Despite recording several pop albums, including the jazzy 1999 album This Is How Men Cry, Marc Jordan remains best known for his songwriting outside Canada. In addition to penning the quintessential California 1970s standard “Marina Del Rey” and the hit song “Survival,” now considered Canadian pop classics, Jordan wrote tunes covered by the likes of Rod Stewart, the Manhattan Transfer, Joe Cocker, Cher, Natalie Cole, Bette Midler, Bonnie Raitt, Diana Ross, his wife, singer-songwriter Amy Sky, and many more. Jordan’s “Taxi Taxi” appeared on Cher’s top-selling 1999 album Believe, while back in 1992, Stewart scored a number one hit with “Rhythm of the Night,” co-written by Jordan and John Capek. “Nobody knew that would do as well as it did,” Jordan remarked to Ian Nathanson of the Ottawa Sun about the popular single originally written in 1984. “I remember getting a tape of the song from Rod’s manager before it was released. I put it on in my car, played it and thought, ‘Well, that sounds pretty good.’”
Although he never achieved equal success as a recording artist, Jordan considers himself primarily a singer rather than a songwriter for pop stars. “Every song I write I do with the intention of recording it,” he insisted, as quoted by Billboard magazine’s Larry LeBlanc. “That’s what keeps songwriting truthful to me. If I’d spent 10 years not recording, I’d drift into being a songwriter for hire, which I don’t want to do.” Moreover, Jordan’s distinctive voice lends itself easily to singing. “It’s the kind of voice that gently lulls, poetically, spilling out words that are emotive and intelligent,” according to EMI/Blue Note Records. “Marc’s a wonderfully talented guy,” Blue Note president Bruce Lundvall further noted. “He’s a brilliant writer and he has a signature voice. He doesn’t sound like anyone else.”
Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Toronto, Canada, Jordan inherited his vocal talent and love for music from his father. Charles Jordan, a classically trained singer, was well-known throughout Canada as a radio personality and actor as well as a voice instructor. Some of his students included William Shatner, Lome Greene, and Susan Clark. Consequently, Jordan grew up in a household abounding with music. His father exposed his son to everything from Woody Guthrie to Grieg, as well as to all the jazz greats. “Growing up, I probably heard more Billie Holiday than I did the Beatles,” he recalled to LeBlanc. In college, Jordan studied filmmaking; however, he slipped back into music and songwriting as a primary focus.
Jordan first came to public attention as a backing musician for Bobby Vee, then began performing at local folk clubs, where he was spotted in 1974 by a Columbia Records A&R manager. That same year, he recorded a single for the label,” New York, New York,” but left Columbia when a proposed album collaboration with noted American producer Phil Ramone was abandoned. A few years later, Jordan secured a record deal with Warner Brothers and a publishing agreement with Irving Music, both located in Los Angeles. With Warner Brothers, who hoped to make Jordan a success in the United States market, he recorded three back-to-back albums: Mark Jordan, released in 1977; Mannequin, released in 1978; and Blue Desert, released in 1979. Although the records spawned several Canadian hits, including “Marina Del Rey” and “Survival,” Jordan remained unable to secure a foothold in the States, and in turn was dropped by Warner.
Subsequently, Jordan signed with the Rio label and released one album, Marc Jordan—Live, in 1980. Recorded at the El Mocambo club, it featured a backing band consisting of drummer Rick Gratton, bassist Michael Farquharson, guitarist Peter Mueller, keyboardist Dave Morrow, and background vocalists Sharron-Lee Williams and Colina Philips. But this album, too, failed to broaden Jordan’s audience.
In the early 1980s Jordan relocated to Los Angeles, where he became a session musician and songwriter for several well-known performers such as Juice Newton, Diana Ross, Chicago, and the Manhattan Transfer. Meanwhile, Jordan was also signed as a solo artist to Atlantic Records, but during his two-year relationship with the label, never released any material. Jordan and Atlantic’s association finally ended over a disagreement about who would produce his new album. Jordan wanted Paul Devilliers, but the label dismissed the idea because of the producer’s perceived lack of experience. Incidentally, Devilliers proved his capabilities by
Born in Brooklyn, NY; son of singer Charles Jordan, a well-known radio personality, actor, and voice instructor; married singer-songwriter Amy Sky, c. 1988. Education: Studied filmmaking.
Started performing in folk clubs, early-1970s; signed with Warner Brothers Records, released self-titled debut album, 1977; released Mannequin, 1978; released Blue Desert, 1979; became session musician and songwriter for other artists, early-1980s; signed with RCA Records, released Talking Through Pictures, 1987; released C.O.W., inspired by songwriter Sammy Fain to cut back on production gimmicks, 1990; released Cool Jam Black Earth on Peg Music, 1993; signed to Blue Note Records, released jazz-influenced album This Is How Men Cry, 1999.
Awards: SOCAN Classic Award for 1979 hit “Marina Del Rey,” 1996; ASCAP Award for “Survival” for being played on the radio more than 100,000 times, 1999.
Addresses: Record company —Blue Note Records, 304 Park Ave. S., 3rdFI., New York City, NY 10010, phone: (212) 253-3000, fax: (212) 253-3099, website: http://www.bluenote.com. Website —Mark Jordan: http://www.marcjordan.com.
going on to produce the million-selling Mr. Mister album entitled Welcome to the Real World.
Parting ways with Atlantic, Jordan, in an ironic twist, was picked up by Mr. Mister’s manager, George Ghiz, who helped the singer secure a contract with the RCA label. With RCA, Jordan was finally able to work with Devilliers on his 1987 album Talking Through Pictures. In 1990, he released a second album for RCA, C.O.W. (Conserve Our World). However, both releases, overburdened with production gimmicks, received less than favorable reviews.
Then came a major turning point in Jordan’s musical career. Soon after recording C.O.W., Jordan in 1990 attended a birthday celebration in Los Angeles for a then 88-year-old Sammy Fain, a Tin Pan Alley veteran who co-wrote such standards as “Tender Is the Night,” “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing,” and “When I Take My Sugar to Tea.” “Sammy played his music for 90 minutes, and I was blown away,” said Jordan to LeBlanc. “I remember saying to my wife that if someone asks me at 88 to perform my songs, I’d have to wheel in $1 million worth of equipment.”
Obviously, Fain’s performance made a sizable impact upon Jordan’s subsequent undertakings. In 1993, after settling back in Canada, Jordan released the starkly produced, Chet Baker-inspired Reckless Valentine album on SinDrome Records. Two more albums followed in a similar stripped down vein on Peg Music in Canada: Cool Jam Black Earth in 1993 and Live Now and then in 1999.
In October of 1999, Jordan released his Blue Note debut, the “jazz lite” album This Is How Men Cry. A coming-of-age set, it found Jordan—with a small group and orchestra—blending traditional jazz elements with contemporary pop. “At this point in my life, this kind of material suits my voice better than the pop stuff,” he said to Nathanson regarding the album’s more jazz-oriented direction. “And people who’ve heard my recent records have seen me edge this way.…. I just think (jazz) suits me better. But don’t get me wrong—I love pop music, I write it still, and I’m not turning my back on it.”
In addition to six originals co-written by Jordan, This Is How Men Cry features the singer’s take on Willie Nelson’s “Crazy,” Elvis Costello’s “Almost Blue,” and Gilbert Becaud and Mann Curtis’s “Let It Be Me.” Some memorable figures Jordan paid tribute to included Chet Baker, who also covered the same Costello song, Charlie Parker, Edith Piaf, Timothy Leary, and Joe Louis. “These songs are about the loneliness and isolation many men feel today,” explained Jordan, as quoted by LeBlanc. “They’re not uplifting songs. They are healing songs.”
Moreover, Jordan was finally singing some of the songs he had loved as a child, delving into the world of jazz and fusing the genre’s elements with his pop sensibilities. “I’m heading into this area for a little bit and see where it takes me,” Jordan revealed in an interview with David Veitch of the Calgary Sun.” I’m on this trajectory and I’m enjoying singing it and I’m enjoying playing it, so I’m starting to write more of it. I’m letting the music unfold.”
Mark Jordan, Warner Brothers, 1977.
Mannequin, Warner Brothers, 1978.
Blue Desert, Warner Brothers, 1979.
Marc Jordan—Live, Rio, 1980.
A Hole in the Wall, Sound Design, 1983.
Talking Through Pictures, RCA, 1987.
C.O.W. (Conserve Our World), RCA/BMG Music Canada, 1990.
Reckless Valentine, SinDrome, 1993.
Cool Jam Black Earth, Peg Music, 1996.
Live Now And Then, Peg Music, 1999.
This Is How Men Cry, Blue Note/EMI Music Canada, 1999.
Billboard, December 7, 1996; December 11, 1999, p. 70; May 13, 2000.
Calgary Sun, June 23, 2000, p. G6.
Edmonton Sun, June 25, 2000, p. 37.
Ottawa Sun, July 19, 2000, p. 24.
Marc Jordan, http://www.marcjordan.com (August 7, 2000).
“Marc Jordan,” Blue Note Jazz, http://www.emimusic.ca/bluenote_jazz/features/marcjordan.html (August 7, 2000).
“Marc Jordan,” Canoe/Canadian Music Encyclopedia, http://www.canoe.ca/JamMusicPopEncycloPagesJ/jordan.html (August 7, 2000).
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