Written by Sabrina Tinsay
Danny O’Keefe, a musical visionary. From his early coffeeshop performances, where he was first noticed as a musician, it is apparent that with O’Keefe’s sweet, soothing, subtle voice will have anyone float in peace. In his latest album In Time one can see that O’Keefe is a multi-talented musician. O’Keefe is someone who takes his time to listen to his heart, and write his soul in chords and lyrics. With “Alone in the Dark” and “Sleep (Anywhere on Earth You Are),” O’Keefe’s variety showcases a range from the keys to strings. His great insights about the world in particular stands out from many musicians. O’Keefe is a musician who has a way of expressing his feelings in a classic, sophisticated manner. It is wonderful to listen to his songs, which uplift the heart and frees the soul.
Sabrina Tinsay: When did you realize that you had a knack for music?
Danny O’Keefe: I’m not sure about “a knack,” but I’ve been moved by music from as far back as I can remember. My parents bought me a small record player of my own and some Burl Ives records when I was four or so and I think that and listening to some of my father’s records, particularly his Leadbelly records, as being seminal influences. I wanted to play the guitar from the time I saw Gene Autry playing one. Didn’t get one in my hands until I was about twenty, though.
Tinsay: Who was your first inspiration in terms of writing songs?
O’Keefe: Like so many others, I’d probably have to list Bob Dylan as a major influence as he came out of the same scene in Minneapolis I was in and we shared many of the same influences. Prior to Dylan, I would say that people like Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Carter Family as well as many of the songs in my father’s jazz collection were strong style influences, if not lyrical.
Tinsay: What motivated you to pursue a music career?
O’Keefe: Pure compulsion. I couldn’t stand not to play my guitar and my poetry became lyrics. Friends who had been in bluegrass or folk groups were getting electric instruments in the mid-’60s and I was making records by 1967. It was such a fresh time in music and most of the old rules were being broken. It was probably one of the most fun times to be in music and recording companies were willing to take chances that they hadn’t been willing to previously. There were also still people in the major record companies who listened to and loved music.
Tinsay: Which age did you discover your music ability?
O’Keefe: I think I was always musical, in some sense, but I didn’t start playing and singing seriously until fairly late, in my early twenties. I hadn’t been able to afford a guitar and didn’t really know how to get there. Once I did, largely out of loneliness, I played constantly and, even though I’m self-taught, I was able to cobble together a satisfying style over the years.
Tinsay: In the song “Siamese Friends,” one can hear a mysterious tone to it – what is the story behind your song?
O’Keefe: If you mean an actual tone it’s probably a guitar and amp feeding back at high volume but deep in the distance, like a storm coming. The story is a common one of two people once deeply connected and starting to come apart. Oldest story in the world of lovers.