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Paul Kelly Biography

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Paul Kelly In-depth Biography

Songwriter singer Paul Kelly} captures Australia in his songs the way Bruce Springsteen} or Ray Davies} of the Kinks} have encapsulated their homelands, and he does it with the musical energy and diversity of Elvis Costello}. The sixth of nine children, Kelly} was born in Adelaide in 1955. After school he wandered around Australian for a few years, working odd jobs, writing poetry, and thinking about a career as a short story writer. Somewhere along the line, already in his late teens, he picked up a guitar. Kelly} made his public debut singing the Australian folk song} "Streets of Forbes"} to a Hobart audience in 1974, and two years later, he moved to Melbourne to join R&B} pub band the High Rise Bombers. With a large lineup and three songwriters, the band's splintering was inevitable, Kelly} forming his own group, Paul Kelly & the Dots}.

Kelly} immediately established himself as his peers' favorite songwriter. On nights off, Melbourne's musicians went to see him. He also had a big fan at Mushroom Records}. One of the company's PR people locked herself in a room, refusing to come out until Mushroom} signed Paul Kelly & the Dots}. The result was two roots rock} albums, Talk} and Manila}, that Kelly} himself was never completely happy with, for he was a perfectionist. By late 1984, Kelly} had broken up the Dots} and moved to Sydney, where he recorded a defining solo album called Post}. Without a record contract and no real idea how the album was going to be released, Post} was recorded over two weeks on a shoestring budget, delivering the essence of Paul Kelly} in a loosely structured song cycle signposting Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney place names the way Springsteen} speaks of New Jersey. On the strength of that album, Mushroom} picked up Kelly}'s contract again, and the singer formed a new group, Paul Kelly & the Coloured Girls} (a reference to Lou Reed}'s "Walk on the Wild Side"}).

In September 1986, Kelly}'s songwriting skills spilled over four sides of the 14-song double album Gossip}. Recorded in just a month, the classic Australian rock} album attained gold sales and produced the hit singles "Darling It Hurts"} and "Before Too Long."} The album included three re-recorded songs from Post}. Gossip} was also the record that introduced Kelly} to American audiences when it was released by A&M Records} in July 1987, edited down to a 15-song single album. In the meantime, the group returned to the studio to record a collection of 14 new Kelly} originals for its second Australian album, Under the Sun}. To avoid misunderstandings, the group changed its name to Paul Kelly & the Messengers} with the release of July 1989's So Much Water, So Close to Home} album. The new album was produced by Scott Litt }of R.E.M.} notoriety and its songs were colored by American influences and experiences. After one more album, Comedy}, Kelly} decided the group had gone as far as it could, and to avoid the risk of repeating themselves, he dissolved the Messengers} with a farewell tour.

For the next two years, Kelly} recharged his batteries with a set of diverse activities, like performing in Australia and America, producing the groundbreaking Charcoal Lane} album by aboriginal songwriter Archie Roach}, collaborating on Yothu Yindi}'s "Treaty,"} writing songs for his acting role in the stage play Funerals and Circuses} about racial tensions in small-town Australia, and releasing his first book of poetry, Lyrics}. His second studio solo album, 1994's Wanted Man}, spread his musical influences as wide as his activities. His 1997 greatest-hits album Songs from the South} sold double platinum. In 1999, he delivered two very different albums at the same time, a bluegrass} album with Uncle Bill} called Smoke} and a technology-influenced album as part of a new group, Professor Ratbaggy}. Kelly} stayed prolific in the 21st century, releasing Nothing But a Dream} in 2001, the double-disc Ways & Means} in 2004, the bluegrass}-inflected Foggy Highway} in 2005, and Dirt} in 2006. ~ Ed. Nimmervoll, All Music Guide

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