The great American poet and lyricist Stephen John Kalinich has been a profound voice of the rock ’n’ roll era for four decades. When Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson, two of the most prominent icons in rock history, recorded “A Friend Like You” by Kalinich and Wilson on an album featuring Elton John and Eric Clapton, it was a testament to the lyrical poet at the height of artistic achievement.
An originator of the California sound, Kalinich rose to fame as a young man when he began writing songs with Brian and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys on their Warner Brothers/Reprise record label. During his 30-year collaboration with the group, it became “America’s #1-selling rock band,” according to Billboard. Brian Wilson described Kalinich as a “poetic genius” and credited him with stunning the music world by unleashing Dennis Wilson’s full creative potential.
“Be Still” and “Little Bird” by Kalinich and Dennis Wilson, classic hits from the Beach Boys’ historic Friends album, brought a new spirituality and self-awareness to rock music of the late 1960s. “Little Bird” went gold with the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations boxed set and has been recorded by international musicians. Kalinich’s “Rainbows” and “Love Remember Me” were featured on the acclaimed 2008 reissue of Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue album. The Beach Boys’ second anthology, Hawthorne, CA, contained Kalinich’s “A Time To Live in Dreams.” His “California Feelin’” is among the all-time hits on The Beach Boys Classics Selected by Brian Wilson and will appear on California Feeling, a collection of Kalinich’s songs set for release in late 2010 by MsMusic.
When legendary songwriter P. F. Sloan, most famous for “Eve of Destruction,” recorded Kalinich’s epic poem “If You Knew” and “Soul of a Woman” on Sail Over in 2007, the poet realized his lifelong dream of working with his mentor. Among the other top musicians who have immortalized Kalinich’s lyrics are Mary Wilson of the Supremes, singing “You Dance My Heart Around the Stars”; Odyssey, whose recording of “Magic Touch” was a top 40s hit; and Randy Crawford, with “Only Your Love Song Last.”
Although he has risen to the highest echelons of the music industry, Kalinich considers himself a poet first. A voice of conscience comparable to Bob Dylan, he has inspired audiences around the world. Kalinich was invited to Washington, D.C., to recite his epic poem “If You Knew” before members of Congress to benefit Children Uniting Nations. Actor Stacy Keach recorded his poem “The Magic Hand,” and former Beach Boy Al Jardine’s EP A Postcard from California features actor Alec Baldwin reciting “Tide Pool Interlude.” Newscaster Jerry Dumphy appeared on a video in which he read “America I Know You” by Kalinich. Jez Graham’s 2004 CD featured Kalinich’s poems “America Is You and Me,” “Life Against the Wind,” and “You Can Soar.”
A performer whose spoken lines are as powerful as the music that carries them, Kalinich played to thousands on a recent European tour of his Galactic Symphonies, written with internationally acclaimed guitarist Richard Durrant and recorded on CD and DVD. One reporter described the audience’s “sense of awe” as the poet delivered the title poem to an audience transfixed, “managing to get out the last words without collapsing, but maintaining so much power and dignity.” Kalinich’s poetry readings have an emotional impact comparable to that of poet Maya Angelou.
After being lost for nearly forty years, Kalinich’s masterpiece “A World of Peace Must Come” was rediscovered and appeared on Attic Records’ 2008 CD boxed set devoted to the poetry of Kalinich. Another early composition, “Leaves of Grass,” was released on this CD, accompanied by Mark Buckingham and produced by Carl Wilson.
Kalinich continues to write poetry for films and music from Los Angeles, the city he loves. He is currently collaborating with Stacy Keach on the film War Poems, and David Marks, an original member of the Beach Boys, is producing The Circle Continues, a collection of songs with lyrics by Kalinich,slated for 2010 release.
“As long as I have breath, the river of love will speak through me,” says Kalinich. “When I look back, I will ask, Did I stir someone, reach one soul. . . . Did I help them understand that when the breath of love poured itself into others, it didn’t forget them.”