Photo by Grant Lee Philips
Photo by Grant Lee Philips

By Franklin Abbott

Robyn Hitchcock’s father was a novelist, painter and cartoonist, so when he decided to pursue music it was done so in part to avoid “male competition.”

“The apple has to role away from the tree to get rain and daylight,” the musician said in a recent interview. “Music has always been my compass.”

Bob Dylan was a profound early influence on Hitchcock as he absorbed an enormous amount of music.” He says Dylan “was like the snake in the Garden of Eden and the Beatles were like Eve.” Dylan, he says, gave them the apple. Others who took a bite include Lou Reed, Van Morrison, David Bowie and himself. Hitchcock says “there were a million Dylan tadpoles but only 20 or 30 Dylan frogs” and includes himself among them.

Hithcock formed The Soft Boys in the 1970’s and has worked with outstanding musicians throughout his career. He has solo albums and band albums and has released a new single with Australian singer Emma Swift called “Love is a Drag.”

He and Swift wrote the songs last winter in Charles Darwin’s old flat on the Isle of Wight. He says it was so cold they couldn’t get the heat in the flat up past 60 degrees and then only in the kitchen where they huddled and wrote music together. Hitchcock says even the Darwins only lasted six months in this cold, English flat.

“When I was three I stood on a rock on a beach and waved an ice cream cone around and around until I had an audience,” says Hitchcock, repeating a story from his mother that illustrates his destiny as a performer. His lyrics are poetic and he says he is a poet because “he is so inclined.” Like his father, Hitchcock also paints, draws cartoons and writes stories.

Hitchcock has never achieved mainstream acclaim, but he hasn’t gone unnoticed. He was the subject of a film by Jonathan Demme called “Storefront Hitchcock” that profiled him and he also had  played a role in the director’s remake of “The Manchurian Candidate.” He was the subject of another film by John Edginton, “Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food, Death . . . and Insects.”

As for his show at City Winery on Nov. 10, Hitchcock says he is looking forward to performing in an intimate space. Both he and Swift will perform present and older work. Hitchcock describes his work as “quite personal” and hopes his audience will tune in and listen.

Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist and writer.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.