Modern Love

With songs like "Martian Martians," "I'm a Little Aeroplane," and "Abominable Snowman in the Market," it's hard to believe that troubadour Jonathan Richman played such an important role in the burgeoning punk movement of the 1970s. But the Talking Heads, Television, and even the Sex Pistols (they covered the Richman classic "Roadrunner") all owe a debt to Richman's first band, the Modern Lovers -- a proto-punk outfit inspired by the Velvet Underground.

The three-chord drive is the same, but unlike Lou Reed's dark urban visions, Richman has always had an innocent's youthful outlook. His style is disarming. It's all heart, making up for his lack of singing skills with bare-faced honesty and openness, as he confesses, "If I had beside me a girlfriend/I could look through the paintings, I could see right through them" while standing before a Cezanne on the song "Girlfriend."

Now it's just Jonathan, traveling the country with his drummer (his last swing through South Florida was in an old convertible), performing in his singular and intimate style that borders on sing-along. There's even a chance he'll sing a few from Jonathan, Te Vas a Emocionar! (Jonathan, You're Going to Get Excited), the Spanish-language album he recorded of translations of some of his favorite songs.

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John Anderson