Super Session Bassist

Folk, Jazz, Rock or Blues
Harvey Brooks Paid His Dues

I play music for my own enjoyment and to share what I feel with other musicians and listeners. I sum up the music I'm playing into its simplest form and then expand rhythmically and harmonically on that form.

When I'm in a band format, I am listening to the other players and musically conversing, remembering that as a bass player my role is to hold the bottom rhythmically and harmonically. In other words keep the groove solid.

(July 4, 1944 -

Goin' Back to New York City

I guess one might think that Manhattan-born Harvey Goldstein, who was raised by Conservative Jewish parents, (his mother Fay kept Kosher, Samuel, his father, was a truck driver), in Long Island and Queens, changed his name to one having a more musical ring -- as might be needed to be a up and coming 20 year old guitar player.

He admitted as a kid (and a young man) he would rather play guitar than go to synagogue. (He switched to bass somewhere after he began playing at 15 -- too many guitar players!). But the real reason for the new nick:  he needed to become more "white bread" after an ugly anti-Semitic attack at a Michigan gig. Even if he had not changed his name to Harvey Brooks, his name would still be on the hundred or so album liner notes of many varied famous musical artists.

It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads:
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
--Isaiah 35:10

Even today after his wife, his beshert of 30 plus years, Bonnie's Nefesh B’Nefesh papers succeeded in their making aliyah to Israel, and after tearfully singing, “Heveinu Shalom Aleichem,” upon arrival in 2009 at Tel Aviv, he is still not as a devoted Jew like his parents were. However, today he would be more inclined to play along with Israeli's famed Ehud Banai than any of the past superstars again.

He was also a high school friend with Al Kooper, and they were both initially part of the burgeoning 60s music scene in the NYC area that included classically trained flutist and sometimes bassist Andy Kulberg, and guitarist Danny Kalb. Kooper and Brooks both admit their careers were made at being at the right place at the right time.  Brooks spent a couple of years going to Queens College, but like many before and after, music as a major made more money while playing it.

Going to a Go Go

152 Bleecker Street in New York City's Greenwich Village, affectionately known as the Village, was the address of the basement coffee house, the Cafe au Go Go, which started in February of 1964, (and whose name was not influenced by go go dancers like the Whiskey A Go Go in LA), that by 1965 became also a place for the blues and folk musicians that brought drums and amplifiers with their acts. It was a lounge that did not serve liquor, and the acoustics were not the best for loud electric sets, but..... Thus Harvey Brooks not only met his old buddies there, but met and jammed with new talent like Jimi Hendrix, and it was a venue where under age youngsters could legally come and gape in awe at their mentors. (There is a bootleg of when Hendrix played there in 1968 (about a year before it closed), Jimi Hendrix: Blues At Midnight. Cafe Au Go Go). Brooks gave a heartfelt note about Jimi:

Before our last shows I was making mixes in the studio and Hendrix was in the next room. We talked about doing something together with Miles Davis, and Jimi was complaining about his managers. "Harvey, they are just killing me, they want me to do a bunch of shows, and I just don't want to. I want to sit quietly and write music, and not work so hard, but my manager says I have to go do tours for the money," he said to me.

So I told him "Jimi, you don’t owe them anything, you just look out for yourself."

But he said "Harvey, too many people are dependent on me and my music," and he went out on tour. He was a human being but they treated him like a machine. I certainly blame his managers for his death.

Highway 61 Revisited Revisited

While at the time Harvey was playing in a trio (I guess whose names are long forgotten) in the Big Apple, his old friend Kooper asked him to come and help backup this new folk singer, Bob Dylan. Either Bill Lee (Spike Lee's father!) or Joe Macho, the previous bass players couldn't make it (or were not wanted because they wanted to pump it up) on his 6th album, the 1965 totally plugged-in one, Highway 61 Revisited

Tom Wilson, in 1963 became Columbia Records first black staff producer, and was the impetus in putting vibrancy in folk music when assigned Bob Dylan. This next electric project with Harvey Brooks was going to leave the folksy and pick up the Chicago bluesy style even more. Wilson is the one whose accidental voice is kept on the recording where he is laughing and saying “Wait a minute now. Okay, take two” in "Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” -- from Wilson and Dylan's half acoustic LP.  Wilson also produced Simon and Garfunkel, which after his overdubbing their work (something almost done with Dylan's version of "House of the Rising Sun"), made him one of the richest producers. He also produced Frank Zappa's The Mothers of Invention, getting $21000 for "Freak Out,  and he additionally was part of the unforgettable Andy Warhol and Lou Reed project, the Velvet Underground and Nico.

Brooks remembered the momentousness of this opportunity:

I didn’t know who Dylan was at the time. I came on. And that’s what gave me a career. I started getting calls from Eric Anderson and Richie Havens. I played on a lot of folk albums. I played with Dylan at Forest Hills and at the Hollywood Bowl.

Forest Hills was me, Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Al Kooper. After that I was in Detroit. I couldn’t get back (for future gigs). I was unavailable. Robbie and Levon were pushing to get their guys in, and that was what became The Band (Dylan’s regular backing group).
Brooks fondly recalls those NYC times and what it was like to work with Dylan:
I had an apartment on Thompson Street and the Au Go Go was around the corner on Bleecker Street, and I became the house bass player there. I would play with whoever was on the bill that evening, with no rehearsal and just a quick run-through backstage. To be a musician in Greenwich Village in the mid-sixties … was AMAZING!

Bob {Dylan} would play the tune a couple of times, and as he played we would sketch out the tune for the chord progression, the form and any special parts that related to our instruments. As soon as Bob was ready we had to be ready!

Touring with Bob at Forest Hills, New York, Brooks recalled,

They charged the stage, guards were tackling people, Al Kooper had his stool pulled out from under him ... still playing as he went down. We didn’t know if they wanted to kill us or not! ... I looked at Dylan, he nodded, “keep on playing”
This, of course, was near the time of that infamous Newport Festival where Dylan plugged in -- estranging the folk purists.

In an Arizona interview in his 2007 video, "View from the Bottom," what he remembers most from playing in the studio for Dylan's Highway 61, is the spontaneity of the sessions (not other specific details), 3 or four hours at most, going over songs only a couple of times. This album also goes down in rock history as it features the Tom Wilson produced capital "C" classic  -- the rock anthem, number one of all time, according to Rolling Stone,  "Like a Rolling Stone." It was another happenstance where Kooper just showed up at the studio with his redundant (it turned out) guitar, and then wandered off and fiddled a riff on an organ in another room. Where and when after Dylan heard it, he added it to the cut

Brooks bass playing notoriety began with this kind of very adaptive studio endeavor, also elaborated upon Dylan's rehearsal requirements by the late Mick Ronson, (whose flailing career at that time was revived while invited by Dylan himself to be on his Rolling Thunder Review):

He was just. . .there, he'd play what he wanted to play. He'd come in and do his numbers. He did what he had to do and he did it well and quickly. He maybe wouldn't get too involved otherwise. I mean, he wasn’t pulling any big star trip. He doesn't have to. He doesn't have to say anything. With Bob, you just know. If there was something he was looking for in a song, you'd try to find it without being told. And that's the thing about Dylan.
So in August 1965, the month that album was released, Brooks was part of that famous Dylan road trip starting at Forest Hills, joining Levon Helm (until Bobby Gregg -- Wilson's pick for those last two albums -- came back when Helm left), Robbie Robertson (Bloomfield was with Paul Butterfield), and Al Kooper, where Dylan would solo the first half, and they would join him in the electric second half, mirroring the format (helped by Tom Wilson) exampled on Dylan's release earlier in March that same year, Bringing it All Back Home.

Plugging Others In

The handsome Dylan wannabe, Eric Anderson, influenced by interstate and overseas travel, and Beat Poets in Frisco like Lawrence Ferlinghetti, wanted his second album, 'Bout Changes 'n' Things to be electrified, so Harvey, who was also at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival, became the logical choice to be part of the team with Debbie Green, a pianist and guitarist, in the studio. She would also become Eric's wife, (who taught the ultimately more ambitious Joan Baez how to play more than just two chords, and Debbie was allegedly the better vocalist, whose asthma caused her to pursue helping others instrumentally.) Eric Anderson is still an active musician.

Though some may remember Canadians Ian and Sylvia (last name Tyson) and their hit, "Four Strong Winds," (they are still alive {but divorced) at this writing), there was another similar married folk duo, Jim and jean, who performed the songs of their anti-war friend, Phil Ochs, and also those of, Tom Paxton, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Eric Andersen, and now Bob Dylan. (Jim Garver is still an active pacifist).

Their 1966 Changes and 1968 People World albums (ones that are very rare, the CD with both of them compiled costs a bit over a hundred dollars) were where they too electrified their folk music, playing the first cover of Dylan's "Lay Down Your Weary Tune", as well as a bizarre medley with Rhythms Of Revolution/Interpolate: Hang On Sloopy/Like A Rolling Stone/Guantanamera. But probably the most important song was their cover of Och's "Crucifixion." Harvey Brooks joined his friend Al Kooper on this collaboration of which Jean reminisced:

For a few years I played electric bass and various pianos, until Harvey Brooks joined us on the road. Maybe Gorson and Wilson thought we could make a bigger commercial success if we went electric, but we did it to explore and grow, and interweave it with the great traditional, sometimes centuries-old, folk songs -- they are always the jewels.

Tripping and Grooving

In 1967 Brooks joined guitarist Michael Bloomfield and some of his Chicago associates, vocalist Nick Gravenites, and keyboardist Barry Goldberg, for a foray into big band fusion, The Electric Flag. Harvey recommended that they steal Buddy Miles from Wilson Pickett's band, and they assembled a fabulous horn section, with Herb Rich, Peter Strazza, Marcus Doubleday, and Stemzie Hunter. Brooks quipped about it to Times of Israel:

Electric Flag was rhythm and blues, jazz, the first interracial band. Three of the members were junkies. They’d come into town, and the first thing would be, "Where do we score?"

I played with Buddy Miles and Wilson Pickett. Pickett was giving Buddy a hard time, threatening to fire him if he made a mistake. We went to tell Pickett, "Miles is leaving."

Bloomfield was running out. Pickett was chasing him with a gun: "You white motherf***er!"

Though they were R & B, they were also avant-garde psychedelic, and they landed their first paying gig doing the soundtrack for Roger Corman (of horror movie fame) and The Trip. Bruce Dern joined the two real heads, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in this campy flick. Initially Corman was going to use the Gram Parsons' International Submarine Band. (Gram died in 1973).

In a 2009 YNET interview Brooks revealed:

When I was in San Francisco, Peter Fonda came to where I was living and asked me to do the soundtrack for the movie the Trip, a completely psychedelic film. We went to a huge Hollywood mansion, every night girls showed up. That was during the "Free Love" era, what ever you wanted you got, sometimes five girls a night.
He also made this confession to YNET that he did:

All kinds of drugs, LSD, cocaine, everything except heroin. I never touched heroin, even though people offered it to me. I guess that’s my survival instinct. I didn’t want to kill myself, I didn’t want to be out of control. If I would not have stopped with the drugs I could have died like many of my friends.

With drugs you make good music only for an audience on drugs. Drugs can open up your imagination and take you to places you wouldn’t otherwise go, but only if you are very talented. Lots of people tried drugs in order to create music because they didn’t have enough talent but drugs can’t make talent. They just impair your mind. Today I make better music and I control my playing better than when I was using drugs. I have more inspiration, too. Drugs and alcohol just castrate you.

Folks Wagon Turbocharged

Next in 1967, after recording, How to Play Electric Bass, Brooks helps out his other friend and folk singer, Richie Havens, be a part of this new amplified trend, who would in a few years achieve notoriety at Woodstock, playing his song "Handsome Johnny" from this work, Plain and Fancy. It too had a Dylan cover, "Just like a Woman."

He still stayed busy with his old comrades, bringing up the bottom again for Eric Anderson's part 2 of a rearranged and re-recording, of 'Bout Changes 'n' Things, while he added Herbie Lovelle's drums and Paul Harris' keyboard. (Debbie Green helped on one track.)

In 1968 (a busy year for Brooks) the Long Time Comin' album of The Electric Flag was released, in spite of which -- due to the lows of highs, they disbanded before their second and last one came out that December, An American Music Band.

He was asked by Michalis Limnios what were his favorite jams and he shared:

One was at the Café Au Go Go. I was in town with the Electric flag, Jimi Hendrix with The Experience, Duane Allman with the Allman Brothers and Elvin Bishop with the Butterfield Blues Band. I do believe we played the first version of "Little Wing" that night. After that I went uptown to Steve Paul’s “The Scene” and jammed with Jimi, Johnny Winter, Buddy Miles and Jim Morrison.

The best Musical jams took place in Woodstock, New York at the “Joyous Lake”. I remember one particular snowy evening jam that started around 11:30 PM on a Tuesday night. Dave Sanborn on alto, Jack Dejonnette on drums, Kal David on guitar, Howard Johnson on Baritone Sax and myself on Bass. We played till breakfast.

Stupor Kooper Super Session

In the year of that release, Brooks once again teamed up with Al Kooper, Michael Bloomfield, and Barry Goldberg the former leaving Blood, Sweat, and Tears, the latter two, of course, from The Electric Flag. This has been sometimes been cited as the first formation of what would be called "Supergroups," like Cream, Blind Faith and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. They added drummer "Fast" Eddie Hoh for a two day recorded jam session, Super Session, that necessitated bringing guitarist Steven Stills in (who had just left Buffalo Springfield) to replace a next day's no-show  skagged out Bloomfield. The first side is the day with Bloomfield, with a nice bluesy "Albert's Shuffle," the second side with Stills covered Dylan's "It Takes A Lot to Laugh, It Takes A Train to Cry" and a long improvisation of Donovan's "Season of the Witch": but more significantly to our featured musician, Brooks' own "Harvey's Tune." The later studio addition of horns has been aesthetically controversial, however, way down the road Kooper did a re-mix sans brass and re-released it as originally recorded.

Seen in the Frisco Scene

Brooks next project in 1968 was bringing him to the location of the Summer of Love in the mellow Bay area. He probably met and played with the 22 year-old Carlos Santana around this time. He would join Nick Gravenites in producing Quicksilver Messenger Service's album. In July's 1968 edition of Rolling Stone magazine, Barry Gifford (who went on from this place and time to become a notable poet and writer {Wild at Heart}) aptly pointed out:

Quicksilver's initial and long-awaited excursion into the primordial clear light of San Francisco isn't quite what was expected, due to the production staff headed by the Electric Flag's Nick Gravenites and Harvey Brooks. The Quicksilver Messenger Service don't sound quite the same since they've heard the Flag and Mike Bloomfield, late arrivals on the San Francisco scene. As a result, most of the album cuts (only six altogether) come across sounding like the Electric Flag, minus their blues-loyal predication and Buddy Miles, doing straight rock.

An exception to the general tone of the album is Quicksilver's interpretation of folk-rock (remember?) singer Hamilton (Bob) Camp's "Pride of Man." This is an unusual number for them to have done, but it's really a better version than Camp's original. ...

...this version of "Pride," which the Quicksilver carry off admirably. The song itself has some surprisingly profound lyrics: "Oh God/Pride of man/Broken in the dust again."
(Hamilton Camp besides a folk singer writing "Get Together" and "Well, Well, Well", and being a comedian in Second City, the actor also played in Bedlam with Boris Karloff; but more interesting to me, he was not only the voice of the Smurfs' cartoons, but was the Ferengi Leck and Vrelk on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.)

Doors Open in the Soft Parade

That spring of 1968, Harvey had to head on down to Elektra's Los Angeles studios for being part of a new sound for the up and coming LA group, the Doors. The year before they had two top ten albums with their The Doors and then Strange DaysWaiting for the Sun was released when Brooks came for this project that would include horns and orchestra, he was on all tracks including the hit, "Touch Me," except three. He gives insights of the Doors only an insider could know:

The band members were fighting and almost didn’t speak to each other. Each one of them brought his part and I put them together into one song. We worked in a studio in Los Angeles and sometimes they showed up and sometimes they didn't. If I wasn't there the song would have never gotten made. After all this Morrison came in and sang the lyrics. Once he came in with two or three girls all over him, it was amazing, he had great charisma.

1969 was a busy year in the studio for many others, too, Mark Spoelstra, Mama Cass, Graham Bond, Karen Dalton, John Martyn, and others needing his base line, but also, because of his good ear in the studio, and connections, he was made a staff producer for Columbia records. 

The B Made Me Do It

Harvey was just next door at Columbia to renown jazz trumpeter, Miles Davis' producer, Teo Macero, whose arranged acquaintance had him invited to be in on the fusion project of jazz/rock. They brought in guitarist John McLaughlin of next year's Mahavishnu Orchestra who would be starting his first big foray into it here. This would become the double album (it was becoming trendy), Bitches Brew. This album, released in April, 1970, with no track shorter than ten minutes is Miles Davis most highly regarded, unless one considers his 1959 more traditional release, Kind of Blue.

Brooks was likewise in the studio around 1970, with a wide variety of artists, Dylan's New Morning, John Sebastian's self titled album, Seals & Crofts' Down Home

Fantabulous Future

Brooks would hook up in 1971 with virtuoso guitarist Kal David (still performing) to form the The Fabulous Rhinestones, and go on to record three albums.  A bit later, he would also help out another "fabulous" group, the Fabulous Thunderbirds on their 1995 Roll out the Dice project.

Before leaving the country and Tucson Arizona, where their guitarist, Tom Kusian, had a store selling his music -- the 17th Street Market -- he joined him forming the 17th Street Band, and they had their 2009 release Positively 17th Street.

He was with so many important artists, that naturally he would be on the re-releases and compilations throughout these decades.

The Present

Beulah Land

As noted before, he is living, and playing (still seen in pictures with his favorite Fender Precision Bass) in Israel (it is where his step daughters had moved before them), and he had noted he had seen Mahavishnu drummer Billy Cobham here, too, with his Muslim wife.

His impressions:

Here we live. We have our hummus and our coffee. We go for walks on the Tayelet (promenade). We have two little dogs. The other day we had 17 Arabic children walking with us. It's a very positive experience in this neighborhood. It's got great energy.

I could write a book. I'm happy to write about the music. But I can’t do it about the drugs and sex, and that’s what the publishers want.

I've played at every level, with incredible people. I've made lots of great records; played at lots of great gigs. I'm at the point now where I’m finally getting the opportunity to be myself.

His advice to future musicians:
Music hasn't changed. The chord progressions and melodies that have influenced pop music in all its forms are still there. That has changed is the technology and the business of music.


Be the best person you can be. Keep an open mind and get to know your instrument. It takes work. If it's easy, move to the next level.

Link to Album Credits


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