Richman has developed a sizable and underappreciated repertoire of songs expressing an adult’s wise, thoughtful and poetic take on love and the passage of time. They often still manage to connect with his memories of childhood, which gives them an extraordinary perspective that few singer-songwriters can manage.
Richman’s oft-recorded “That Summer Feeling” is an example. It’s lyrically playful in listing alluring, enticing images associated with summer — and thus, symbolically, with one’s prime. But he keeps stepping out of the mood to caution, in that choked-back voice of his, “That summer feeling is going to haunt you one day in your life.”
The Surrender album, one of his best, includes “My Little Girl’s Got a Full Time Daddy Now” and the extraordinary “Floatin’ ” (“I had a dream about floatin’/ Out there on a raft in the ocean/ My my family far behind/ Why are they so hard to find?”).
The lovely “Springtime in New York,” from the Her Mystery album that came out right after 9/11, remarkably takes us through the stages of a couple’s relationship with spare but lucid observations about the East Village in spring.
On his latest album, this year’s excellent Because Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild, Richman moves from manchild to solemn grown son in a short but emotionally open song about spending time with his dying mother, “As My Mother Lay Lying.”
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