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I Died Today

Rodd Keith

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Album Review

I Died Today was the first release of Tzadik's Lunatic Fringe series, a category reserved for only the most unclassifiable recordings. It offers 26 of the songs that Rodney Eskelin (who worked most frequently under the name Rodd Keith) recorded while working in the song poem, or send-us-your-lyrics business during the '60s and early '70s. Keith composed the music for these lyrics on the spot, and led a group of musicians through recording sessions of first takes. Regarded as a musical genius by many who met him, Keith's song poem work is the only documentation of his output. This sampling includes a range of rock styles from innocent sugar pop to garage rock, from the New Christy Minstrels to the Doors, featuring Keith on various keyboards and on lead vocals for most of the cuts. His delivery on "This" and "Waiting for the High Tide" is reminiscent of Scott Walker minus the meaningful lyrics. In fact, there's a hilarious amount of awful lyrics such as "Frankenstein was catching lightning bolts/to save his soul," ("Graveyard Rock"); the pitiable sentiments of "T.V. Love": "loving words don't mean a thing, for you are always on the screen; " or "Space"'s befuddling incitements to "fly on little spacemen, fly on." Almost parody, Keith does what he can to stay true to the lyrics' mood, as with "General Custer's Story Remains Legend" lyrics (including "when Custer lay so very still,/his faithful horse was very sad") delivered in an appropriately exaggerated drawl and a Kossoy Sisters-style backing harmony. Some of the other material ranges from American-dream pathos, to inane Do-the-(fill in the dance name) ditties. Unexpected moments of brilliance are scattered throughout, lifting this album out of the realms of kitsch into that of full-blown cult status.

Biography

Born: 1937

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '60s, '70s

Rodd Keith is probably the best-known musician who worked in the song poem, or send-us-your-lyrics, industry; certainly, he was one of the most prolific. Keith grew up in a religious and musical family that formed a singing group and toured Midwest America's revival and church circuit, and even cut a few 78s. From an early age, he began playing various musical instruments and writing arrangements. He was later known for being able to play any instrument he picked up, and could play back a piece of...
Full Bio
I Died Today, Rodd Keith
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