Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson may have just married a famous actress, but the man at the helm of America’s “most rock ‘n’ roll” rock band has not gone Hollywood just yet.
Yes, that is the lanky, longhaired Robinson accompanying his wife, Kate Hudson, to the Oscars and the Golden Globes. Yes, he does hobnob with famous actors and directors, but they discuss obscure records and movies, not box office grosses.
“I’ve met so many cool people in my lifetime, but… just because you’re famous and wealthy doesn’t make me want to sit down and have dinner with you,” he told Reuters in a recent interview. “If you don’t have a (expletive) thought in your head and you have nothing to offer…”
Robinson, 34, married Hudson, now 22, on New Year’s Eve at the Aspen, Colorado, ranch of her mother, actress Goldie Hawn, and Hawn’s longtime companion, Kurt Russell.
The match seems poetic: The free-spirited Black Crowes hark back to the 1970s when rock was wild and dangerous and they have sold 15 million albums, while Hudson picked up an Oscar nomination this year for her breakthrough role as a groupie in Cameron Crowe’s 1970s rock ‘n’ roll movie “Almost Famous.”
Although Robinson was married once before and collected plenty of girlfriends, he says he never felt the true love he feels now. In fact, he had resigned himself to a solo existence, living the restless Bohemian life of the dark characters in his favorite novels and films.
“And a day later, this woman comes to my apartment and opens the curtains that had never been opened, metaphorically and literally. And I’ve never had the curtains drawn in the daytime again. And it’s great, because I’m not a Christian!”
Huh? Kate is?
“No,” Robinson explained patiently. “Usually people have those epiphanies when it’s something to do with Jesus.”
TAMING THE BEAST
As women are wont to do to lovelorn males, the strong-willed Hudson made Robinson cut back on drugs and alcohol. Fans may worry that rock ‘n’ roll and domesticity are not a good mix, but the Black Crowes have never been about groupies and zany road stories, Robinson said.
It’s the music, stupid, and a new wife won’t change anything.
Robinson, who writes the band’s lyrics, alludes to Hudson a few times on the Black Crowes’ new album “Lions” (V2), the group’s sixth studio release.
“More so than a literal reference to her, it’s the vantage point from where I’m writing,” he said. “It’s the reasons that I’m singing and it’s the feeling. That is an influence far greater than the literal influence.”
Nonetheless, he said the first single, “Soul Singing,” and the ballad “Miracle To Me” do pertain to Hudson. The album has a rough linear theme, taking the listener from confusion to clarity, echoing his own journey.
The Black Crowes are currently touring North America with British rockers Oasis. The tour is officially dubbed “The Tour of Brotherly Love” – an ironic nod to sibling rivalries in both bands: Chris vs. guitarist Rich Robinson, who handles the music; and Oasis singer Liam vs. guitarist Noel Gallagher.
Chatting backstage at “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” with two concerts completed, both Robinsons downplayed any enmity in their band. Yes, punches have been traded and voices raised in the group’s dozen years together, but things are different now. Still, they do their interviews separately because of their propensity to shout over each other.
“We’re in a better space,” said Rich, 32. “Somewhat, we can respect each other a little bit more. I think we’ve gone through some hard times. We’re older now, so I think a lot of the silliness has left as far as fist-fighting.”
Rich, who has been married for seven years and has two sons, is more of a listener, while Chris is the talker. The brothers were born and raised in Atlanta; now Chris lives in Manhattan and Rich 30 minutes away in Connecticut.
“Six records, we’ve written hundreds of songs and done thousands of shows, I think our body of work speaks for our commitment to each other,” Chris said.
CROWES’ WINGS CLIPPED
That commitment has been tested over the years. The group has undergone numerous personnel changes, and drummer Steve Gorman is the only other original member. After a strong start, sales have also suffered, not helped by the group’s detour into Grateful Dead-like jam territory a few years ago.
“Lions” marks the group’s first album for British billionaire Richard Branson’s V2 label, whose only other major act is American techno rocker Moby. Their previous album, 1999’s “By Your Side” (Columbia), was essentially stillborn.
“That record was destined to fail because before it came out they (Columbia executives) just said, ‘It’s not going to do well… It’s no use wasting time or money,”‘ said Rich.
But the Crowes exploited a loophole in their contract and make a quick exit. Then they toured with former Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page, issuing a double live album, “Live at the Greek” (TVT), full of bluesy Zeppelin chestnuts.
The Crowes, who have often been derided as classic rock clones of the Rolling Stones and the Faces, now find critics poring over “Lions” for Led Zeppelin influences. Maybe “Miracle to Me” recalls “Stairway to Heaven” and “Cosmic Friend” bears similarities to “The Ocean.”
“There’s always been Zeppelin in our music because Jimmy has influenced every rock band in existence. At some point or another, even if they don’t know it, Zeppelin songs are in our genetic makeup, just as the Beatles and Stones,” Rich said.
Either way, the fans seem happy. “Lions” debuted at No. 20 with sales of about 53,000 units, six rungs higher and 6,000 units more than what “By Your Side” did in its first week.