Afterglow Festival

Rick Berlin

June 30th, 2019  |  Published in Artists

“Rick Berlin is a giant on the Boston music scene. His colorful songwriting and strong stage presence have influenced countless other artists since the early 1970s, when his innovative band Orchestra Luna harnessed a potent blend of theater and music years before the Tubes. Throughout the decades and the shifting fortunes of the business Rick has continued to make music with intelligence and integrity, building an international reputation around his knotty, singular piano playing, straight-from-the-heart singing and a style of character-based songwriting that’s drawn favorable comparisons to the likes of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen— although Rick rocks more than both. . . . Rick’s still busy creating. . . . Rick with The Nickel & Dime Band’s Always on Insane (2012) When We Were Kids (2014) is with a full, intense, rocking 8-piece band.”—Ted Drozkowski in The Boston Phoenix

About The Paragraphs:

Created from fragments used to write songs, this memoir recalls a life of music, a relationship with the animal world, and a two-day meth-fueled road trip. Berlin, a queer Boston music legend formerly the front-man of Orchestra Luna, Berlin Airlift, Rick Berlin: The Movie, The Shelly Winters Project and The Nickel & Dime Band, is known for his zany lyrics and unflinching wit. Exploring boyhood, family relationships, and the dynamic social workings of Boston through the decades, Rick Berlin’s work is “uncategorizable…part punk, part musical theater, part sentimental sap, part wordplay master. Gold” (Amanda Palmer).   

As requested by my Episcopal Academy classmates about my ‘world’ for a 1963 Class reunion:

From Rick Berlin “As requested by my Episcopal Academy classmates about my ‘world’ for a 1963 Class reunion”:

Love my job as a waiter at Doyle’s Café in Jamaica Plain. It’s weird. After all the money my parents spent on college and on EA. Plus a full scholarship to the Yale Drama School and the Yale Architecture School—neither of which ‘did it’ for me, and both of which I ultimately declined. Now I wait tables. Never the same night twice. I finally consider myself to be primarily an artist—a songwriter who is good at his craft, is original, whose songs tell the truth emotionally and reach people in their hearts. I’m lucky to have this sublimating resource. This is not a weekend warrior fantasy, it is more than anything else who I am. I’m not a success. I’ve made no CEO any $ from my work, but I am good at it—convincing. I love every aspect of the work.

There’s been too many bands to count, but I’d say my favorite of all is The Nickel & Dime Band. There’s 8 of us, and among them is my nephew, Sam (trombone) which is remarkable since his mom, my sister Lisa was in my very first band, Orchestra Luna.
I also started and stopped an unfinished documentary about Jamaica Plain (where I’ve lived on an off for the last 30 years). Shot and I edited over 60 interviews with people of all ages and stripes in this most diverse and progressive neighborhood.” Many of these, as well as countless music videos, can be seen on YouTube.

Lastly I’d mention that I’m among a group of us here in the hood that have started and continue to present annually which features 20+ bands and performers, all of whom must include artists who live and/or work here in JP.”

Mostly who I am is in the songs I’ve written. And those essentially derive from my feelings and observations about those I care about. Boys, family, encounters, etc. I think I’ve become, to a certain extent, unaware of me—the résumé of where I’ve been and what I’ve done. But I never forget whom I’ve loved. Their face. The sound of their voice. How they’d argue. The fault lines where we were unable to connect.

Afraid of death?

I love life. I hope death doesn’t hurt. I hope I’m not kept on tubes and pills when near The End. I hope I’m in some sort of home hospice with as many of those I love and have loved around as can stand to be around me. I don’t think I’m scared of leaving, but like Woody Allen says: “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t wanna be there when it happens.”