Skinny Texas singer/songwriter known for his deadpan lyrics ("The Samuel Beckett of country music"), bizarre hair, craggy face, and his unique blend of folk, jazz, blues, western swing, and gospel in his music (but that's not why Esquire named him "a complete handbook for gentlemen" in their 1994 cover story on "How to Be a Man." That title he got for getting married to Julia Roberts).

Although following in the country and western footsteps of his idols like Guy Clark and Willie Nelson, Lovett also pushes the musical envelope, by drifting between one genre and the next. In addition to the Texas swing, big band sound, and gospel noted before, you're likely to hear the bossa nova or Cajun music in his songs as you are bluegrass or the folkie sound of an acoustic guitar.

"Somehow you can tell the difference when a song is written just to get on the radio and when what someone does is their whole life. That comes through in Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson. There is no separating their life from their music."
    -- Lyle Lovett


Lyle Pearce Lovett was born on November 1, 1957 in the North Houston suburb of Klein. He is the only child of Bill and Bernell Lovett, who were both Exxon employees. The town he grew up in was founded by his maternal great-great-grandfather, Adam Klein, who along with the rest of that side of his family was a German immigrant.

Lovett stayed close to both his Texas and German roots throughtout high school in Klein and college at Texas A&M in College Station, TX, which is east of Austin. He spent some time studying in Rothenburg, Germany while he was in college, and in 1982 he graduated with dual degrees in German and journalism.

He was also an avid musician while he was in college. He and friends such as Robert Earl Keen played local gigs with area bands in Texas. While he was in Germany, he met a musician who called himself Buffalo Wayne, and Wayne got him a gig playing a country-western concert in Luxembourg in 1983.

He didn't get his first professional break until after college when he got a gig as a backup singer for Nanci Griffith's first album in 1985. Griffith ended up recording a song he had written, "If I Were The Woman You Wanted" for the album Once In A Very Blue Moon.

His work with Griffith led to a recording contract with MCA/Curb Records, and he released his debut self-titled album in 1986.

Since then, he's won four Grammy Awards, the first for Best Male Vocalist in 1989, the second for his duet with Al Green for "Funny How Time Slips Away" in 1993, and the third for "Blues For Dixie" in 1994. In 1996, his album The Road to Enselada won the Grammy for Best Country Album. He and his Large Band have also earned many critical and fan accolades.

Lovett also began to work as an actor. His first major role was as Detective DeLongpre in Robert Altman's wicked Hollywood black comedy The Player. Since then, he's appeared in about seven other movies, mainly Altman films. (See the listing at the end of this writeup for details).

Possibly because of his work in Hollywood, Lovett met actress Julia Roberts. They married in 1993 and divorced in 1995. Despite Lovett's great music and great talent, his marriage to Roberts earned him far more fame and attention than anything else he'd done.

Lovett spends much of his time touring with his Large Band or with a smaller ensemble, though he goes back to Texas whenever he can.

Seeing Lovett Live

Last night, I saw Lyle Lovett and His Large Band play at the Palace Theater here in Columbus, OH. I went mainly because Transitional Man is a huge fan of his. I'd heard Lovett's work on the radio, and liked it, but I hadn't really sought it out.

After seeing him last night, all I can say is this: wow.

He and his band put on an amazing show. All the members of the band are absolutely top-notch musicians. They'd be as at home playing for a symphony orchestra in any major city as they'd be in a honky-tonk band in a smoky Texas bar. His backup singers had absolutely wonderful voices.

One thing that struck me most is that Lyle doesn't put himself above the band. He had everyone else do solos or numbers to showcase their individual talents, and he took time throughout the concert to introduce the other singers and musicians -- all thirteen of them.

Lovett's self-deprecating between-song chat is really, really funny. He seems like a genuinely decent human being.

Julia Roberts didn't deserve him.




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