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Rock and Roll I Gave You The Best Years of My Life

 

I remember hearing the song “Rock and Roll I Gave You” for the first time, way back in 1973 (now I’m showing my age!). I was staying at my grandmother’s place and it came on the radio. I was impressed with the song because it told a story of how capricious the entertainment industry can be. One minute, you’re the hero of the moment; but then you find yourself in a place where there’s “a hundred record companies who didn’t like my tunes”. Life can be like that! Some years are good years … and then a curved ball comes at us.

So please enjoy “Rock ‘n Roll I Gave You”. It’s one of the classics.

 

Enjoy This Video

And Sing Along to the Lyrics below it, for Rock and Roll I Gave You The Best Years of My Life

Rock and Roll I Gave You The Best Years of My Life | Kevin Johnson

I can still remember when I bought my first guitar,
Remember just how good the feeling was, put it proudly in my car,
And my family listened fifty times to my two song repertoire,
And I told my mum her only son was gonna be a star.
Bought all the Beatle records,
sounded just like Paul,
Bought all the old Chuck Berry`s, 78`s and all,
And I sat by my record player, playin` every note they played,
And I watched them all on TV, makin every move they made.

Chorus:
Rock and roll, I gave you all the best years of my life,
All the dreamy sunny Sundays,
all the moon-lit summer nights,
I was so busy in the back room writin` love songs to you,
While you were changin` your direction,
and you never even knew,
That I was always,
just one step behind you.

`66 seemed like the year I was really goin` somewhere,
We were living in San Francisco, with flowers in our hair,
Singing songs of kindness so the world would understand,
But the guys and me were something more than just another band,
And then `69 in LA, came around so soon,
We were really making headway and writing lots of tunes,
And we must have played the wildest stuff we had ever played,
The way the crowds cried out for us,
we thought we had it made.

Chorus:
Rock and roll, I gave you all the best years of my life,
All the crazy lazy young days,
all the magic moon-lit nights,
I was so busy on the road singin` love songs to you,
While you were changin` your direction,
and you never even knew,
That I was alwyas,
just one step behind you.

`71 in Soho, when I saw Suzanne,
I was trying to go it solo, with someone else`s band,
And she came up to me later and I took her by the hand,
And I told her all my troubles and she seemed to understand,
And she followed me through London,
through a hundred hotel rooms,
Throught a hundred record companies who didn`t like my tunes,
And she followed me when, finally, I sold my old guitar,
And she tried to help me understand,
I`d never be a star.

Chorus:
Rock and roll, I gave you all the best years of my life,
All the dreamy sunny Sundays,
all the moon-lit summer nights,
And though I never knew the magic of makin` it with you,
Thank the Lord for giving me the little bit I knew,
And I will always be one step behind you.

 

Chorus:
Rock and roll, I gave you all the best years of my life,
Singing out my love songs in the brightly flashing lights,
And though I never knew the magic of makin` it with you,
Thank the Lord for giving me the little bit I knew,

Final Chorus:
Rock and roll, I gave you all the best years of my life,
All the dreamy sunny Sundays,
all the moon-lit summer nights,
I was so busy in the back room makin` love songs to you,
While you were changin` your direction,
and you never even knew,
That I was always,
just one step behind you.

Some Facts About the Singer and the Song – Rock and Roll I Gave You the Best Years of My Life

Kevin Stephen Johnson (born 1943, Rockhampton, Queensland) is an Australian singer-songwriter, most active in the 1970s, and is best known for his 1973 song “Rock and Roll I Gave You the Best Years of My Life”, which peaked at #4 on the Australian singles charts. In Australia, Johnson had a top 20 hit with “Bonnie Please Don’t Go” (aka “She’s Leavin'”) in 1971.

Kevin was the only son of Richard Johnson (timber contractor) and Elinor Johnson (post office / telephone exchange operator) and began his singing career in Rockhampton with the Candymen. In the early 1960s he worked for the Queensland Department of Roads as a clerk; playing and singing at night and writing songs in any spare time. Some of his songs came to the notice of rock and roll star Col Joye who signed him to his publishing company. Johnson relocated to Sydney and recorded his first single, “Hayman Island” in 1967 on Joye’s ATA label. He followed with “Woman You Took My Life” in 1968 but neither single had any chart success. In 1969, he signed with independent label, Sweet Peach. His first hit single “Bonnie Please Don’t Go” aka “She’s Leavin'” from 1971, peaked at #12 in Melbourne, #2 in Sydney and #15 nationally.

“Rock and Roll”

Kevin Johnson moved to the United States and wrote songs for Tree International for two years while vainly attempting to record his own songs. Johnson’s best known song, which charted in several countries, was “Rock and Roll I Gave You all the Best Years of My Life” in 1973. It peaked at #10 in Melbourne, and at #4 on the Australian singles charts. The song was written by Johnson, who became frustrated with his US record label, Dial Records, in Nashville, Tennessee and told them he was about to leave. He was informed that other artists had already recorded his song, so he quickly recorded and released his own version on the Australian-based Good Thyme label through Festival.

According to a 2002 interview with music journalist, Debbie Kruger:

(the song) reflected his frustration with his own stagnation, and the futile attempts of Australian artists trying to break into America or England
—Debbie Kruger, 2002

Johnson wrote about a singer recalling his childhood dream of being a star and followed his life through his musical work, with some close breaks until he is faced with the ultimate realisation that he is not destined to become a star. It ends on an upbeat note from the would-be celebrity proclaiming “I thank the lord for giving me the little that I knew”.

According to rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, it is one of the most covered songs written by an Australian with 27 different artists recording it in 1975 alone. Covers include fellow Australians Col Joye and Digby Richards and international artists such as Mac Davis, Terry Jacks, Gary Glitter, Joe Dassin (in French), The Cats and Tom Jones. Some cover artists, including Mac Davis, leave out the lyric “… I’d never be a star” for a happier ending. Others, like Gary Glitter, leave out the upbeat ending in the Johnson version for a more somber ending. In the U.S., Johnson’s single went to #73 on the Billboard singles chart in 1973, Jacks’s went to #97 in 1974 and Davis’s became the biggest hit, reaching #15 in 1975.

Johnson re-wrote this song to be “Aussie Rules I Thank You for the Best Years of Our Lives“, for the official Australian Football League (AFL) Centenary Song in 1996 and was used as an anthem before AFL games. This would be used as the closing theme for the “Foster’s Aussie Rules” highlights show in the U.S. for the rest of the 1990s.

 

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