Sequencers and Drum Machines in 1985, and dabbled in designing video games. During this time, Half Man Half Biscuit authored a song called "The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman," which appeared on their 1987 album, Back Again in the DHSS. During the '90s, Friedman stayed relatively quiet, releasing a pair of live albums followed in 1998 by the comedy affair Songs for Grownups. In the 2000s, Friedman returned to recording and performing with a vengeance, releasing four studio albums that decade, starting with 2002's The Treehouse Journals, one of the first-ever crowd-funded records. He has continued to perform and record on a regular basis, releasing four well-received albums (Submarine Races, Words & Music, 12 Songs, and American Lullaby) between 2010 and 2021.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo


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