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  • Susan Welsh

Yacht Rockin' and Reelin' In The Years

Of course “Yacht Rock” appeals to me and my friends. It’s the perfect soundtrack for someone born in the last throes of the Baby Boom generation and on the cusp of Gen X. Characterized by clean vocals and stylistically polished production, it’s easy on the ears, gentle on the mind, perfect escapism. It’s the Goldilocks of music—not too hard, not too soft, just right.

The first time I heard “Yacht Rock” “blowing through the jasmine in my mind" was somewhere in the '70s on my blue Panasonic “Toot-A-Loop” radio, one earplug delivering that sweet pop arrangement of horn, organ, and the harmony vocals of Looking Glass singing Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl). “There’s a port on a western bay. . .” would become my introduction to hundreds of yacht rock classics that ear wormed their way into the permanent vault of my musical soul.

In a previous life “Yacht Rock” was known as West Coast Sound or adult-oriented. The term “Yacht Rock” was first coined in 2005 by JD Ryznar, Hunter Stair, David B. Lyons, and Steve Huey, creators of an online video series of the same name that served up “fictional” narratives about the lives of some of soft rock’s biggest stars like Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. By definition, it is music created in the ’70s and '80s, with smooth grooves, lots of electric piano, jazz and R&B influences and lyrics that may or may not speak or fools and/or sailing. It’s music that somehow manages to be light and breezy even when the lyrics sometimes contain complex ideas of longing and loss and loneliness. Think bands like Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Hall & Oates, The Eagles and Spandau Ballet.

My “Toot-A-Loop” radio is long gone, just one more object of nostalgia likely sold off at one of my mother’s garage sales, but the songs remain. In fact, they sound even better now, after decades of "reelin' in the years, and stowin' away the time. . ."

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