Jack Tempchin: Peaceful Easy Songs
Jack Tempchin is a legendary hit songwriter whose two compositions, “Peaceful Easy Feeling” and “Already Gone”, are now synonymous with the Southern California Sound. Both songs are on ‘Eagles: Their Greatest Hits 1971-1975’, awarded Best-Selling U.S. Album of the 20th Century by the RIAA. Tempchin has five Eagles contributions total, including “The Girl From Yesterday” from the ‘Hell Freezes Over’ reunion release, plus “It’s Your World Now” and “Somebody”, both on their latest double disc release, ‘Long Road Out Of Eden’. You may have seen Jack Tempchin’s featured interview in the Alex Gibney-produced ‘History of the Eagles’ rock documentary, or quite possibly have heard his name referenced from the stage by Glenn Frey on the ‘History of the Eagles’ World Tour. Famously, Tempchin’s tune “Peaceful Easy Feeling” was featured in a notorious taxi scene in the Cohen Brothers cult classic, ‘The Big Lebowski’ starring Jeff Bridges as ‘The Dude’, who is unceremoniously tossed from a cab. “Part Of You, Part Of Me” another Tempchin/Frey classic was the end title theme song for the Oscar-award winning film, ‘Thelma & Louise’.
Interview by Michael Limnios
As a harmonica playing teenager growing up in Southern California, Tempchin wrote his first songs at the beach. He and a guitarist friend would create lyrics as they jammed. Under the spell of folk music and blues, Tempchin took up guitar and began writing songs in earnest. Soon he graduated from the audience at coffeehouses to the stage and became part of the scene at West Hollywood’s famed songwriters’ Mecca the Troubadour.
Tempchin was soon one of the regulars at the Troubadour alongside Glenn Frey, Tom Waits, Randy Newman, J.D. Souther, Hoyt Axton and other emerging star songwriters of the early ‘70S. He also became friends with many of the already established young musicians who were living in Los Angeles’s counterculture haven Laurel Canyon and frequented the Troubadour, including the Byrds, Joni Mitchell and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Together these writers and performers would define a roots music inspired style that became known as the Laurel Canyon Sound or California Rock.
New bands were formed and record deals signed almost weekly in that creative melting pot, and when the Eagles released their debut album in 1972, it included Tempchin’s “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” The song reached number 22 on Billboard’s Top 40 Singles chart and earned its writer a place in rock history. “Peaceful Easy Feeling” has since become one of the most popular tunes in the band’s historic repertoire – along with Tempchin’s 1974 follow-up “Already Gone” – and even gained cult movie fame when it was used in the notorious taxi scene in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski.
As a member of the Funky Kings, Tempchin was signed to Arista Records by fellow music business legend Clive Davis. The group’s 1976 debut album featured “Slow Dancin’ (Swayin’ To the Music),” which became a top 10 pop hit for Johnny Rivers and a top 10 country hit for Johnny Duncan a year later. The song’s genre jumping appeal spoke volumes about Tempchin’s writing. To this day his work has a broad appeal and distinctly human touch that allows him to reach all types of listeners.
Jack Tempchin has recently released a ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling Cabernet Sauvignon’ and a ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling Chardonnay’ in association with three-time California State Winery of the Year Award winner South Coast Winery. He’ll continue to perform live and autograph bottles of his ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ wines at Whole Foods, Sprouts and Costcos in Southern California.
Tempchin’s also interested in sharing his passion with other songwriters and is simultaneously unveiling his new songwriter video series called Go Write One at Patreon.com. “In these videos I talk about the spiritual and magical aspects of songwriting – not the techniques – because I’m trying to get people excited to ‘go write one,’ he explains.
Jack’s lyric manuscripts for both ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ and ‘Already Gone’ and his original Stella guitar were on view at The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, CA. He was interviewed and delivered a live performance at the museum’s Clive Davis Theatre for their exhibit, “The Sounds Of Laurel Canyon 1965-1977”.
Tempchin has also toured extensively as a solo artist over the years, opening for artists such as Ringo Starr, Jackson Browne, Dave Mason, Poco, Dolly Parton, Karla Bonoff, Chicago, Christopher Cross, Kenny Loggins, Timothy B. Schmit, Barry McGuire, Tom Rush, Al Kooper and Emmylou Harris.
Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Glenn Frey … This album “Peaceful Easy Feeling: The Songs of Jack Tempchin,” is dedicated to my great friend of 46 years Glenn Frey. Except for my song Slow Dancing, all the songs on this record were either recorded by or written with Glenn. Glenn and I always had a fabulous time writing songs together. First we would talk about our lives and laugh. He was the funniest person I every had the pleasure to know. Then we would sit around my kitchen table or in his little green house in Hawaii or in a rock star mansion he rented in the Hollywood hills, and we would pick up several small Martin guitars and start noodling and jamming.
We had a technique called El Blurto. We would just make things up and start singing any words that came out of us without thinking. A lot of ridiculous things would come out but eventually one of us would sing something worthwhile. Then we would make up more things around that idea until we felt too good to work anymore. The next morning with coffee and some yellow pads we would tighten all the lyrics up. I knew Glenn for 10 years before we ever tried to write a song together. It was my great good fortune that my buddy happened to be one of the best songwriters of our time and that I got to work with him. Goodbye my friend and musical brother and thanks for all the wonderful times we had!”
What is the story behind “Slow Dancing” and “Already Gone” songs and lyrics?
ALREADY GONE: I was running the Back Door Coffeehouse, which was part of Aztec Center at San Diego State (University). The club was huge, and I was booking people in. I booked a friend of mine, Robb Strandlund—he and I were going to do this show. But we looked at our refrigerator in the back room, and there was a jug and we started drinking some hard cider. We got feelin’ pretty good…we wrote “Already Gone” in about 20 minutes. Then we went onstage and played it, and it has some parts that when you’re feelin’ really good, you go “Woo-Hoo-Hoo!” Well, apparently Glenn heard it; he must have been there, because he called me a couple of years later. He said, “You know that country song that you wrote? I think I can make a great rock record out of it.” And then the next day he called me—he held the phone to the speakers in the studio. The Eagles had worked up “Already Gone.”
SLOW DANCING: There was a [music exec] named Bob Feiden who worked for Clive Davis at Arista. He was a great fellow—he helped us all a lot. He worked for the Eagles too, and we were all friends of his. One day we were talking, and I said, “I don’t like to write love songs, you know, because they’re all mushy and they rhyme the same.” And he just looked at me and said, “Well if that’s the way you feel, Jack, why don’t you try to write a good one? (laughs). So that was like a teacher trick, but I fell for it. And then, when I was at a gig, my friend had a band out at a place called the Iron Horse. So the band’s playing, and they’re playing all these uptempo songs and everybody loves it. But when finally they play a slow song, everyone goes out on the dance floor. And I noticed, the people were waiting for the slow song because they want to squish the girl up against them. So I thought, there ought to be a song call Slow Dancing, so I took that and ran with it. And at the same time I was writing it, I had fallen in love with this girl who’s now been my wife all this time…and that’s what poured into the song. It’s just a simple thing, but I worked on it until I couldn’t get it any better. And this song helped the Funky Kings get our deal with Arista Records. So [we released our version] with me singing on it, and it got to #22 on the Billboard chart, but it wasn’t high enough (to be a big hit). Then Johnny Rivers heard it on the radio and liked it, and he said, “Well, too bad I can’t do that song—it’s already a big hit.” And then somebody told him, “No, it’s not a big hit.” So he recorded it, and he took it all over the South to every radio station and worked it. Johnny’s version was actually much more commercial and it was great. I have a lot of respect for Johnny Rivers.”