Van Dyke Parks

Cover art (front and back) by Charles Ray for Van Dyke Parks’s seven-inch single “Amazing Grace” b/w “Hold Back Time” (Bananastan Records, 2011).

“WE REMEMBER A TIME when historical continuity in music was still a viable thing,” Ry Cooder once told an interviewer researching his friend Van Dyke Parks, a patently idiosyncratic fixture of the LA music scene. “Yet both of us have always lived and played very much in the present. There’s no paradox in that!” Active since the 1960s as a composer, arranger, keyboardist, and producer, Parks tends to work within the mainstream and with rising young artists, but his sensibility—one that encompasses George Gershwin–inflected pop-classical pluralism as well as indigenous and global folk memes—has been perpetually out of step with musical trends and generational divides. Rock-era pop, for Parks, becomes the pretext for reimagining older genres.

As a result, Parks is one of the music industry’s ultimate outsider insiders. He has produced debut albums by Cooder and Randy Newman,

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