Top 10 Steve Forbert Songs

Steve Forbert Songs

Feature Photo: Jay Blakesberg, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Our top 10 Steve Forbert songs list digs deep into the music of an American singer revered for his distinctive folk-rock sound influences. Born in 1954, Steve Forbert has been active in the music scene since the late ‘70s. Forbert is also reputable for his sporadic blend of pop rock and Americana influences in his signature folk-rock sound.

Among the greatest pillars of Steve Forbert’s endured musicianship in the folk-rock scene is his idiosyncratic vocal delivery. Steve’s raw yet soulful vocals give him a perfect platform to channel to the world his virtuoso lyricism. Most of Forbert’s songs tell of his consummate storytelling skills—his introspective lyrics (often tinged with a sense of nostalgia) makes his songs quite relatable and timeless.

Steve Forbert is also known for his minimalist yet effective fingerpicking and strumming skills on the guitar. Despite the lack of ostentatious solos and riffs in his guitar playing style, Steve’s guitar arrangement forms a solid foundation for his folk-rock-oriented songs. Over the years, Steve Forbert has issued over twenty studio albums showcasing consistency in his musical pursuits.

While Steve Forbert has quite a huge catalog of albums, only a handful of them have managed to achieve critical acclaim. In this article, we will narrow down our albums review to the records that have had a huge impact on his career. Coming in first on our best Steve Forbert albums review is the singer’s debut studio album Alive on ArrivalAlive on Arrival was issued in 1978 through Nemperor Records, a label (once) home to Stanley Clarke, The Romantics, and Tommy Bolin (former member of Zephyr, The James Gang, and Deep Purple).

This Steve Burgh-produced album was a mainstream success rising to number eighty-two spot on the Billboard 200 Chart—the album spent fifteen weeks on this chart. Alive on Arrival also made it to the UK Albums Chart where it rose to a peak position of number fifty-six—the album only spent a week on the chart. Some of the best Steve Forbert songs from the LP include “Tonight I Feel So Far Away from Home,” “Grand Central Station, March 18, 1977,” “Goin’ Down to Laurel,” and “What Kinda Guy?”

Steve Forbert returned in 1978 with his sophomore effort Jackrabbit Slim. The album was also issued through Nemperor Records under John Simon’s production. As a producer, John Simon is best known for his work with Gordon Lightfoot, The Electric Flag, Mama Cass, Michael Franks, and Blood, Sweat & TearsJackrabbit Slim was a commercial success, earning gold certification from RIAA.

The album was critically acclaimed in the UK where it climbed to the fifty-fourth spot on the Albums Chart. Jackrabbit Slim also made it to the Billboard 200 Chart peaking at the twentieth spot—the album spent a total of twenty-six weeks on the chart. The album was also a mainstream success in Australia, having climbed to the twenty-second spot on the ARIA Albums Chart. Steve Forbert’s signature hit “Romeo’s Tune,” “Say Goodbye to Little Jo,” “January 23-30,” and “I’m in Love with You” are the top musical gems from the album Jackrabbit Slim.

Little Stevie Orbit, issued in 1980, marked the band’s third LP. The album was produced by Peter Solley, a recording producer distinguished for his work with Al Stewart, Eric Clapton, Ted Nugent, Peter Frampton, Whitesnake, and The Romantics. Unlike Steve Forbert’s previous two studio albums, Little Stevie Orbit never made it to the UK Albums Chart—in fact, no other album ever graced the UK Albums Chart.

Little Stevie Orbit performed fairly on the mainstream charts climbing to the fifty-fifth spot on the ARIA Albums Chart. The album also made it to the seventieth spot on the Billboard 200, spending nine weeks on the chart. “Cellophane City,” “Song for Katrina,” and “Schoolgirl” are the best Steve Forbert songs from the LP.

In 1982, Steve Forbert returned with his eponymous fourth studio album. Steve Forbert marked the singer’s final album issued through Nemperor Records. The album also marked Steve Forbert’s final release to climb to the Billboard 200 Chart peaking at number one hundred and fifty-nine. Steve Forbert is home to musical gems such as “Ya Ya (Next to Me),” “Beautiful Diana,” and “Oh So Close (And Yet So Far Away).”

After cutting ties with Nemperor Records, Steve Forbert signed a recording deal with Geffen Records where he issued his 1988 fifth studio album Streets of This Town. The album was produced by Gary Tallent, who played in Bruce Springsteen’s backing band The E-Street Band. Unfortunately, Streets of This Town was a commercial and mainstream flop only featuring classics such as “I Blinked Once,” “Mexico,” “Running on Love,” and “On the Streets of This Town.”

The American in Me would eventually mark Steve Forbert’s final album issued through Geffen Records. Working on the production of The American in Me was Grammy Award-winning guitarist/producer Pete Anderson. Pete is best known for his production works for the artists Dwight Yoakam, Mark Chesnutt, Roy Orbison, and The Meat Puppets. Like its predecessor, The American in Me failed to make it to the mainstream charts. However, the album churned out a few classics including “When the Sun Shines,” “Born Too Late,” “Responsibility,” and “The American in Me.”

Steve Forbert went ahead to issue multiple studio albums all of which were warmly received by his ardent fans despite not making it big in the mainstream. His search for new inspiration through Any Old Time earned him his only Grammy Award nomination. Any Old Time was Steve Forbert’s tribute album to “the Father of Country Music” Jimmie Rodgers. Steve covered some of Jimmie Rodgers’ classics including “My Blue Eyed Jane,” “Gambling Barroom Blues,” and “Waiting on a Train.”

Steve Forbert’s Awards and Legacy

While he may not have amassed numerous awards compared to some of his contemporaries, Steve is among the most sought-after folk-rock artists alive. In 2004, Steve Forbert’s album Any Old Time earned a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Traditional Folk Album category losing to Wildwood Flower by June Carter Cash. The Meridian native would later be inducted into the Mississippi Musician’s Hall of Fame in 2006. His impressive music career has drawn the attention of other artists including Keith Urban, Webb Wilder, Rosanne Cash, and Marty Stuart.

# 10 – Tryna Let Go

Kicking off our top 10 Steve Forbert songs list is the moving track “Tryna Let Go,” from his album The Magic Tree. In this song, Forbert delves into the themes of release and moving forward. His distinctive blend of smooth and intense vocals perfectly captures the emotional depth embedded in the song’s lyrics. The reflective nature of “Tryna Let Go” is a prime example of Forbert’s celebrated songwriting style, which garnered widespread critical acclaim in the 1980s. Film director George McMorrow lends a hand and some equipment in the filming of this video.

# 9 – The American In Me

Sounding like a cross between Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Willie Nile, Steve Forbert delivered a masterpiece with the track “The American In Me.” The song served as the title track for the album The American in Me, which was released in 1992. It’s funny, but there is something about the harmonica solo riff in the song that reminds me of Lionel Richie’s “Stuck On You.” Do you hear it, too?

# 8 – That’d Be Alright

Securing the eighth spot in our top 10 list of Steve Forbert songs is the remarkable “That’d Be Alright.” This track made its debut on Forbert’s 2012 folk rock album Over with You. Known for its engaging acoustic guitar arrangement, “That’d Be Alright” stands out with its introspective lyrics and Forbert’s emotive vocal delivery, enveloping the listener in a wave of nostalgia.

Notably, “That’d Be Alright” features contributions from Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist Ben Harper, particularly on the guitar. Harper’s collaboration history is impressive, having worked with other renowned artists such as Charlie Musselwhite, Jack Johnson, and Toots and the Maytals.

# 7 – I Blinked Once

“I Blinked Once” earns its place as the heartfelt seventh selection on our top 10 list of Steve Forbert songs. This track, a fan favorite from Forbert’s sixth studio album Street of This Town, serves as a poignant reflection on the transitory nature of life’s moments. The song showcases Forbert’s keen ability for introspective writing. Forbert’s vocal performance resonates deeply, capturing the emotional essence of the song’s lyrics. “I Blinked Once” is also highlighted as a standout track on the 2017 tribute album An American Troubadour: The Songs of Steve Forbert. John Oates and Bekka Bramlett, a former member of Fleetwood Mac, lent their talents to the rendition of this song on the tribute album.

# 6 – I’m in Love with You

Taking the sixth position in our top 10 Steve Forbert songs list is the enchanting folk-rock ballad “I’m in Love with You,” a highlight from the artist’s second and most acclaimed studio album, Jackrabbit Slim. This one is fueled by a real old-school groove, reminiscent of classic 1950s and ’60s ballads by artists like The Everly Brothers. This track stands as a heartfelt declaration of love, brimming with profound emotions and affection. Furthermore, the enduring appeal of this love ballad is magnified by Steve Forbert’s passionate vocal performance, which adeptly conveys the depth of feeling in the song.

# 5 – Ya Ya (Next to Me)

“Ya Ya (Next to Me),” a standout track from Steve Forbert’s third album, Little Stevie Orbit. This pop-infused hit sees Forbert delving into themes of love and companionship, expressing a longing for a special lady’s presence. Forbert has shared that the inspiration for this song came from an encounter with a girl in New Orleans. The track is marked by its infectious melodies and Forbert’s engaging, cheerful vocals. An energetic blend of harmonica and guitar infuses the rhythm section with a lively, captivating vibe. “Ya Ya (Next to Me)” achieved notable success, reaching number fifty-four on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Airplay Chart.

# 4 – It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way

“It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way” graced Steve Forbert’s debut album Alive on Arrival, released in 1978. This album marked the beginning of Forbert’s illustrious career, and upon its release, some critics hailed him as the next Bob Dylan, a comparison Forbert humbly dismissed. The album boasted a lineup of talented musicians, including Steve Forbert on guitar, harmonica, and vocals; David Sanborn on alto saxophone; Brian Torff on acoustic bass; Steve Burgh on lead guitar; Dennis Good on trombone; Robbie Kondor on organ and piano; Barry Lazarowitz on drums and tambourine; Hugh McDonald on bass and electric guitar; and Harvey Shapiro on pedal steel.

The song’s lyrics delve into the theme of life’s unmet expectations, with Forbert’s expressive delivery painting a poignant picture of disillusionment. “It Isn’t Gonna Be That Way” has been covered by artists such as Paul Shuttleworth and the Grammy Award-nominated Garrison Starr. Furthermore, Robert Earl Keen offered his rendition of the song on the 2017 tribute album An American Troubadour: The Songs of Steve Forbert.

# 3 – Say Goodbye to Little Jo 

The third selection in our top 10 Steve Forbert songs is “Say Goodbye to Little Jo,” a standout from his second studio album, Jackrabbit Slim. This track showcases Forbert’s evocative vocal delivery, which harmonizes beautifully with the backing vocals provided by The Shoals Sisters (Ava Aldridge, Cindy Richardson, Marie Tomlinson), elevating the song to a track that one could just not stop listening to. “Say Goodbye to Little Jo” holds the distinction of being Forbert’s second and final entry on the Billboard Hot 100, where it reached number eighty-five.

The album also featured a talented ensemble of musicians, including Bobby Ogdin on piano, Paul Errico on organ and accordion, John Goin on lead guitar, Alan Freedman on guitar, Roger Clark and Gunnar Gelotte on drums, Bob Wray, Jack Williams, Jerry Bridges, and Mike Leech on bass, Bill Jones on saxophone, Ron Keller on trumpet, and Dennis Good on trombone, contributing to the rich musical tapestry of the song.

# 2 – Goin’ Down to Laurel

“Goin’ Down to Laurel” serves as the introductory track on Steve Forbert’s debut album Alive on Arrival, which was released in 1978. For many enthusiasts, this song would be their initial encounter with Forbert’s music. Its blend of country, soft rock, and a hint of pop was perfectly aligned with the musical trends of the late 1970s. Forbert was often likened to Bob Dylan, yet his musical style bore a closer resemblance to Willie Nile, despite Forbert’s debut predating Nile’s by about two years. Interestingly, Nile also found himself compared to Dylan, underscoring the tendency to draw parallels between artists who craft clever and engaging soft rock and folk-pop tunes to Dylan’s influential work.

“Goin’ Down to Laurel” also received a contemporary rendition by singer Elliott Peck on the 2017 tribute album An American Troubadour: The Songs of Steve Forbert, highlighting its enduring appeal and influence within the musical community.

# 1 – Romeo’s Tune

Topping our list of the top 10 Steve Forbert songs is the captivating “Romeo’s Tune,” the standout hit from his second and most successful studio album, Jackrabbit Slim. “Romeo’s Tune” stands out as one of Forbert’s most poetic works, with lyrics that beautifully capture the romantic notion of escaping the world with one’s beloved. The song’s chorus, in particular, has a sing-along quality that cements it as one of Forbert’s most unforgettable tracks.

A notable feature of “Romeo’s Tune” is the distinctive piano played by Bobby Ogdin, who was once a pianist for Elvis Presley. The song achieved significant commercial success, climbing to the thirteenth position on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart and reaching even higher on the Billboard Hot 100, where it peaked at number eleven. In 2007, “Romeo’s Tune” was covered by country musician Keith Urban, further testament to its enduring appeal and influence.

Top 10 Steve Forbert Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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