This year marks the 45th anniversary of Loggins & Messina’s breakthrough hit, “Your Mama Don’t Dance.” The zesty song cracked the top five on Billboard’s Hot 100 and led to the duo receiving a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist.
The duo consisted of Kenny Loggins, who had written Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1971 hit “House at Pooh Corner,” and Jim Messina, who had been a founding member of the influential country/rock band Poco.
Loggins & Messina disbanded in 1976, after which Loggins achieved even greater success as a solo artist. Between Loggins & Messina and his solo work, Loggins has amassed 31 hits on the Hot 100, 12 Grammy nominations (including two awards), and 10 platinum albums. His career peaked with “Footloose,” the frisky title song from the smash 1984 movie. The song hit No. 1, went platinum and brought Loggins Oscar and Grammy noms.
Loggins, 69, hasn’t had a Top 40 hit since 1988, but he remains active on the road. He’ll perform at The Rose in Pasadena on Thursday, November 30, Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on Saturday, December 2 and Canyon Club in Agoura on Sunday, December 3.
Loggins spoke to The Tolucan Times from his car, en route to the airport and yet another tour stop.
Your longevity must be gratifying. It’s one thing to fill a venue when you’re in the midst of a run of hits and you have a major label behind you. It’s another when you’re on your own.
It’s very gratifying. I’m lucky that I still get to do what I love. At times it’s tiring, but you can’t have one without the other.
You find that it’s a little harder to do it at 69 than it was at 28?
(Laughs) A little harder? Yeah. You might say that. It’s definitely much harder to do. When I started on the road with Jimmy Messina in 1971-’72, he told me he’d been on the road for like six years. I thought ‘Oh my God—six years. I can’t imagine doing this for six years.’
You have been very fortunate at several points in your career. You landed the supporting slot on Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours tour, which led to Stevie Nicks being featured on your first big solo hit, “Whenever I Call You ‘Friend’.” The success of “Footloose” led to your being invited to join “We Are the World” and Live Aid.
It has been a very lucky series of events. Whenever I had an opportunity to make luck happen, I did. The Footloose screenplay was written by a friend of mine, Dean Pitchford. He asked me for a favor to write a song or two for the movie. By doing him a favor, I changed the course of my career.
You signed to Columbia as a solo artist in 1971. Jim Messina was set to produce your debut album, but the project morphed into Loggins & Messina. The success of the duo delayed your solo debut six years. Do you think you were more ready to go solo in 1977 than you would have been in 1971?
It worked out for the best. In the beginning of my career, to have it be a duo and have Jimmy be my mentor essentially, that was a very lucky situation. I didn’t know what I was in for by (later) going solo. I didn’t realize the level of work—trying to write all of the songs for an album. Gradually, as I became a more mature writer and collaborator, I could take on that task more successfully.
You and Jim reunited for a couple of tours in 2005 and 2009. Is the dynamic different than it was in the ‘70s? Back then, he was the senior member. Are you now more equal partners?
It took a little while for Jimmy to get used to that. He still stepped in like the big brother. I don’t think he fully realized the extent that my solo career had gone.
He didn’t own a radio in the ‘80s?
(Laughs) Once we got used to a new way of being together and sharing the responsibilities more, he and I got along great.
When you co-wrote and recorded “Footloose,” did you have any inkling that it would become your biggest hit?
No, I really didn’t. The movie hadn’t been made yet. We wrote to a screenplay. We didn’t write to any visuals. That was the only time I have ever done that.
How can you predict that a movie is going to jump out of the box the way it did? Kevin Bacon really stole the show that year. He made that movie what it was. It was a matter of timing. I had had a top 10 hit with ‘I’m Alright’ from Caddyshack, so my career was ready to jump open. Rock ‘n’ roll in the movies was a (relatively) new idea back then. And MTV had just come in. We caught the front edge of that movement.
You recently published a children’s book, Footloose, which includes a CD.
I re-wrote the lyric. The premise is that the animals at a zoo are let out at night by the zookeeper so they can dance under the moon. It’s a just a fun type of thing. Little kids love it. So we’re back at Footloose again.
I don’t think most people know that you and Michael McDonald co-wrote the Doobie Brothers’ biggest hit, “What a Fool Believes.” You and the Doobies both recorded the song. In fact, your album that contained your version of the song came out five months before their album that contained their version. Was it always intended to be a Doobie Brothers single or could you have put it out first?
Mike and I never really discussed it. We just sort of figured whoever gets there first has it. I cut it in a different way and put it on my record. But the Doobies definitely nailed it with Mike’s groove. He had a feel to his style that was uniquely his. I really didn’t capture that groove. Years later, Mike and I did a duet of ‘What a Fool Believes’ that became a big hit for me in France.
You wrote “Danny’s Song” (which became a top 10 hit for Anne Murray) when your brother’s wife gave birth to their first child. You have said that some of the lyrics were taken directly from a letter he wrote you. Do you remember which lines came from that letter?
‘He will be like Shi and me/As free as a dove’—Shi is short for Sheila. ‘Pisces, Virgo rising is a very good sign/Strong and kind,’ that’s from his letter. His letter moved me and touched me. I just turned it into a song.
I notice your brother didn’t get a co-writer credit, though.
Don’t tell him that. Let’s not make any trouble!
Paul Grein writes regularly about pop music for such outlets as Yahoo.com and HitsDailyDouble.com. He first interviewed Loggins in 1980, when both were a few years younger.