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Jeff Lynne

Date of birth : 1947-12-30
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Shard End, Birmingham, England
Nationality : English
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-12-10

Jeffrey "Jeff" Lynne is an English songwriter, composer, arranger, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer who gained fame as the leader and sole constant member of Electric Light Orchestra and was a co-founder and member of The Traveling Wilburys together with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty.

Jeff Lynne has been bringing music to fans in his home country and the United States for nearly two decades. He first came to real prominence as the leader of the Electric Light Orchestra--perhaps better known by its initials, ELO. With this band, he scored many hits throughout the 1970s, including "Can't Get It Out of My Head," "Livin' Thing," and "Don't Bring Me Down." After ELO's popularity died down somewhat during the 1980s, Lynne concentrated on production and songwriting work for fellow major stars, former Beatles Paul McCartney and George Harrison among them. Lynne resurfaced as a performer in 1988, when he became a member of the Traveling Wilburys.

Lynne's first small taste of success in the music world came with a group he fronted during the late 1960s called the Idle Race. The band had a sufficient following among British college students to merit recording an album on the Liberty label in 1969, The Birthday Party. A year later, Lynne was approached by Roy Wood of the underground rock group the Move; Wood wanted Lynne to join. The Move had recently undergone radical changes in personnel, and was down to two members, Wood and drummer Bev Bevan. Lynne consented, but not merely to become part of a more successful band. Rather, he was interested in what Brock Helander described in his book, The Rock Who's Who, as "Wood's conception of a fully electric rock band augmented by a classical string section."

The plan was that Wood and Lynne would develop this project, to be called the Electric Light Orchestra, at the same time as they worked on Move albums. The first album the group put out as ELO, No Answer, was well received in Great Britain, and scored a hit there with the single, "10538 Overture," in 1972. Ironically, however, Lynne's first success in the United States, as well as the Move's biggest record in that country, came with the 1973 single "Do Ya," from the Move's Split Ends. Lynne eventually included the number in ELO concert performances.

Split Ends proved to be the last album the Move released. And Wood had grown bored with ELO, leaving it in Lynne's control. As Helander reported, the latter "assumed the primary role as producer, arranger, composer, lead vocalist, and lead guitarist." To make the album ELO II, Lynne decided to put even greater emphasis on the blending of the rock and classical styles, and recruited keyboard player Richard Tandy (also a Move veteran), bassist Kelly Groucutt, cellists Melvyn Gale and Hugh McDowell, and violinist Mik Kaminsky. The latter three musicians had played previously with the London Symphony Orchestra. ELO II provided the remade band with a 1973 hit in the United States, a remake of rock pioneer Chuck Berry's "Roll Over, Beethoven" that featured excerpts from other rock classics.

Some critics felt that ELO's version of "Roll Over, Beethoven" was too much like a novelty record to presage further success for the group, but they were quickly proven wrong. On the Third Day, released later in 1973, provided ELO with a few more minor hits, and fueled audience appreciation for their U.S. concert tours. And Eldorado, released in 1974, launched ELO's first huge single success, "Can't Get It Out of My Head." In the following year, Face the Music included the smashes "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic." As Helander phrased it, ELO had "secured [its] position in the forefront of so-called 'classical-rock.'"

Oddly enough, however, though Lynne and ELO occasionally charted in their native England, the band fared much, much better with fans in the United States. Their popularity in the latter country continued unabated through the late 1970s, and they saw songs like 1976's "Telephone Line" and "Livin' Thing," 1977's "Turn to Stone" and "Sweet Talkin' Woman," and 1979's "Shine a Little Love" and "Don't Bring Me Down" race up the U.S. record charts. The latter two singles came from the album Discovery, on which Lynne took the classical aspects of ELO further by backing them with a forty-two piece orchestra and a thirty-member all-male choir. In 1980, Lynne and ELO provided music for the soundtrack of the motion picture Xanadu.

Though ELO put out a few more albums during the early 1980s, Lynne's efforts turned increasingly to writing and producing for other stars. He has reportedly said that the major influences upon his songwriting style were John Lennon and Paul McCartney; fortunately his reputation has become such that he gained the opportunity to work for one of his idols, helping McCartney with an album. He has also produced for Dave Edmunds, and assisted Tom Petty and Randy Newman with recordings. And critics had high praise for his production work on George Harrison's 1987 album, Cloud Nine.

But the work that really brought Lynne back into the spotlight was getting together with his famous friends--Harrison, Petty, Bob Dylan, and the late Roy Orbison--and recording as the Traveling Wilburys. Apparently Lynne and friends got the idea while having dinner together in Los Angeles; they eventually decided to adopt the personas of the various Wilbury brothers to lend humor to the project. The result, the Grammy Award-winning The Traveling Wilburys, Volume I, proved popular with fans and critics alike. Lynne discussed the Wilburys' recording sessions with a Rolling Stone reporter: "We would arrive about twelve or one o'clock and have some coffee," he explained. "Somebody would say, 'What about this?' and start on a riff. Then we'd all join in, and it'd turn into something. We'd finish around midnight.... Then we'd come back the next day to work on another one. That's why the songs are so good and fresh--because they haven't been second-guessed and dissected and replaced."

Following the death of Orbison, the remaining Wilburys got together to record a follow-up album, released in 1990 under the title Traveling Wilburys, Volume III (in keeping with the lighthearted tone of the project they "skipped" Volume II, opting to follow Volume I with Volume III). Lynne also found time to put together a solo album for release in 1990, Armchair Theatre.

Following legal action to get the ELO name back from Bevan's touring group ELO Part II, Lynne released a new album in 2001 under the ELO moniker entitled Zoom. Although the album featured guest appearances by Ringo Starr, George Harrison and original ELO keyboardist Richard Tandy, it was essentially a second Jeff Lynne solo album, with Lynne multi-tracking a majority of the instruments and vocals. The album received positive reviews but had no hit singles.Lynne reunited in 2006 with Tom Petty to produce his third solo release, Highway Companion.

ASCAP honoured Jeff Lynne with the Golden Note Award during their inaugural "I Create Music" EXPO on 24 April 2009, the presenter was Paul Williams. ASCAP's Golden Note Award is presented to songwriters, composers, and artists who have achieved extraordinary career milestones. Previous honorees include Tom Petty, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Sean "Diddy" Combs and Garth Brooks, to name a few.

In a March 2010 interview with the Daily Express newspaper, Lynne confirmed he is working on a new album with Joe Walsh and simultaneously "writing a couple of albums under his own name, though he won't tell us in which musical direction he's heading."

Famous Works:
The Idle Race:
-The Birthday Party (October 1968)
-Idle Race (November 1969)

The Move:
-Looking On (December 1970)
-Message from the Country (8 October 1971)

Electric Light Orchestra:
-The Electric Light Orchestra (1971)
-ELO 2 (1973)
-On the Third Day (1973)
-Eldorado, A Symphony (1974)
-Face the Music (1975)
-A New World Record (1976)
-Out of the Blue (1977)
-Discovery (1979)
-Xanadu (1980)
-Time (1981)
-Secret Messages (1983)
-Balance of Power (1986)
-Zoom (2001)

Traveling Wilburys:
-Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 (1988)
-Traveling Wilburys Vol. 3 (1990)
-The Traveling Wilburys Collection (2007)

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