The Larimer – Rector Interview
On January 21, 2003, Calin Coburn received from the Country Music Foundation archive a copy of an April 28, 1976 interview by Betty Cox Larimer, the publisher of Music City News and Lee Rector, the editor. The interview took place in Bob Nolan's home in Studio City. Ken Griffis, Sons of the Pioneers' historian and friend of Bob’s, was also present. Bob’s mynah bird was there, too, constantly interrupting the interview with comments like, “Hello, P-Nuts”, “Good Morning”, and “I like gambling!” When the mynah spoke, everyone but Bob stopped speaking.
As a result of this interview, an article was published in the Music City News, August, 1976, page 18. Bob's portions of the interview are reproduced here, lightly edited and illustrated with photos from the Calin Coburn Collection. (Attempts to find Ms. Larimer and Mr. Rector have been unsuccessful.)
Most of us belonged to certain other groups before we decided and it was quite by accident that some of us got together as the three originals - Roy Rogers, Tim Spencer and myself. That took a little doing, too, because all three of us had worked with different groups. Better include Lloyd Perryman in on that because he’s the longest and the oldest member of the Sons of the Pioneers, I think. He’s been with them for thirty-eight years. I was only with them for sixteen years though I was one of the originals.
Now, Roy and I belonged to a group called The Rocky Mountaineers, see, and at that time Tim Spencer belonged to the Spencer Brothers Quartet. The Farr brothers was staff musicians at a radio station in Long Beach. That gets them all in, doesn’t it, I think so, except Pat Brady and he come into the group to take over Roy’s place when Roy became a star.
Now, let’s go back to the Sons of the Pioneers---the first---the trio, The Pioneer Trio. We joined another group, The Texas Outlaws. We’re still not the Sons of the Pioneers nor the Pioneer Trio which we eventually became. Yes, we was the singing trio for The Texas Outlaws and when we joined them, we took the name of The Pioneer Trio. (I’ve left the Rocky Mountaineers behind. I didn’t include them. Just suffice it to say that Roy and I came from the group.) Now we were with The Texas Outlaws for about six months and then the station we was working on took us on as staff and paid us as staff musicians, see? And gave us a very exclusive spot, a fifteen minute spot at 7:30 in the evening, so when everybody’s home just after dinner which has always been called Prime Time, see? That was KFWB at Warner Brothers. Now you’ve got to remember this was in the deepest part of the Depression, see? I mean the first part.
I should tell you some of the artists that were on KFWB at the time - the harmony groups. This is how come we went to KFWB. The Boswell Sisters were there, the Kingsmen Quartet were there. There were a couple other groups that didn’t make it, see, but we wanted to be on that station because of those two groups at that time. And we knew, Tim did anyhow, because he researched all the stations throughout the vicinity and he decided we should be there because the two top groups in the country were there. The Boswell Sisters and The Kingsmen Quartet.
So we were working up to our audition there before they put us with Jack and his Texas Outlaws. They were there on gratis, you know, just as a fill-in in the daytime around about noontime and nobody’d be listening!
But we auditioned for Harry Majovich who was not the owner but the manager of the station. And that was one of the biggest stations - KFWB - before all the networks. KFI was just another station, which is now NBC. KNX was just another station, which is now CBS. KXJ was low on the totem pole and it is now ABC. KFWB, which was the most popular station in this vicinity at that time never made a bid for affiliation with a network. And they had all the artists!
For actors, they had -- like Richard Boone’s theater people, you know? They had the same thing there and they did Shakespeare’s and all kinds of plays and the actors in there would scare you to death - I mean Howard Duff and Ida Lupino. Just jillions of them. And, oh, and Crump, married to Mary Pickford’s sister, Lottie. And he was a top actor of the old Shakespearean type. John Carradine....
So they give us some prime time in the evening and they kept trying to find a name for us. Then, you know, the Pioneer Trio---there was trios, quartets, and everything but one of the announcers on that station at that time said, “You’re awfully young to be pioneers, why don’t you call yourself The Sons of the Pioneers?” And that was the beginning of The Sons of the Pioneers, just the three men.
And the workload! We began to get popular by means of the media and then in those days the radio was everything, I mean, and the stars were there. The columnist was---I forget his name now---of the Los Angeles Examiner. He wrote a column, three columns long, full pages, see---full length of the page. And, if you got in that column, you made it. We made it! And in fact, he wrote regular and he had us in the doggone thing three times a week and naturally, we could get sponsors. We were just rolling with sponsors.
And, of course, the money! The pay started going up, too, and we were making, I think, $40 a week apiece. Rich, man! I bought a new car every year! Why, I tell you the three of us lived at the same boarding house and we got two meals a day there, two home-cooked meals a day and our room for $7 a week. That left an awful lot of money to play around with.
So, as I said, the workload got pretty heavy for us so we decided to augment the group with some musicians and it took us not too long, but we did. The three of us, we took our time and searched the dial until we found the Farr Boys and we liked that guitarist!
And Hugh, we hadn’t heard him play old time music, see, until one night we was listening to the "School Kids" or something like that and they took the part of young kids, you know, the talking part, and then they played their instruments, too. Hugh one night played one of those breakdown things that you’ve heard him play and, I’m telling you, we just went out of our gourds! We had to have that fiddler. We’d been hearing him play Lady Be Good and stuff like that, the modern music of the day, and then he hit that Sally---Fire in the Mountain---Sally’s Got a Little One and it’s one of the wildest things we ever heard, that old time fiddling stuff.
So, Hugh came first. Karl wasn’t sold. Hugh came up first and we hired him and I think that Karl held out for about a month and Hugh finally talked him into it. He said, “These boys are going up!” Going up! They were making durn near as much as we were-- $40 a week on that program they had down in Long Beach. They were in other bands, and good jobs, too - Len Nash and the other was Jimmy LeFevre, Jack’s brother. But at that time it was awful hard to convince some of the guys to come. Hugh seemed to be a pushover. He heard us sing and I guess he wanted to be with us.
When Roy went into the movies we hired Pat Brady as his replacement. Pat couldn’t sing. Well, we knew he could sing, but he couldn’t harmonize, see? His voice would not.... We could not harmonize with him at all. He’d been singing comedy so darn long that he had no way of knowing what we were talking about when we said, “Blend.” But Pat was a good singer, too. And then we got a good one, too. Lloyd.
And now there’s five of us and that’s the way we stood until 1936, could have been a little later, but somewheres between ‘36 or ’37, when Roy got his big break and came to Republic. I think they were using him for a whip over Gene Autry. At least, that’s what we gathered in the grapevine. It goes around nowadays that the Old Man, Herbert Yates, the boss of Republic, and Autry were fighting tooth and nail because Autry wanted more money. And the Old Man wasn’t going to give it to him - he was a stubborn old Scotchman, you know - because he figured, like all the moguls at that time, they figured that they were the ones that made the stars, and the stars didn’t make the studios at all. They soon learned a lesson, though.
About that time all the stars throughout the whole city were going through that huge wage out there and they earned it, too. Only a dummy couldn’t see that those Autry pictures - my God, they were running the studio off of his pictures alone! Footing the bill of everything. Whenever they made an A picture and it flopped on them, they were out millions. "Well, never mind, Autry will make it!" So Autry just decided he wanted a piece of this ranch but he never did get it. He just went out and freelanced on his own and then started making millions on his own. He only left when he found out that the old man had gone after Roy.
After I forget how long it took but, anyhow, Roy kept pushing to have us in his pictures with him. And at that time there were six of us. Now, that took some doing because you hire six people at one time to back up one man. It was worth it, too, because Roy’s pictures just went up, up, up all the time.
When asked what his experiences were on location, about some of the human interest things that happened with the people he was associated with, Bob replied, "It’s a funny thing, now, but I either wasn’t watching very close or they just wasn’t there."
For food, they sent catering companies out to wherever we were. Say we were working out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, or just out of Las Vegas up here, why they make all those arrangements before we go out on the location. The new location might be ten miles away from town and they send the trucks out there at a certain time and they allow us only half an hour to eat. What I’m trying to get across here is location work is it’s not as nice and free as sitting around thee set where you’re enclosed and you can only go so far and you just sit there and you read or knit. But on a location, time is so valuable that the picture is now costing ten times as much in time than it is if you’re on your own bluff over here, and every minute is just like thousands of dollars going down the drain, see. And you have to work. And tempers and temperaments are at their highest pitch and I could never see any reason to have anything musical happen out there. The director, the assistant director, the cameraman, everybody is just gritting their teeth all of the time because of the horrible cost of money to take a company out on location. And you’ve got to remember, we were making “B” pictures, see, and when you get out out on location, the price was same as if you were an “A”. We tried to keep production time to nine days. A whole picture in nine days! That gives you a little picture of the pressure. We could only shoot until the sun went down. Then we went home and slept—believe me, we did! They just took you back to the motel and put you to bed.
Tim and I divided the work up and went off and worked separately. In other words, if we had eight songs, it’d be, “I’ll take this one, I’ll take this one,” see. OK. That’s the way we divided them.
When asked if working under the pressure of getting them out was an aid in writing the songs, Bob replied, "Well, it was an aid to getting them out on time! Whether we were doing good work or not, I don’t know. I happen to know that "Timber Trail" is a beautiful song that Tim wrote but he come up with that in an awful big hurry. I don’t like to write under pressure but I did it because of the double standard they had on us---because we had to do it. It was in our contract so Tim and I were the only songwriters of the group, so we had to do it all.
We were hired as singers and songwriters but not stuntmen. No, that’s once where we drew the line. I don’t think there was a horseman in the bunch to begin with and we had to learn the hard way. And I even reached into the stuntmen’s roster to get a guy to teach me how to handle a horse and it took a long time. And those guys don’t come cheap! Those stuntmen. I paid it out of my own pocket.
I had one fall and that was my own fault because I shouldn’t have attempted to do the thing that they wanted me to do in South of Santa Fe. The stunt was to rope Gabby Hayes’ tin lizzie which was stuck in a mud hole, see, take my dallies around and pull him out with my horse. My horse, when he turned to go away, stepped over that rope and that’s all she wrote, you know. He broke in two and I went up and down and right under his feet. Now, this horse is tethered to this rope and he can’t get away from it and it’s all over. But he never touched me once. And I could feel the air of his feet, his hooves, going past me. One of those, if it had caught me right in the head, I was through. That’s all. But that put the end of me trying to do any kind of a stunt. I called for a stuntman every time.
Big Bear Lake
BOB: It's just a little shack that was built by a seventeen-year-old kid in 1925 and it’s just the interest of trying to keep that old shack on the mountain. I work on it every year and have to do something every year. It’s just like the old wooden boats, you know. You have to work on 'em before you can put ‘em back in the ocean every year. This doggone little cabin, it has no frame at all, just boards straight up and down. But that wood is so hard and you’d swear and be damned---there’s so much weight on that roof---you’d just swear it would just buckle---the porch would go out from under it. But it don’t. It just stands there. And you can’t drive a nail in it. I have to take my electric drill and bore a hole in it just to drive a nail in it.
RECTOR: Well, you do have electricity up there?
BOB: Oh yes. Sure. But there was a time, when it was built, that it didn’t have. I talked to the man that built it and he built it in 1925 when he was seventeen. In 1925, how old was I? I was born in 1908.
GRIFFIS: About seventeen. Seventeen years old.
BOB: I figured he was about the same age as me. And he comes up here every once in awhile. He’s in real estate now. You see, his mother was the agent for the government that handed out the leases, you see, for the government up there and she had this one lot that she couldn’t get rid of. It was a son-of-a-gun to get to, see, so she gave it to her son if he’d build a cabin on it, see. She knew that if he could build a cabin on it, then she could sell it. So he built this little cabin and it’s just right for me. It’s eighteen foot long, just about the length of this room and I’d say about twelve wide. And he set that doggone thing so that there’s four areas in it. It’s the perfectest laid out little place that you ever seen. There’s the kitchen area here and the sitting area here, the dining area here and the sleeping area. And there’s no walls between them, just an area. And I kept it just in the way he laid it out. Of course, I’ve done paneling and work and everything on it now, so it looks like a fairly---you walk into that rustic---from the outside it looks so rustic---you go to the inside and here I’ve got this beechwood paneling! I’ve got cubbyholes cut in the wall and cupolas on the outside where my electric ovens are. My ovens fit on the outside ‘cuz I couldn’t find no room for it on the inside.
RECTOR: You go up there and spend the entire summer, then?
BOB: Yeah, four months. And I tried to stretch it into five months but I got caught in the snow a couple of times and got snowed in so I didn’t try it any more.
GRIFFIS: Bob, they might be interested in hearing about your contact with Marty Robbins.
BOB: Oh. [long pause] Well, I don’t know how to go about telling it. I think it was mostly guys like you that got me and Marty together.
GRIFFIS: Well, I can just point out that Bob has not been aggressive in trying to get anybody to listen [to] or record his music. I mean he’s just accepted it so he really has been rather reserved about getting it out, too. So finally Marty Robbins asked if he could listen to some of Bob’s music. ‘Cuz nobody really has heard anything that he’s written in the last 30 years. And so Marty came out here and took a listen and he said, “Hey, I’d like to see if I could record some of this.” So Bob has sent him some. So that’s gonna be his first exposure of any kind.
LARIMER: Then you are wanting the people to know that you have the material, right? I don’t mean anybody to just beat a path to your door. What I mean is like he said the material has not really been heard by that many people nowdays, so….
BOB: I think mostly it was my attitude towards the publishing end of the music business. I got so soured off with them that I just made up my mind that I wasn’t going to give my music to any publisher that just even smelled of being…ah…[pause] a thief like they are. Let’s call them by their right name. They steal an author’s material and then won’t pay him for it.
RECTOR: Did you ever have situations where somebody would put their name on your songs?
BOB: No. No, I didn’t.
LARIMER: Well then, are you saying that most of your material that you have written since your retirement is not published?
BOB: No, no. It’s not. A double negative. Nothing to nobody. My business manager, now, she’s been trying for years to get me to go into the publishing business and she almost convinced me and then, God bless his soul, along comes Marty!
RECTOR: Well, is he taking your whole catalogue back with him?
BOB: Oh, no. He just wants me to give him what I think he can use every now and then, see.
GRIFFIS: Bob, do you feel up to singing one song? Could you do them one?
BOB: I don’t know whether I could….
GRIFFIS: What about the hotel at the beach? I like that---the lonely room. Bob, why don’t you sing them one song if you feel up to it ‘cuz I’d like for them to hear a little bit of what one of your songs sounds like. I’m impressed and I think they would be, too. If it wouldn’t be too much….
MYNAH: I like gambling.
GRIFFIS: [to the bird] Oh, shut up!
BOB: Now I just hope the old voice works.
This small hotel overlooking the sea
Now crumbling, condemned and alone;
I come not to watch it die but to walk inside of
And talk with, and listen to, just one very special room ~
This empty, bare, forlorn and alone room.
Where the sun calls each day but there’s no one at home room
Well, the years have been dragging their weary feet along
Every wall down, at last, to end
In the sunbleached path on the floor
From the broken window across the room and out the open door.
But I still can feel the warmth and glow
Where all the love this room could hold
Now falls into dust with the long ago
And so I listen.
But all I can hear is the muted sound of a lonely heartbeat crying
Somewhere in the shadows where you left it
In this room.
And the memories come tumbling through my mind
Like the fallen leaves in the autumn wind
And I open my arms to welcome them as they gather here
In this room.
In this room.
And I’m trying to remember how long it has been
And where did it start and how did it end.
I can’t seem to recall a tear or even an angry word
Or a broken vow, for none were made.
Or did someone just forget to come home to
This now is the start and the end of forever room,
Where tomorrow may come and again it may never room.
So, I walk to the window, look out to the sea
And the sea is the same as it used to be ~
So blue! So very blue!
And I let this tired body of mine fill the very space that once was you
And I feel you breathe inside of me,
And my mind is a tangle of hopeless dreams
And this longing within me has nowhere to go.
And so I listen.
But all I can hear is the muted sound of a lonely heartbeat crying
Somewhere in the shadows where you left it ~
In this room.
And the memories come tumbling through my mind
Like the fallen leaves in the autumn wind
And I open my arms to welcome them as they gather here
In this room, in this room.
GRIFFIS: Thank you.
BOB: That’s just a passing---I’ve got no control over things, I haven’t sang for so long….
MYNAH: [over-enthusiastic squawking in response to the applause]
GRIFFIS: That was quite a departure from Tumbling Tumbleweeds, isn’t it?
RECTOR: Are these on tape?
BOB: I may have put them on tape and sent them on back to Marty, yeah.
[tape is cut here]
GRIFFIS: [continuing a conversation about the Sons of the Pioneers] It boils down to two or three possibilities. First of all, there’s a chance getting together of unusual talents. There just happened to be extremely talented people all got together at one time. The trio of Nolan, Spencer and Perryman---I think probably the greatest singing voices---and they insisted on harmony.
If you’ve ever listened to high end music...and that’s one thing that most people don’t do. They don’t listen to music, they listen at it. You’ll hear people put on a tape or record. They start talking. I turn it off.
“Well, go ahead. I was listening.”
“No, you weren’t listening. You can’t listen unless you’re listening. You can’t talk, you can’t walk, you can’t carry on a conversation and hear Pioneer music.”
It’s just that simple. You have to listen to it ‘cuz it’s a fantastic harmony. And listen to them the way they come into every word precisely at the same time and leave each word at precisely the same time. Listen how they stretch out the endings of the words. Lloyd Perryman was one of the greatest. Try to sing along with them without catching your breath and [see] how fast they breathe between words. But you can’t do it. You run out of breath.
And then, of course, the Farr Brothers instrumentation. They were two of the greatest. Karl was probably one of the greatest guitarists of the era of the 30s and 40s. People like Joe Maphis and Merle Travis, Chet Atkins all credit him with having some influence on them. Hugh Farr - greatest natural fiddler that ever came down the pike. Johnny Gimble and all of them were all great.
BOB: It was so easy, too. His fingers just fly.
GRIFFIS: If you listen to him on these early Pioneer recordings, it’s just unbelievable.
LARIMER: Bob, talking about the uniqueness of the Sons of the Pioneers, I would have said it was the style. What do you think about the direction of the younger generation of country entertainers? A lot of them really don’t have a style any more. In fact a lot of country music itself does not have a style. What do you think about that?
BOB: Well, I think the only thing that they’ve left out is our determination for perfection. You mentioned our breathing. This was marked on the music. See, they don’t pay attention to those little details like we did. That’s the only thing that they’ve forgotten about and if they would take care of a few of the little details they would come up with a style. Towards the last, we were working on slurring our voices all at the same time and trying to get a way of dragging the timing to it, see?
GRIFFIS: Well, Bob, really you don’t have many people that have the ability to sing Bob Nolan songs. Bob Nolan songs are extremely difficult, in many instances, to sing.
BOB: [strums softly and slowly as he speaks through the remainder of the interview] Yes. They are. I hardly ever do a song that doesn’t use at least have two octaves.
RECTOR: I see you don’t use the regular country 1-4-5-7 chord progression but you’re using diminished and augmented chords.
BOB: You see, the country kids haven’t, see---[sings, holding the same note and playing several different chords] see? There’s so many different chords and just hold that one note. All on one tone, see. Maybe half a dozen different chords to any tones you want to hold. And I was intrigued when they first used one of my changes in country music---By the Time I Reach [Get to] Phoenix. [demonstrates]
RECTOR: I was going to ask you—do you know Jim Webb?
BOB: No, I don’t.
RECTOR: When you were singing that song and the images, he had to have paid a lot of attention to your music. Jim Webb.
BOB: Yeah. Who wrote By the Time I Reach Phoenix?
RECTOR: Jim Webb. That’s the guy.
BOB: Funny thing. I’m sure that I was the first one to use that change that he did [sings a bit of By the Time I Get to Phoenix, experimentally, talking to himself]. That’s how it ends. But I’m thinking where-- that E flat from---[sings]---that’s it, that’s the tone. And I used that quite a lot, long before Jim Webb.
GRIFFIS: The thing, too, with the Pioneers was the fact that they really started out on Nolan and Spencer songs. Bob’s particularly had a different sound and that was a great thing for them to have that basis to go on because they were songs that had never been heard. Bob and Tim wrote a new type of American folk music and there’s been no other group that could match that. That was the reason for their success - the music and the style. And of course if you can harmonize in yodeling, listening to them yodeling in harmony was exceptional.
BOB: And we were the first to use chromatic scales, like in Tumbleweeds. [hums the song]---moving half tones. And that’s one thing that the country singers, back in those days when we first started, that they just couldn’t do it. They had to move a full tone. Or nothing at all.
[Here, unfortunately, Ken Griffis interrupts Bob who has finally relaxed with his guitar and was ready to talk freely.]
GRIFFIS: Well, they’ve got to be going. They’ve got a 3 o’clock program.
As a result of this interview, the following brief article appeared in Music City News August 1976 on page 18 -
SONS OF THE PIONEERS
By Lee RECTOR
MCN Managing Editor
Hollywood -- The Sons of the Pioneers without dispute is the greatest of all the western vocal groups during the era of the “B” western films.
At his home in Hollywood, Bob Nolan, one of the original members of The Sons of the Pioneers and writer of such classic western songs as “Cool Water,” and “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” sat healthy and ruddy looking despite his “pushing 70” age, and talked about the early days of the group.
“It was quite by accident that we got together,” Nolan said, “Most of us belonged to different groups.
“Roy Rogers (at that time known as Leonard Slye) and I belonged to a group called The Rocky Mountaineers and that time, Tim Spencer belonged to the Spencer Brothers Quartet.
“We joined the Texas Outlaws as a singing trip [sic] and took the name of The Pioneer Trio and were with them about six months when the station, KFWB, took us on as a staff group giving us a very exclusive 15-minute spot just after dinner.”
“We were very happy being on KFWB because at the time, they had the two top vocal groups in the country on their staff.
“As the work load got heavier for us, we decided we wanted to add some musicians and we took on Hugh and Carl [sic] Farr. And, in 1936 Roy Rogers got his break in the motion pictures and we hired Pat Brady and then Lloyd Perryman who actually replaced Roy. Later, Roy had us put into his pictures,” stated Nolan.
Denver – Over a thousand miles away, and a few weeks later, Lloyd Perryman and the presently active Sons of the Pioneers group continued the story to MCN.
“At the time the group was formed there were probably 50 different groups around the Los Angeles area playing anything from bluegrass, to hillbilly, to country/western – whatever you want to classify it – and they were all starving to death,” Lloyd said.
“Nolan, Spencer and Slye (Rogers), decided they wanted to work a little harder and see if they couldn’t do a little better job than all the groups. When they were on staff at KFWB they would rehearse and work eight to 10 hours a day, and they established a name for themselves. I joined the group in 1936.
“We went to Columbia studios and were in pictures with Charles Starret [sic] for about three years and then we went to Chicago and were on the Uncle Ezra program for something over a year. When we returned to Los Angeles again, we did a lot of road work playing theaters and open air parks. Then we signed with Republic Pictures and started doing films with Roy Rogers, which we did for almost 10 years. During this time, we continued to record and make albums.
“Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan retired in 1949 or 1950 – they were semi-retired for a couple or three years until we found replacements. Dale Warren joined us in 1952. Ken Curtis (a. k. a. Festus from “Gunsmoke”) was with us part of this time for several years.
“Some people thought we quit the business,” Lloyd said, “Because we weren’t recording, but we didn’t have what we thought was exactly the right time or the right company to record.
“Cliffie Stone called me about four months ago, to record a new album and I think now we’re ready and can really do a job for a recording company.
“The prime reason that we have waited to this particular time to record is it seems that the trend in music has finally moved back toward the western theme, and that’s what we had been waiting for.
“Trends definitely do happen, and you’ve got to hope that you can record in this business at the time that the trend is on the upswing.
“Not having recorded in so many years, you would think that we would go out and the club owners and rodeo owners wouldn’t hire us. But, in the past two years, I’ve noticed that the crowds are increasing and increasing for us. So, it’s a definite thing that our particular kind of music is enjoying a come-back and is on the rise.”
The present group, The Sons of the Pioneers, which remains the oldest performing group in country/western music, consists of Lloyd Perryman, who has been with the group 40 years, Dale Warren, Roy Lanham, who replaced Carl [sic] Farr upon his death in 1961, Rusty Richards, a prolific songwriter singing tenor and Billy Liebert, the newest member and musical arranger.
Original member, Tim Spencer died in 1974. Roy Rogers, besides touring with Dale Evans and often The Sons of the Pioneers, has just completed a new movie.
Bob Nolan has been quietly living in North Hollywood spending four months out of the year in a secluded mountainside cabin working on songs. By 1958, Nolan had written 1,400 songs, and another 200 since, all of which are unpublished and unheard. We had the opportunity to hear him sing one of his unpublished songs in his L. A. Home, and can testify that Nolan is still one of the finest songwriters in the world today.