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Brute Force

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Biography

Brute Force, born Stephen Friedland in Jersey City, NJ in 1940, was first drawn to the stage at the age of eight after watching his mother act in numerous plays at the Jersey City Jewish Community Center Theatre. Friedland continued to hone his performance skills throughout high school both on-stage and off, frequently improvising songs and sketches at parties or at home on the piano. In the early '60s he met Billy Gussak, a studio drummer who had played with Bill Haley & the Comets, and began collaborating with the seasoned musician — and father of his current girlfriend — on songs. One of those tracks, "My Teenage Castle," wound up as the B-side of Peggy March's 1963 "I Wish I Were a Princess" single. His success at RCA eventually led him to the next phase of his career, playing keyboards and guitar for the Tokens. During that time he composed songs for Del Shannon, the Creation, the Cyrkle, and the Chiffons — the latter scored a minor hit with "Nobody Knows What's Goin' on in My Mind But Me."

He left the Tokens in 1967 and recorded the heavily arranged and deeply absurd I, Brute Force: Confessions of Love for Columbia Records. Described by Brute as "a paradigm of being far ahead of its time", the record swiftly sank below both the critic's and the public's radar. Instead of wallowing, Brute took to the sea, taking part in an expedition with best friend Ben Schlossberg to swim the entire Bering Strait — the "Cold War" stunt was aimed at drawing attention to "the closeness of the Eastern and Western hemispheres," and was featured in Life magazine. 1969 saw the release of Brute's most memorable single, "The King of Fuh" — the joke being that the protagonist was referred to as "the Fuh King." The track was championed by George Harrison and released as a single on the Beatles' Apple label. That same year he released Extemporaneous. Recorded live in the studio in 1969 with minimal piano accompaniment before a small audience, it was made up largely of comedy songs, political jabs, and absurd improvisations, and has since become a sought-after slab of vinyl — it was reissued with numerous bonus tracks by Rev-Ola in 2004. Brute Force continued to perform his non-traditional musical/comedy variety act throughout the '80s, '90s, and into the millennium.

Top Songs

Birth Name:

Stephen Friedland

Born:

Jersey City, NJ

Genre
Years Active:

'60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Contemporaries