John Sebastian (born John Benson Sebastian on 17 March 1944, in Greenwich Village, New York City) is an American songwriter and harmonica player. He is best known as a founder of The Lovin' Spoonful, a band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. His tie-dyed denim jacket is prominently displayed there. Early in their recording and airwave career, Lovin' Spoonful members termed their approach "good-time music". Unlike many pop groups of the day, the Lovin' Spoonful played all the instruments on their records, and aside from a few covers, wrote all their own material.
Early in their recording and airwave career, Lovin' Spoonful members termed their approach "good-time music". Unlike many pop groups of the day, the Lovin' Spoonful played all the instruments on their records, and aside from a few covers, wrote all their own material.
His group The Lovin' Spoonful played a major role in the mid-'60s rock revolution, but what leader, singer and songwriter Sebastian had in mind was actually a counter-revolution. "We were grateful to The Beatles for reminding us our rock & roll roots," John explains, "but we wanted to cut out the English middlemen, so to speak, and get down to making this new music as an 'American' band."
This the Lovin' Spoonful did like nobody before or since, putting their first seven singles into the Top 10. This was unprecedented, and utterly unthinkable at the height of Beatlemania. At first they'd taken older material from blues, country, folk and jug band sources - what we now term "roots music" - and made it sound modern. Then, in a series of original songs composed and sung by John Sebastian, they did the reverse, creating thoroughly modern music that sounded like it contained the entire history of American music. Which it did.
He embarked on a moderately successful solo career after leaving the Lovin' Spoonful in 1968. Sebastian was popular among the rock festival circuits. He had a memorable, albeit unscheduled appearance at Woodstock, appearing after Country Joe McDonald's set, playing songs such as "I Had a Dream," "Rainbows All Over Your Blues" and "Younger Generation" which he dedicated to a newborn baby at the festival. Documentary remarks by festival organizers revealed that Sebastian was under the influence at the time, hence his spontaneity and casual, unplanned set. Sebastian also returned for Woodstock '94, playing harmonica for Crosby, Stills and Nash. Sebastian released his eponymous LP John B. Sebastian in 1970, which featured him accompanied by various L.A. musicians.
Sebastian played harmonica with The Doors on the song Roadhouse Blues under the pseudonym G. Puglese to avoid problems with his contract, which was featured on Morrison Hotel album, also played on "Little Red Rooster" on the live album Alive, she cried and on seven songs on Live In Detroit. He is also credited with playing harmonica on Crosby Stills Nash & Young's "Déjà vu" from the album of the same name.
He had been involved in music for films (most notably Francis Ford Coppola's "You're A Big Boy Now" and Woody Allen's "What's Up Tiger Lily") and Broadway, but when producers of a TV show called "Welcome Back Kotter" commissioned a theme song in 1976, Sebastian's "Welcome Back" became a chart-topping solo record.
Thankfully John's induction into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 hasn't slowed him down. Whether the stage is at Carnegie Hall or a folk festival in some far-flung locale, John is still out there spreading his gospel of American roots music. He is the subject of the current PBS special "Do You Believe In Magic: The Music of John Sebastian," and a new album of duets with David Grisman was released in 2007. He has also lent his music in support of social, environmental and animal rights causes. Recently he joined a delegation of songwriters (including Lamont Dozier, Allen and Marilyn Bergman, and Mike Stoller) in Washington, DC to campaign on behalf of the National Music Publisher's Association.
Perhaps because it has been the product of heart and soul and history, the oldest song in the Sebastian catalog is as fresh and vital as the song he's about to write tomorrow. That's why you still hear his music everywhere - in movies, on television, in cover versions and samples - and why it's always welcome. John is also a welcome media presence; his commentary, insights and anecdotes and stories are regularly featured in print, radio, TV and film documentary projects. John Sebastian is not only a master musician, writer and performer, he remains one of the best ambassadors American music has ever had.