Let’s talk about 1969 – 50 years ago - for a moment – The Beatles' last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records, First Concorde test flight is conducted In France, Boeing 747 jumbo jet makes its debut, Pontiac Firebird Trans Am the epitome of the American muscle car is introduced, Woodstock attracts more than 500,00 and a singer-songwriter named Andy Kim co-writes The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar,” a song that debuts on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1969, a full 2 months after released as radio doesn’t want to play a cartoon band.
In September, it hits #1 on the way to becoming Billboard’s Record of the Year and the biggest-selling single of the year. Wilson Pickett, Tom Jones, Ike & Tina Turner, Bob Marley, The Germs, Mary Lou Lord, and even Homer Simpson goes on to cover the song.
Born in Montreal, Andy Kim was inspired by the Beatles, Hank Williams, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Buddy Holly, and Bob Dylan. He found fame in New York City at just 16 years old when he wrote How’d We Ever Get This Way?, the first of nine Billboard Top 40 hits, including #1 songs Rock Me Gently and Sugar, Sugar, one of Billboard's "Greatest Songs of All Time." A true Canadian son, Andy has been awarded the country’s top industry honours three times, the JUNO Award for outstanding achievements in the record industry, as well as the Indie Award for Favorite Solo Artist and a star on Canada’s Walk Of Fame. Andy is a member of Songwriters Hall of Fame and was inducted into Billboard's Hit Parade Hall of Fame. Over his epic career, Andy has sold over 30 million records, and The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar, has been streamed over 300 million times on Spotify and YouTube.
His latest album, It’s Decided, produced by Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, was released on Arts & Crafts to critical acclaim. In May 2016, Andy was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame. Andy Kim’s music can be heard almost 50 years later in hit series such as Showcase’s Ray Donovan, The CW’s Riverdale and Netflix’s Mindhunters and Sarah Jessica Parker’s new series Divorce.
Who the heck is Andy Kim, and why is everyone talking about him?
For most of us, dreams are transitory. Dreams come over us and then fade before we have a chance to understand them. But there are people whose dreams intensify over time. There are people who live their whole lives in the pursuit and exploration of their dreams. Of those, only a few manage to make a mark on the world around them. The world is not usually ready for dreamers. Those who chase their dreams succeed only through sheer determination and a steadfast belief that people will want to hear what they have to say.
Andy Kim is a dreamer. At the age of 12, Andy had a vision for what he would become. It is still the child within Andy that leads him along today.
Andy has thrown off enough sparks to ignite the entire world with the fire of his songs. But somehow, he hides behind his music. How is it that someone whose songs are celebrated so broadly could remain virtually unrecognizable by name and by face? Andy shies away from the public eye, expressing himself solely through his music. He never looks back. He is undistracted by his past. It is only Andy's vision of the future that drives him forward. But for so many people, Andy's accomplishments cannot possibly be overlooked.
As a kid, Andy didn't just listen to the music on the radio, he studied it.
Having scraped together $40 bucks, and much against the better wishes of his parents, Andy boarded a bus from Montreal to New York City. Andy was only in New York City for a couple of days, but he accomplished his goal.
He just walked into the Brill building, into the offices of Leiber and Stoller, and asked to speak to Jeff Barry. He made it seem like he was busy. He told him that he was in town meeting with other people. Jeff liked what he heard, and Andy's musical career got its start.
Eventually, Jeff signed Andy to his Steed record label and he produced and co-wrote Andy's first top 20 hits, How'd We Ever Get This Way? which sold 800,000 copies.
Andy had a number of other top 20 hits at that time, including the top 5 Baby I Love You, which earned Andy his first gold record selling more than 1.5 million copies.
That same year, he co-wrote Sugar, Sugar for fictional popsters The Archies. The song was No. 1 for four weeks and became Billboard’s Record of the Year and the biggest-selling record of the year. Ike and Tina Turner covered the song, so did Wilson Pickett. And so did Bob Marley. All of this, in the year of Woodstock.
More hits followed - Be My Baby, I Been Moved. For a few years, Andy toured the globe spreading his music to the furthest corners, and everywhere he went, people loved his music.
From that perch, unfortunately, the only direction was down.
But when he returned home from touring it seemed that he had fallen out of favour with the recording industry. Andy had written a new song called Rock Me Gently and absolutely no one wanted to produce it. Andy loved the song, and he wouldn't take no for an answer. He formed a new record company, called Ice, and produced the record on his own. When it was released, the song Rock Me Gently went straight to #1 on the Billboard charts and it remained on the charts for a staggering 4 months. This second #1 Billboard song added to Andy's international success, hitting #2 on the charts in the UK.
Suddenly, again, he was a star. He met Elvis. He hung out with Phil Spector. John Lennon handed him his gold record. And he did it without the support of Canadian content. In the 21st century, Canada's entertainment industries may take global markets much more seriously, but back in the 1970s, when being popular outside Canada was the benchmark of real success - Canadian Content rules and regulations on the radio helped & was just beginning to create a star system within the country - Andy had none of that support.
It wasn't until the death of his father that Andy was forced to turn away from pursuing his dream. Having left home at such a young age, Andy was deeply affected by his father's death. He recoiled from his public life, and for the first time in his career, his musical voice was silenced. When he did return, the world had changed, and his successes were only moderate.
It would have been very easy to lean on his past and to repeat to a dwindling audience his cherished classics. But this was not Andy's desire.
Over his epic career, Andy has sold over 30 million records, and may well have deserved as much fame as Leonard Cohen or Joni Mitchell. And yet - the question still remains - who is hell is Andy Kim, and why are all these people talking about him?
With all of Andy's success, it is ironic that he remains all but nameless and faceless today. But Andy wants people to attach to his music, not to his persona. While honoured by his induction into The Songwriter's Hall of Fame, he doesn't want to be remembered for what he has done but rather heard for what he has yet to say. He is a man chased by his own dream, unable to sit still lest he is caught frozen in time.
A long time has passed since those early days. For a while, he even hid behind than name Baron Longfellow. But nothing worked. So Andy settled into obscurity in L.A.
But today, Andy is as vulnerable and as determined as ever. Over the years he has influenced countless people. And today's most respected musicians are paying him the highest tributes. His new music is reaching a new audience.
When he collaborated with Ed Robertson of The Barenaked Ladies on the song I Forgot To Mention, Andy was voted by Canadian Music Week as the Best Solo Indie Artist of the Year.
Of course, with so many hits under his belt, and songs that continue to get covered decade after decade, most recently, the massively-viral 2007 Jeep commercial and Dreamworks animation Bee Movie.
The recording industry tells Andy that he has had his moment on the stage and that a comeback is not in the cards. He released 2010's Happen Again album, his first full release in over 20 years, and found a resurgence in his career - Nobody comes back like this in music. Music industry pundit Bob Lefsetz wrote about him for a week to hundreds of thousands of followers.
R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe calls Sugar, Sugar one of the greatest song ever written, Sarah Harmer, Sam Roberts, Lights, Rush's Alex Lifeson, Finger Eleven, Ron Sexsmith all support his Christmas Show to benefit Toronto charitable organizations.
Comebacks like this don't happen in music. Andy has always been the exception to the rule. Ultimately his fans, young and old, will decide.
2015 saw It’s Decided, a brand new record produced by Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene on the Arts & Crafts label, home to artists such as Feist, Chilly Gonzales, The Stills, and Stars. The fans of those bands took notice. It was highly praised and talked about in Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Uncut Magazine. David Letterman was flushed with gratitude and fandom when Andy sang on his show.
And then his home country’s music industry inducted him into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame. A new generation of music fans really took notice.
Songwriter...Singer...Legend...Mystery. Has there ever been a more successful musical artist born in Canada that few know about than Andy Kim?
And for now, Andy just keeps writing and performing his songs, because that's all he's ever dreamed of doing.
And now everyone knows who Andy Kim is.
And the songs still remain.