Tomorrow shall be the anniversary of the birth of the most nostalgically wonderful man that I have ever known; He was born Kenneth Rosenberg in Brooklyn on December 9th, 1943, and would go on to become an original founding member of a 1960s group, and then would later go on to become a singer, songwriter, and music producer. That man whom I am speaking about in this blog post today and whose birthday I am to celebrate happens to be none other than Kenny Vance.
When Kenny was a teenager, he began hanging around the famous Tin Pan Alley songwriting machine, the Brill Building; He then started the Harbor Lites, his very first vocal group, at the age of 15. This group would then go on to record two singles for Ivy Records in 1959. Kenny would later form another group, this time as Jay and the Americans; this all-new group auditioned for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who then later signed them to United Artists Records.
During their time as a group, Jay and the Americans recorded their first hit, “She Cried”, released in 1962; they would become the opening act for not one, but two of the great British groups in their very first U.S. performances: The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The group also appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and in addition to their hit singles throughout the 1960s, they would form their very own publishing and production company, JATA Enterprises.
In 1967, before his time with Jay and The Americans was over, Kenny Vance then managed a songwriting duo who would go on to greater fame under the name of Steely Dan, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen; Kenny would continue to work for the songwriting duo until 1971, and that was when he brought one of their songs, “I Mean to Shine”, to Richard Perry first, then brought to Barbra Streisand, who recorded the song on one of her albums, Barbra Joan Streisand.
Later on in his career, Kenny Vance would go on to session work, as well as writing and producing movie soundtracks, and he also became the music supervisor for two movies, Animal House and Eddie and the Cruisers, as well as American Hot Wax; It was in that movie that he invented a group that, unbeknownst to him, would go on to be reborn in a real manner: Kenny Vance appeared in the movie as “Professor LaPlano”, leader of a fictional group called the Planotones, performing “Rock and Roll Is Here to Stay”. Kenny has since contributed music for other TV shows and movies, and would go on to become the musical director of the time-honored Saturday Night Live.
In 1992, Vance would re-form the no-longer-fictitious Planotones, only this time as Kenny Vance and The Planotones; They released their first two albums, Teenage Jazz and Looking For An Echo. Kenny then created the whole soundtrack for the 1999 film also called Looking For an Echo. Since that time, the group has released five more albums, in which yours truly has the pleasure of having, Lover’s Island, Countdown to Love, Dancing and Romancing, Oceans of Time, and their holiday album, Mr. Santa.
I wish that life was kind to the man that I have and still am falling in love with, had it not been for the fates that got in his way: In 2012, Kenny Vance lost his Rockaway home of 40 years due to Hurricane Sandy, and from 2013 to last year had to take time off from performing do a tear in his artery, and because of that, he had not been able to do that echo that he does during each song that he performs, and of course before his signature song, Looking For an Echo.
I am so very happy and blessed to be loving and still loving a man who is the most perfect match for me: A man who has similar nostalgic interests as I do, and while most people would rather prefer listening to such hip-hop foulmouths as Cardi B as well as teen bubblegum sugar delights as boy bands, it is those times when I need to prefer listening to Kenny Vance the very most; While current artists of the day sometimes irritate me, it is Kenny and his heavenly voice that soothes me.
And tomorrow, I shall celebrate his 75th birthday. Kenny darling, if you are reading this, I just want you to know how very happy I am for you this day; God has blessed me with the gift of a sweet friend such as you. Thank you so very much for cheering me up all these years, and the world thanks you for giving them the nostalgia that they so desperately needed. Happy 75th Birthday Kenny Vance, my heavenly merman, with all of my love from the bottom of my heart-Jennifer W.