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Singer-Songwriter John Sebastian to Perform at Pepperdine

January 9, 2019  | 2 min read

John SebastianRock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and founder of the Lovin’ Spoonful John Sebastian will bring his timeless catalog and stories about seminal moments in music history to Pepperdine University's Smothers Theatre in Malibu on Thursday, January 10, at 8 PM. 

Over four decades the contributions of John Sebastian have become a permanent part of the American musical fabric. Born March 17, 1944 in New York City, Sebastian’s father was a noted classical harmonica player and his mother a writer of radio programs. Regular visitors to the family's Greenwich Village home included Burl Ives and Woody Guthrie, so it was no surprise when young Sebastian became involved in the folk music revival that swept the nation in the late ‘50s. Making his debut as a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band, his skills on guitar, harmonica, and autoharp soon made him a sought-after accompanist on the Village folk scene, working with Fred Neil, Tim Hardin, Mississippi John Hurt, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, and many others.

As the lead singer/songwriter for the Lovin’ Spoonful, Sebastian played a major role in the mid-1960s rock revolution; the group’s first seven singles, including hits such as “Do You Believe in Magic?” “You Didn't Have to Be So Nice,” and “Daydream” made it into the Top 10, an unprecedented and utterly unthinkable feat at the height of Beatlemania. Inspired by a combination of older material from blues, country, and folk and jug band sources—what we now term “roots music”—and making it sound modern, Sebastian’s original compositions helped carry the musical tradition into the future.

After leaving the group he founded, Sebastian bore witness to another turn of the musical zeitgeist with his performances at massive festivals like Woodstock and its English equivalent the Isle of Wight. He had been involved in music for films (most notably Francis Ford Coppola's You're A Big Boy Now and Woody Allen's What's Up, Tiger Lily?) and Broadway, but when producers of a TV show called Welcome Back Kotter commissioned a theme song in 1976, Sebastian’s “Welcome Back” became a chart-topping solo record. 

Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s he continued to record and tour, pleasing old fans and winning new ones. In 1993 he published the delightful children's book JB’s Harmonica. The ‘90s also saw Sebastian return to the group format with the J-Band, a contemporary celebration of his jug band heritage. The acclaim the group received was gratifying, but bittersweet; the group's albums contain some of the last recorded performances of blues pioneer Yank Rachell and washtub/jug virtuoso Fritz Richmond.

Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, Sebastian continues to spread his gospel of American roots music a various venues and events. He is the subject of the PBS special Do You Believe In Magic: The Music of John Sebastian. He has also lent his music in support of social, environmental, and animal rights causes. Recently he joined a delegation of songwriters (including Lamont Dozier, Allen and Marilyn Bergman, and Mike Stoller) in Washington, DC, to campaign on behalf of the National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA).

Sebastian’s music continues to be a staple of the American consciousness, while Sebastian himself is also a welcome media presence; his commentary, insights, anecdotes, and stories are regularly featured in print, radio, TV, and film documentary projects. Sebastian is not only a master musician, writer and performer, he remains one of the best ambassadors of American music.

Ticket prices range between $10 and $45. For additional information about this performance, visit the Center for the Arts website