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Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington

Between 1980 and my retirement from the Washington Post in 2008, I wrote thousands of news stories, reviews and profiled artists in a wide range of genres, from rock (U2, Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, The Who, Metallica), rap (Jay-Z, Ice-T) and soul greats (James Brown, Luther Vandross, Patti LaBelle, Isaac Hayes, Barry White. Al Green) as well as country (Johnny Cash, George Jones, Vince Gill, Dolly Parton) and jazz (Miles Davis, Max Roach, Wynton Marsalis, Sun Ra).

Music sought me out early on. In the late '50s, at the age of 12, I fell under the spell of the great folk scare/revival and played earnest folk with fellow student Loudon Wainwright in boarding school in New York! He stayed with it, to great and deserved acclaim and influence. I was also falling into rock, R&B and jazz at home in Washington over vacations; my older sister was a dancer on The Milt Grant Show in the late '50s and she'd take me to the studio and to weekend dances where Link Wray was often the house band in the wake of 'Rumble'. Don't forget how dangerous that instrumental was in 1958 — banned on many radio stations despite having no lyrics!

In the mid to late '60s I was a folk singer; I read poetry (not my own) and offered cover songs on the hootenanny circuit and in small coffee houses to no particular acclaim or even notice. I sometimes played at the Unicorn, owned by Elliot Ryan; it closed in 1964. In 1973 Elliot started Unicorn Times, a monthly covering music, where I became editor from mid-1976 to mid-1980.

I somehow ended up at Quicksilver Times, a new underground paper radical enough to warrant an undercover agent (CIA) as a long-term embed in its staff. It's where I did my first writing, but I eventually realized I favored the wrong Marx — Groucho, not Karl. I left in 1970 to start Woodwind, and started freelancing at the Washington Star in 1971 and wrote columns and reviews there until 1975. In 1976 I became editor of Unicorn Times, hugely popular because of its great writers and photographers and vibrant coverage of local and national artists. That same year, I started freelancing at the Post and in 1982 officially became its pop critic.

After leaving the Post, I began work on Shock & Roll, a richly illustrated compendium of controversial album art — the stories behind the covers. It features hundreds of interviews with musicians as well as artists, art directors, photographers and models, prosecutors and defense attorneys in cases that led to trials here and in England and Canada. It is a work in progress.

64 articles

List of articles in the library

By date | By artist | Most recently added

X: 9:30 Club, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 7 September 1981

X-Humed ...

Slim Whitman: Whitman's Sampler Of Country Classics

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 15 August 1981

The Forgotten Master of Tenor Comes Home ...

REO Speedwagon: On Top at Last and Rolling in the Fast Lane

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 22 March 1981

REO Speedwagon's Powerful Drive... ...

Paul Simon: The Sound Of America

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 18 May 2007

PAUL SIMON'S first encounter with the Library of Congress came in 1956, when, as a 14-year-old, he sent his first song to the Library's Copyright ...

George Jones, Johnny Paycheck: George Jones: Fairfax High School, Fairfax VA

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 25 May 1981

WHEN GEORGE Jones stepped out on the makeshift stage of Fairfax High School's gym Saturday night, he defined not only his performance, but his career: ...

James "Blood" Ulmer: Blood Sounds

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 10 January 1982

Funk Guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer: Harmolodic Karma ...

Randy VanWarmer, Dave Allen: Cellar Door, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 25 August 1980

RANDY VANWARMER, who performed at the Cellar Door Saturday night, has an image problem. He is best known for last year's terminally mellow hit ballad ...

Charley Pride: Pride In His Country

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 6 July 1984

The Black Singer Who Crossed Over ...

Gladys Knight and the Pips: Gladys Knight, Gladly

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 19 October 1981

After 30 Years, Things Are Still Pip ...

Billy Paul, the Philadelphia Story: Cellar Door, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 27 December 1977

Better Never Than Late ...

Joan Jett, the Runaway Success

Report and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 9 January 1982

Rockville's Blackheart Comes Home to the Bayou ...

Roni Stoneman: One Plucky Lady

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 13 September 2001

SO, HOW LONG has it been since Roni Stoneman, the First Lady of Banjo, played in the Washington area? ...

AC/DC, Humble Pie: Capital Centre, Landover MD

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 4 August 1980

AC/DC, WHO played to 16,000 at the Capital Centre last night, are rock's current shock troops. One doesn't enjoy an AC/DC performance as much as ...

Charlie Daniels: Fiddlin' Dixie

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, August 1980

Charlie Daniels, Up From Tobacco Road ...

David Bowie, Change, Aretha Franklin, Luther Vandross, Dionne Warwick: Luther Vandross, Into the Limelight

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 21 November 1982

  LUTHER VANDROSS is singin' on top of the world nowadays, master of a string of professions: singer, songwriter, arranger, producer. ...

George Jones: Back From the Road to Ruin

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 25 May 1981

George Jones' Singing Rebound From Lost Love and Liquor ...

Club 9:30 — A New Wave of Night Life

Report by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 1 June 1980

FIRST CAME the artists, then the galleries. Now the rejuvenated area around the 900 block of F Street NW is about to welcome its first ...

In the Punk of the Night: Penelope Spheeris and the Underground of Shock

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 10 November 1981

  WALKING ALONG Hollywood Boulevard one night in 1979, Los Angeles filmmaker Penelope Spheeris was drawn underground into a tawdry punk club called the Masque. What ...

Government Issue, Minor Threat, Youth Brigade: Minor Threat, Youth Brigade, G.I.: 9:30 Club, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 17 July 1981

The Sounds and the Slamdance ...

The Beat, The Pretenders: The Pretenders, the English Beat: Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 20 September 1980

IF THE Pretenders proved nothing else at their sold-out concert at Lisner Auditorium last night, they did establish that vocalist/rhythm guitarist/songwriter Chrissie Hynde deserves her ...

Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd: Public Image Ltd.: Flowers of Romance (Warner Bros. BSK3536); The Gang of Four: Solid Gold (Warner Bros. BSK3656)

Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 20 May 1981

Rock-Bottom Rock ...

Michael Jackson: The Big Thrill

Report by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 15 May 1984

"WELL, ISN'T this a thriller," said President Reagan. "We haven't seen this many people since we left China." ...

Fleetwood Mac: Capital Centre, Landover MD

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 26 November 1979

Fleetwood Mac's Primal Rock Energy ...

Jean Carne: Jean Carn: Cellar Door, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 26 August 1977

Carn's Stunning Vocals ...

Laurie Anderson: Dizzying, Dazzling Action

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 7 November 1981

Laurie Anderson: All This and Humor, Too ...

The Plasmatics: Rock's Smashing Success: The Plasmatics & Their New Wave of Destruction

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 22 November 1980

WHEN THE Plasmatics say "Dynamite," they're not talking about their music. ...

Black Rose: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia MD

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 16 August 1980

LAST NIGHT at the Merriweather Post Pavilion all eyes — and, for once, all ears — were on Cher. That is, Black Rose, Cher's brave ...

Rev. James Cleveland: James Cleveland: The Preacher Teacher of Gospel

Report and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 24 September 1981

James Cleveland: Bridging the Gap Between the Sacred And the Secular ...

Pat Benatar: A Piece Of the Rock: The Pat Benatar Band Has Finally Got It

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 8 October 1980

"FOR THE past five days I can't go to a restaurant without somebody coming up to me and saying 'Aren't you Pat Benatar?' That's the ...

Don Cherry: Jazz's Exotic Strains

Report and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 3 October 1981

Don Cherry and His Magic Musical Memory ...

The Fat Boys: Getting just desserts

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 15 August 1987

THE MAITRE D' at Samplings on M Street hovers over a table that looks like it's just had a serious accident. ...

Jimmy Buffett: Oh, The Stories He Can Tell

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 17 December 1989

"IF THE NUNS at school saw me signing like this, they'd hit me on the knuckles with a ruler," says Jimmy Buffett, scribbling his name ...

Bill Monroe, The Original Bluegrass Boy: "I Keep The Music Going Near Right as I Can..."

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 7 June 1981

BILL MONROE is the champagne of the bluegrass world — opening a club or kicking off a new festival without him would almost be unthinkable. ...

Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons: Emmylou Harris: Return of the Electric Cowgirl

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 6 July 1980

SEVEN YEARS ago, the threads in Emmylou Harris' cowgirl suit were beginning to fray around the edges. ...

Kraftwerk: Rock's Mad Scientists

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 2 August 1981

Kraftwerk Moves Electronic Music Out of the Lab and Onto the Dance Floor ...

Fela Kuti & the Chords of Africa

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 7 November 1986

TWO YEARS ago, as Fela Anikulapo Kuti headed for America for what would have been his first tour here in 15 years, Nigerian authorities arrested ...

Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers, Experience Unlimited (EU), Go-Go Allstarz, The Junkyard Band, Little Benny & The Masters, Mass Extension, Rare Essence, Redds And The Boys, Trouble Funk: Go-Go: A Musical Phenomenon Bonding a Community

Special Feature by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 19 May 1985

GO-GO MUSIC, the hard-hitting street funk born and bred in Washington's inner city 15 years ago and the heart of a vibrant black subculture for ...

The Commodores: Six Part Harmony: The Commodores' Sweet Sound of Success

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 1 August 1980

AT 10 A.M. IN Clyde's Omelette Room, William King, Thomas McClary and Milan Williams — half of the Commodores — were splitting their attention between ...

Grace Jones: Starplex Armory, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 26 May 1980

HOW GRACE Jones spent Saturday night at the Starplex Armory building: one entrance, many exits for costume changes and not much show in between. ...

Femi Kuti, Fela Kuti: Femi Kuti's Family Tradition

Report and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 17 March 2000

A FEW YEARS ago, Femi Kuti's 'Beng Beng Beng' was banned from Nigeria's airwaves by that nation's military regime. When a civilian government took over ...

The Roches: Revenge Of the Roches

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 11 November 1980

Lacerating Lyrics of The New Wave Heroines ...

Madonna: The Madonna Pornucopia

Preview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 21 October 1992

PSSSST! WANNA see some new Madonna product? ...

Rick James: Punk's Flashy Funkster

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 5 October 1981

Rick James: Braided and Brassy Superstar Finds All That Glitters Turns to Platinum ...

Donny Hathaway: The Last Hurrah, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 24 November 1977

Pop-Soul Vocalist Donny Hathaway At The Last Hurrah ...

Chet Atkins: Custom Of the Country

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 20 September 1980

Chet Atkins' Guitar Enters the Smithsonian ...

James "Blood" Ulmer: James Blood Ulmer: 9:30 Club, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 28 July 1980

WHEN JAMES "Blood" Ulmer and his three fellow musicians climbed onto the 9:30 club's stage Saturday night, the electricity plugged itself into the musicians. Guitarist ...

Nils Lofgren: A Study in Patience and Power

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 22 October 1977

NILS LOFGREN, the diminutive Washington-bred rock figure, is intrigued by the idea of success by elimination. "It's encouraging that a rock 'n' roll artist with ...

The Fabulous Thunderbirds: The Bayou, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 1 October 1979

THE FABULOUS Thunderbirds, who appeared at the Bayou last night, recall an era when the emphasis of rhythm and blues was definitely on the blues, ...

Norman Connors, Phyllis Hyman, Patti LaBelle: Patti Labelle, Norman Connors' Starship Orchestra: Carter Barron Amphitheater, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 17 June 1978

Superb Ballads Of Patti Labelle ...

Lowell George: Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 29 June 1979

FOR THE last night's standing-room-only concert at Lisner Auditorium, Lowell George chose an antithetical way of celebrating his divorce from Little Feat, a rock band ...

Professor Longhair: Childe Harold, Washington DC

Live Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 25 February 1978

LISTENING TO Roy Byrd, also known as Professor Longhair and playing at the Childe Harold through Sunday, it is almost necessary to hear between the ...

Danny Gatton: The Fastest Guitar in the East

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 11 August 1991

The fastest guitar in the East. Or the West, or the South — or anywhere on the planet, really. A lot of people think Danny ...

Ry Cooder, Flaco Jimenez: Ry Cooder: Ry Talks

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, Unicorn Times, November 1976

IF YOU know Ry Cooder's music for its own brilliance, then you can be considered lucky. If you don't know it specifically, then chances are ...

Eva Cassidy: Echoes of a Voice Stilled Too Early

Comment by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 17 November 1996

BRUCE LUNDVALL still shakes his head over Eva Cassidy. Lundvall heads Blue Note Records, a label with a string of distinctive jazz singers. None made ...

De La Soul: Spotlight: De La Soul

Report and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 21 July 2000

"WE REALLY don't have a fear of that 'out of sight, out of mind' thing," insists De La Soul's Dave (David Joliceur). ...

De La Soul's Mind-Bending Rap

Report and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 18 May 1989

DE LA SOUL'S 3 Feet High and Rising is art-rap, a wild and woolly concept album that takes its title from a Johnny Cash song, ...

Black Flag, Minor Threat, Henry Rollins, State of Alert: Slamdancing in the Big City

Report and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 19 July 1981

THE PIT is ferocious and frightening: Young men's bodies slam into each other, arms and elbows out, fist flailing, like razor-edged Mexican jumping beans popping ...

Lisa Marie Presley: The Princess of Rock Makes a Name for Herself

Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 6 May 2005

LET'S FORGET last names for just a moment. ...

Lisa Marie Presley: To Whom It May Concern (Capitol)

Review by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 9 April 2003

SUSPICIOUS MINDS want to know: How much Presley is there in Lisa Marie? ...

Bad Brains: Lame Brains

Report and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 30 July 1995

IN THE LATE '70s, Washington's Bad Brains pioneered a style of speedy hard-core punk that is now a commercial juggernaut for young bands such as ...

Irene Cara: What a Feeling! Irene Cara as Her Famous Self

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, The Washington Post, 12 January 1984

FOR IRENE Cara, the price of Fame is to play… in film and on television… Irene Cara! ...

Danny Gatton

Interview by Richard Harrington, Unicorn Times, September 1974

SOMEWHERE ALONG the line, guitarist Danny Gatton played in a group called Fat Chance. That name may have been appropriate for the gentle portliness of ...

Gil Scott-Heron

Interview by Richard Harrington, Unicorn Times, June 1975

"I'VE BEEN doing what I'm doing for five years on records and for longer in my life," says Gil Scott-Heron, who seems to be approaching ...

Victoria Spivey: Queen of the Blues

Profile and Interview by Richard Harrington, Unicorn Times, December 1975

HALFWAY INTO her 70th year, Victoria Spivey is a queen with a diminishing court. She is perhaps the last of the great women blues singers, ...

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