Al KooperAl Kooper (born Alan Peter Kuperschmidt, February 5, 1944) is an American songwriter, record producer and musician, known for organizing Blood, Sweat & Tears, although he did not stay with the group long enough to share its popularity. Throughout much of the 1960s and 1970s, he was a prolific studio musician, playing organ on the Bob Dylan song "Like A Rolling Stone", French horn on the Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want", and lead guitar on Rita Coolidge's "The Lady's Not for Sale", among many other appearances. He also produced a number of one-off collaboration albums, such as the Super Session album that brought together guitarists Mike Bloomfield and Stephen Stills. In the 1970s he was a successful manager and producer, notably recording Lynyrd Skynyrd's first three albums. He has also had a successful solo career, written music for film soundtracks, and has lectured in musical composition. He continues to perform live.
Early lifeKooper, born in Brooklyn to Sam and Natalie Kooper, grew up in a Jewish family in Hollis Hills, Queens, New York.
Professional debutKooper's first professional work was as a 14-year-old guitarist in the Royal Teens, best known for their 1958 ABC Records novelty 12-bar blues riff, "Short Shorts" (although Kooper did not play on the recording). In 1960, he teamed up with songwriters Bob Brass and Irwin Levine to write and record demos for Sea-Lark Music Publishing. The trio's biggest hits were "This Diamond Ring", recorded by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, and "I Must Be Seeing Things", recorded by Gene Pitney (both 1965). When he was 21, Kooper moved to Manhattan's Greenwich Village, then teeming with artists, writers, and musicians.
With DylanHe performed with Bob Dylan in concert in 1965, including playing Hammond organ with Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival, and in the recording studio in 1965 and 1966. Kooper also played the Hammond organ riffs on Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone". It was in those recording sessions that Kooper met and befriended Mike Bloomfield, whose guitar playing he admired. He worked extensively with Bloomfield for several years. Kooper played organ once again with Dylan during his 1981 world tour.
Blues ProjectKooper joined the Blues Project as their keyboardist in 1965; he left the band shortly before their gig at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, although he did play a solo set at the famous festival, as evidenced by bootlegs of the event. He formed Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1967, leaving due to creative differences in 1968, after the release of the group's first album, Child Is Father to the Man. He recorded Super Session with Bloomfield and Stills in 1968, and in 1969 he collaborated with 15-year-old guitarist Shuggie Otis on the album Kooper Session. In 1975 he produced the debut album by the Tubes.
As musicianKooper has played on hundreds of records, including ones by the Rolling Stones, B. B. King, the Who, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Alice Cooper, and Cream. On occasion, he has even overdubbed his own efforts, as on The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper and other albums, under the pseudonym "Roosevelt Gook".
As record producerAfter moving to Atlanta in 1972, he discovered the band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and produced and performed on their first three albums, including the singles "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird". In 1972 he rejoined the Blues Project at a charity concert promoted by Bruce Blakeman at Valley Stream Central High School.
TV scoresHe wrote the score for the TV series Crime Story and for the film The Landlord and wrote music for several made-for-television movies. He was the musical force behind many of the pop tunes, including "You're the Lovin' End", for The Banana Splits, a children's television program.
StudioDuring the late 1980s Kooper had his own dedicated keyboard studio room in the historic Sound Emporium recording studio in Nashville, next to studio B.
Rock Bottom Remainders
Kooper's status as a published author enabled him to join (and act as musical director of) the Rock Bottom Remainders, a band made up of writers, including Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, and Matt Groening.
Honors, awards, and legacy
In May 2001, Kooper was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music. Kooper is retired from teaching songwriting and recording production at Berklee College of Music, in Boston, and plays weekend concerts with his bands the ReKooperators and the Funky Faculty. In 2008, he participated in the production of the album Psalngs, the debut release of Canadian musician John Lefebvre.
Kooper was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum, in Nashville, in 2008.
In 2005, Martin Scorsese produced a documentary titled No Direction Home: Bob Dylan for the PBS American Masters Series in which Kooper's contributions are recognized.