Six Jonathan Richman Songs to Celebrate His 60th Birthday

It's hard to believe that Jonathan Richman turns 60 today.

Not only has the man maintained a positively youthful outlook when it comes to his music (do a quick Google search and see how often the term "wide-eyed" gets attached to his name), but it's hard to believe that Modern Lovers, the self-titled debut he cut with the band of the same name, was recorded in 1971 and '72.

The album exists somewhere in the netherworld between garage rock and punk, while still sounding remarkably ahead of the curve, anticipating New Wave and indie-rock.

Modern Lovers keyboardist Jerry Harrison went on to play in Talking Heads, while drummer David Robinson joined the Cars; bassist Ernie Brooks would work with Arthur Russell and David Johansen. 

Richman, on the other hand, went some place completely different. By the time the album was released in 1976, at a time when the band would have easily fit in with the burgeoning punk scene, Richman had assembled a different Modern Lovers (Robinson was the lone hold-over from the original group, but he didn't last long), and completely abandoned the proto-punk sound, opting for '50s style sweetness in its place.

Things only got more eclectic from there. The years have seen him explore Latin music, doo-wop, country, and appear in the 1998 film There's Something About Mary. Here are six songs from the man, which ought to demonstrate his range.

From the John Cale sessions. Richman was too kind for punk -- as these lyrics suggest. No, the man wasn't a rebel so much as he was a romantic, which at the time, made him seem pretty rebellious, after all. 

"Egyptian Reggae" is a tune that's turned up on a lot of Richman records. The man isn't opposed to re-recording and re-working his songs (in Spanish, or in a country style). Richman later started giving reggae singer Earl Zero a co-writing credit on the tune, which pretty shamelessly lifts from his "None Shall Escape the Judgement."

He sings! He dances!

Seriously, the Sex Pistols were covering his tunes, and J. Rich was busy cranking out melodic gold like this.

One of his sweetest moments.

Post-Velvets pop. Nearly as awesome as the other "Road Runner" song.

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.