Fifty years ago, Bob Lind was in rarefied air. At age 23, he scored a big hit with his own composition, “Elusive Butterfly” – a Top 5 smash in both the United States and Britain in 1966, at the height of the British Invasion, no less.
A follow-up hit eluded him, he developed a reputation for being difficult to work with, then wallowed in drugs and alcohol and fell into obscurity.
It wasn’t all bad, though. His songs have been covered by more than 200 artists, from Cher to The Turtles. He became a novelist, a playwright and screenwriter, and more importantly, he’s been sober for 39 years.
So, after all he’s been through, he has deserved a quiet retirement in Florida, right?
He did move to South Florida, but he’s anything but retiring. The 73-year-old Baltimore native is in one of the most prolific phases of his career. His second album in the past four years, “Magellan Was Wrong,” was released July 29 via U.K.-based Ace Records, and it’s receiving some of the best reviews he’s ever gotten.
“I wanted to create something that has truth,” Lind says. “Back in the day, when (Bob) Dylan or The Beatles put out an album, we’d all get together, smoke whatever, sit around the stereo and listen to every bit of it. We’d do nothing but listen to the music.
“I don’t think that happens anymore, but those are the type of listeners I want to reach. I want to reach people who want to soak it all in, the music and the words.”
Longtime friend Arlo Guthrie lured Lind back into the music business, and then a fan, Spongetones guitarist Jamie Hoover, was tapped to produce his comeback album, the appropriately titled “Finding You Again” (2012). Critics loved it.
For the equally brilliant “Magellan Was Wrong,” Hoover was again at the helm, but Lind wasn’t afraid to move in other musical directions (from jazz to power pop); he also enlisted Miami noise master Frank “Rat Bastard” Falestra, jazz pianist Greg Foat and Lind himself.
“Jamie is a brilliant producer, one of the best I’ve ever worked with,” Lind says. “But he was very busy with his projects, and it’s hard to do these things long distance. You send things back and forth, so it takes so much time. I ended up producing ‘Bottle of Wine’ (originally by Tom Paxton) and ‘A Break in the Rain,’ a song I wrote about four or five years ago.
“I had forgotten about ‘A Break in the Rain,’ I never thought I’d record it. We did it a cappella, with the oooh’s and ahh’s and I would sing lead melody over it. I didn’t think I could find a soprano who could handle it, but I found Arbel Martin, she’s really an opera singer and I conned her into singing on it. Her notes were so clear and round.
“That’s an example of how it’s very different from anything I’ve ever done, and how this whole album was different. And it’s just so gratifying to know all these people are doing this out of the love of the music.”
Two other fans were recruited to write the liner notes: Richard Hawley and longtime friend Dion.
“It means so much to me that they did this, because they get my songs,” Lind says. “They didn’t get paid to do it, they did it because their hearts are in it. It feels so good.”
Fifty years removed from “Elusive Butterfly,” can he believe he’s still in the game?
“I would be doing music no matter if ‘Butterfly’ had been a hit or not,” he says, “because I love it so much. It gives meaning to my life. I’m not at all surprised that I’m still doing this.
“The most joy I get out of music is performing. I love standing on a stage and playing for the fans. It’s still a rush for me.”
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