Watching My Life Go By

Watching My Life Go By was the third studio album by Michael Hedges, released in 1985. After two solo instrumental albums, Michael sang all the tracks on this release. This album is an intimate vocal collection whose lush sound belies the simplicity of its instrumentation. It showcases Michael’s range, the depth of his life experience, and the power of his voice. Meticulously produced by long-time Neil Young collaborator Elliot Mazer, with guests Bobby McFerrin and Michael Manring, this CD was featured as part of the “Essential Windham Hill” collection.

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Watching My Life Go By - Michael Hedges

Behind the Album

Michael had been writing vocal tunes since his early years in high school. His singer-songwriter/rock music roots were as much a part of him as his solo guitar work. He wrote folk-oriented vocal pieces during the ‘70s and early ‘80s, primarily influenced by Neil Young and Joni Mitchell.

After releasing two instrumental guitar albums, he had accumulated enough original songs to record a vocal album. To accommodate this new recording direction for his third album, his record label—Windham Hill—created a new singer/songwriter-focused subsidiary label called Open Air Records.

After taking voice lessons from Grammy award-winning jazz phenomenon Bobby McFerrin, Hedges teamed up with the famed producer Elliott Mazer to record Watching My Life Go By, released in October 1985. Mazer had produced many of Hedges’ favorite musicians, such as Bob Dylan, CSNY, Janis Joplin, Neil Young, and The Who.

The album was recorded in a Palo Alto garage on equipment that Hedges purchased with an advance from his record company. In addition to guitar and vocals, Hedges played flute, synthesizer, harmonica, and bass guitar. Michael Manring also contributed several (fretted) bass guitar tracks to this album.

Watching My Life Go By includes Michael’s wedding song (“Woman of the World”); the title track that was inspired by the view from the family station wagon in the third, backward-facing seat (“Watching My Life Go By”); a song written for his composition teacher at Peabody  Conservatory (“The Streamlined Man”), with a mind-blowing vocal chant part sung by Bobby McFerrin; and an anti-war/patriotic song (“Holiday”) which features the first verse of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” Along with nine original songs, Michael includes his immortal cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”

This album introduces the world to Michael’s “strong, emotive, and rich voice,” as one music journalist described. 

Words by Jake White, biographer
Photo credit: unknown

Liner Notes

Tracks

  1. Face Yourself °
  2. I’m Coming Home
  3. Woman of the World
  4. Watching My Life Go By
  5. I Want You ° ¹
  6. The Streamlined Man ²
  7. Out on the Parkway ° ³
  8. Holiday
  9. All Along the Watchtower
  10. Running Blind

Album Credits

Performances by:

Michael Hedges: vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, flute, synthesizer, harmonica, wine glasses

° Michael Manring: fretless bass
˚¹ John Hanes: drums
˚² Bobby McFerrin: chant and solo vocals
˚³ Hilleary Burgess: wine glasses

Produced by Elliot Mazer

Engineered by Elliot Mazer, Michael Hedges

Mastered by George Horn

Design by Anne Robinson

Photography by Irene Young

 

All songs written and arranged by Michael Hedges except “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan.

Produced by Elliot Mazer.

Recorded at Naked Ear, Palo Alto, CA.

“Every time I listen now I am reminded of his immense talent, enormous heart, and the music world’s tragic loss.”

– listener review by Mathew Vacca, AllMusic.com

Album Stories

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