The Lovin' Spoonful

The Lovin' Spoonful

Synopsis of Pop Music

"Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty..."

In the mid-60’s, plenty of folk-influenced musicians like the Byrds and the Mamas and the Papas turned their attentions to pop music and found success on the charts. However, few folk-rockers were as amazingly successful as the Lovin’ Spoonful. Between 1965 and 1967, this New York-based quartet released ten charting singles, eight of which went Top-10.

The seeds of the Lovin’ Spoonful were sown when veteran folk musicians John Sebastian and Zal Zanovsky saw the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. The two performed in various combos that combined folk and rock until they teamed up with Steve Boone and Joe Butler to form the Lovin’ Spoonful. The quartet worked hard and quickly landed a record contract. Their first single, a rollicking declaration of purpose called "Do You Believe In Magic?" went to #9 on the charts at the end of 1965.

1966 was chock full of hits for the Lovin’ Spoonful. In January, they went to #10 with “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice.” Follow-up songs “Daydream” and “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind” both went to #2. In the summer, they went to #1 with the atypically hard-rocking “Summer In The City,” which combined genuine street sound effects and big, booming drums to create a convincing ‘in-the-city’ feeling. The band did a soundtrack for What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, a spoof of Japanese spy films. They also appeared in the film, which was masterminded by Woody Allen. They closed out the year with one more Top-10 in “Rain On the Roof.”

By this time, the Lovin’ Spoonful had become unlikely pin-ups. Sebastian has claimed in interviews that they were the first band to perform in (and be photographed in) their street clothes. The unpretentious image suited the band well and the 'Manhattan mop-tops' continued to have further hits in 1967 with “Nashville Cats” and the orchestra-backed “Darling, Be Home Soon.” They did another soundtrack, this time for Francis Ford Coppola’s You’re A Big Boy Now, and put out a hits collection, The Best of the Lovin’ Spoonful. The compilation quickly went to #3 and would stay on the album charts for a year.

Zal Yanovsky left the group in mid-1967. Sebastian did another album with the band before leaving to start a solo career. The band dissolved at the end of 1968 after one last album, Revelation Revolution 69. Sebastian found a good deal of success as a solo act and would score a #1 hit in with “Welcome Back,” the theme song for the Welcome Back, Kotter television series. He also briefly reunited with the rest of the Lovin' Spoonful for a cameo in One Trick Pony, a film directed by and starring Paul Simon.

John Sebastian has continued to record, frequently touring as a solo act and also with other artists. He continues to write music for television shows, building a resume that includes The Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake. The Lovin’ Spoonful reformed without Sebastian to tour in 1991 and continue to do live performances today. Meanwhile, their past hits continue to be a fixture on classic rock radio and often pop up in films and as part of television ad campaigns. This ongoing success of their music proves that their vision of 'good-time music' was both long-lasting and ahead of its time.

Artist Release History

1965 - Do You Believe in Magic
1966 - Daydream
1966 - Did You Ever
1966 - What's Up, Tiger Lily?
1966 - Hums
1967 - Day Blues
1967 - Nashville Cats
1967 - Loving You
1967 - Something in the Night
1967 - You're a Big Boy Now
1968 - Revelation Revolution '69
1968 - Everything Playing
1969 - Run with You
1979 - So Nice
1991 - In the Movies
1995 - The Lovin' Spoonful
1999 - Live at the Hotel Seville

Pop Sub Categories


Essential Music Albums

The Very Best of the Lovin’ Spoonful (Camden)

Band Members

John Sebastian lead vocals, guitar, harmonica
Zal Yanovsky (1965-67) guitar, vocals
Steve Boone bass, vocals
Joe Butler drums, vocals
Jerry Yester (1967-68) guitar, vocals

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