Parks, Van Dyke
- Jonas Westover
(b Hattiesburg, MS, Jan 3, 1943). American Composer, lyricist, producer, arranger, actor, and singer. He is best known for collaborating with other artists and for writing the lyrics to the Beach Boys’ album Smile with Brian Wilson. Although he began his career as a child actor throughout the 1950s, he turned to music in his teens, learning guitar and performing with his brother, Carson. He landed a record contract in 1964 with MGM, then moved to Warner Bros. two years later, mostly working as an arranger and a session musician. In 1966 he recorded on the Byrds album Fifth Dimension (Columbia) and began his work on Smile. His songs such as “Surf’s Up” and “Wind Chimes” impressed Wilson, who championed Parks’s work. However, due to strife within the band—caused partly by objections to such songs as “Cabinessence”—Smile went unreleased at the time. Parks went on to work on solo projects, and in 1968 he released his first album, Song Cycle (Warner Bros.). A critical success but a commercial disappointment, the recording fused a variety of musical styles within a rock context, placing such dissimilar elements as ragtime, jazz, and orchestral music within a psychedelic framework. Parks subsequently worked more on producing, collaborating with top artists including Bonnie Raitt, U2, Rufus Wainwright, Ringo Starr, and Fiona Apple. After a visit to the West Indies in the early 1970s, he released a calypso-based record, Discover America, in 1972 and then a follow-up in 1975. Parks has subsequently composed film scores such as those for Robert Altman’s fascinating musical Popeye (1980), Follow that Bird (1985), and The Two Jakes (1990). His hugely varied projects have included further albums, songs recorded by other artists, music for television, and more collaborative work. Wilson and Parks have reunited several times, finally releasing Smile and performing it on tour in 2004.
- J. Fitzgerald: “Musical Transport: Van Dyke Parks, Americana, and the Applied Orientalism of Tokyo Rose,” Perfect Beat, 4/2 (1999), 145–67
- D. Carter: “‘What’s still Left of my Memory’: Recovery and Reorientation in the Songs of Van Dyke Parks,” Popular Music and Society, 27 (2004), 387–405
- D. Carter: “Beyond the Stars and Stripes: Charting Van Dyke Parks’ New World Musical Voyage,” Popular Music, 28 (2009), 197–216
- R. Henderson: Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle (New York, 2010)