Lenny Kaye talks about his life and career and plays songs at Montclair Public Library (WATCH VIDEO)

lenny kaye montclair library

Lenny Kaye, in conversation with Cindy Stagoff at the Montclair Public Library on June 24.

In her introduction to her conversation with Lenny Kaye at the Montclair Public Library, June 24, NJArts.net’s Cindy Stagoff called Kaye “an encyclopedia of rock,” and Kaye seemed to agree.

“I have lived the lifespan of rock ‘n’ roll,” said Kaye, the Patti Smith Group co-founder, solo artist, record producer and writer. “But I’ve also participated in it. I’ve been a fan of it. I’m an obsessive record collector. It’s kind of my universe.”

The cover of Lenny Kaye’s book, “Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock and Roll.”

The free event — which was co-presented by NJArts.net as part of the library’s Open Book/Open Mind series, and drew a capacity crowd — was intended to spread the word about Kaye’s 2021 book “Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock and Roll.” He sang three songs, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, in addition to speaking with Stagoff and answering audience members’ questions. You can watch a video of the talk and the songs, below. Kaye also signed books for fans, afterwards.

The songs were “World Book Night,” inspired by the talk’s setting; “The Things You Leave Behind,” played after a discussion of the home clutter that a collector like Kaye himself tends to generate; and “Crazy Like a Fox,” a novelty song that Kaye recorded under the name Link Cromwell in the ’60s.

Kaye and Stagoff talked mostly about the book, in which he takes a look at 10 scenes that changed the course of rock history (such as Liverpool in 1962, San Francisco in 1967 and Seattle in 1991). He also answered questions, though, about his own life, his work with Smith, the groundbreaking 1972 garage-rock/psychedelic-rock compilation he produced (Nuggets) and a variety of other subjects.

“Since we’re in Jersey, I may as well tell my Bruce story,” he said before talking about seeing Springsteen perform in 1969 with his band of the time, Child, at Monmouth College (now Monmouth University) in West Long Branch. He mentioned that he also saw Springsteen perform on a double bill with The Wailers (featuring Bob Marley) at the Max’s Kansas City nightclub in New York, in 1973.

Kaye, who grew up in New Brunswick, also described how Smith came to record the song “Because the Night,” co-written by her and Springsteen, and said that Springsteen wrote other songs for the group that they declined to record.

“It was a great thing to have a true hit single,” he said of “Because the Night.” “A lot of our songs are audience favorites … ‘Dancing Barefoot’ or ‘Pissing in a River’ or ‘(Beneath the) Southern Cross’ or any of the stuff … which is great. I love ‘Gloria’ and ‘Land’ and all that. But it’s so nice when people have a song to sing along to.”

Kaye said he is now working on a solo album with members of the roots/jam band Railroad Earth.

“They’re really good guys,” he said. “I’ve been writing songs for a long time and I would like to get them to a place where they can be heard. I have no expectations of cracking the Top 40 with them, but that’s kind of freeing. I just like playing songs.”

Here is the video:


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