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Singer-songwriter Emitt Rhodes, the ill-starred talent once called “The One-Man Beatles” (also the title of a 2009 documentary, pasted below), has died. The New York Times obituary is here.
I wrote about him previously on Dullblog, and those thoughts revisited me today. Nothing more to say but: good luck to you, Emitt, and thanks for the music.
This is just so sad. Rhodes had such talent and was treated incredibly poorly by his record company. Just last week I was in my local record store talking to Alan, the owner, about Rhodes. Rhodes’ first album was playing in the store and we were saying how great it still sounds — I always think of it as similar to a second disc in a “Ram” two-record set. (And coming from me, you know that’s a HIGH compliment!)
I’m glad Rhodes got some recognition before he died and was able to record another album in 2016. But overall, his career truly was ill-starred: the direct opposite, in many respects, of what the Beatles experienced. Yes, Brian Epstein didn’t make the smartest marketing deals, and yes, Lennon and McCartney signed their songwriting royalties away, but Epstein, EMI, and George Martin did them well. If they’d been burdened with the kind of crushing record deal Rhodes had and were under the kind of financial burden he was, things could have been very different. A sobering reminder that while talent is crucial, some degree of good fortune is also indispensable.
If John Lennon had been forced to work under an exploitative contract by a shyster manager, he would’ve stopped after With The Beatles. Or something.
Similarly, if the Seltaeb deal had been good — say, 90% to NEMS/Beatles — he would’ve stopped after Hard Day’s Night.
It’s what @Sam said above: the Beatles were in a Goldilocks Zone. Enough money to keep doing it, not so much they disappeared into depravity.
Emitt’s story really demonstrates how the Beatles occupied a Goldilocks Zone.
In astronomy and astrobiology, the circumstellar habitable zone (CHZ), or simply the habitable zone or Goldilocks Zone, is the range of orbits around a star within which a planetary surface can support liquid water given sufficient atmospheric pressure.
Given a narrow set of favorable conditions, life can flourish. If any of those conditions are absent or short-lived, life is impossible.
Mr. Rhodes may have been bitterly disappointed he didn’t reach the same heights as the Beatles, but at least he had some loyal fans and achieved a degree of recognition. That he made it as far as he did with the cards stacked against him says a lot about his talent and perseverance.