Born in Montreal in 1950, Androwis Youakim chose to pursue his dreams of stardom instead of working in the family grocery business. He first went to New York with big dreams and a couple of bucks while still in his teens. He tried to get his foot in the door as a songwriter and knocked on virtually every label’s door but eventually returned to Montreal. After writing a few songs, he began a routine of travelling back and forth to New York, picking up odd jobs and earning the money to make some demos along the way.
After shortening his name to Andy Kim, his first single was “I Loved You Once” on United Artists. He continued to finance his own recordings over the next couple of years, in part by gaining a loyal following during live performances around the NY area. He released “Give Me Your Love” on TCF Records” in 1964 and “I Hear You Say” on Red Bird Records a year later. But after meeting producer Jeff Barry in the fall of ’67, Kim had persuaded him to take him into the studios in NY, where they finished his debut album before Christmas. Together they would go on to form one of the bubblegum world’s most successful duos.
The finished product was full of slick arrangements with originality, including tracks heavy on string arrangements, still with a full pop sound. The album was shopped around and Kim was soon signed to Steed Records. HOW’D WE EVER GET THIS WAY? was released the next summer, and the perky acoustic title track, complete with xylophone rhythms, cracked the Top 20 both sides of the border and sold 800,000 copies in the US alone.
The generally upbeat album wasn’t without its share of controversy, though, with “Shoot ‘Em Up Baby,” the next single. Many radio station managers feared it was either a drug song, or about guns, a sensitive subject in the US in the year Robert F Kennedy and Dr Martin Luther King Jr were both assassinated. The result was the song was banned in many American markets, yet still managed to sell half a million copies south of the border.
The follow-up album was 1969’s RAINBOW RIDE, where the anti-drug title-track, backed by “Resurrection,” a doom and gloom tale of a shut-in’s suicide from the first album, eventually reached the US Top 20. Showing his early diversity, the album also featured “Nobody’s Ever Going Anywhere,” a cynical number and cross between Bob Dylan and The Monkees and the studio experimentation with “Baby While You’re Young” gave it a unique psychadelia. The edgy “Please Be True” and folk singalong “I Wonder If I Care As Much” all helped make the album a critic’s delight.
Kim accepted his first Juno that year for Top Male Vocalist for ’68. Without the support of coming from an lp, “Tricia (Tell Your Daddy),” his next single, was out before the end of the year, and was backed by “Foundation of My Soul” from RAINBOW RIDE. Even though Kim’s solo career was in full gear, he also found time to work with Barry on outside projects. Barry and Ellie Greenwich were hired to compose the music for Don Kirschner’s new animated series, “The Archies.” Along with singer Ron Dante and a group of studio musicians, a number of songs for the TV show were recorded over the next two years, including “Jingle Jangle” and the epitome of bubblegum pop, “Sugar Sugar.” Labelled as if the Archieswere an actual group, the song’s 13 million copies sold had it top the charts that year for 8 weeks, and was named Billboard magazine’s Record of The Year.
Barry served as producer for the third straight album with BABY I LOVE YOU, in the stores by year’s end. The title track, co-written by Phil Spector, peaked at number 5, earning Kim his first Gold Record in the United States,selling over of 1.5 million copies. “So Good Together” hit the charts soon after, and Kim’s soft, tender side were also front and center with “Let’s Get Married,” “This Guy’s In Love With You,” and a cover of Johnny Cash’s “If I Were A Carpenter.” Kim’s solo success in 1969 wasn’t to go without its own recognition, when he was rewarded with his second straight Juno for Top Male Vocalist.
In the middle of touring the globe, outside projects and taking well-deserved time off, he released a string of singles over the next two years. “Friend In The City,” “It’s Your Life,” You” (originally the b-side to “Friends In The City”), and a version of The Ronnettes’ “Be My Baby” in 1970 all charted, followed by “I Wish I Were,” and “I Been Moved” in ’71. Kim switched labels, moving to MCA the next year, releasing the singles “Shady Hollow Dreamer” and “Love The Poor Boy,” and “Oh What A Day.”
While Kim was getting his own label, ICE Records off the ground, Steed released a greatest hits package in ’74, that included all the album chart-toppers, as well as the non-album singles from ’70 and ’71. He resurfaced with his self-titled LP the same year. The lead-off single “Rock Me Gently” topped the charts globally, for a staggering 4 months in the US, was the Record Of The Year in Billboard magazine, sold a remarkable 13 million copies, and remains one of the most synonymous songs of the decade. The song actually had ‘Parts 1 & 2’, with the second serving as the single’s flip-side. “Fire, Baby I’m On Fire” was released later that year, cracking the US Top 20.
Despite his renewed appeal, pressures of the business were mounting again, and after the death of his father in ’76, dropped off the radar screen again after “The Essence Of Joan,” “Mary Ann,” and “Baby You’re All I Got” failed to live up to the expectations of “Rock Me Gently.” The music scene was leaning away from the pop, and towards arena rock. And neither single made much of a dent on the charts. In an effort to reinvent himself, he released the single “Harlem Harlem” as ‘Andy Kimm’ in ’76 to no avail, which was also the case with “Give Me Your Love” on 20th Century Records and Red Bird Records’ release of “I Hear You Say.”
Gordon Mills, manager for Englebert Huperdinck and Tom Jones signed with Kim in ’79, and under his direction, reinvented himself again as ‘Baron Longfellow.’ He released the self-titled album on ICE a year later, and although “Amour” and “Go It Slow” both had moderate success, it wasn’t much of a secret as to the Baron’s true identity. “Amour” even got Kim back on the Junos, with a Song of the Year nomination. Other tracks from the album included the upbeat “Uptown Love,Downtown Love,” a re-release of “Harlem Harlem,” “Chicago’s Queen,” and the only version Kim released of his Archies’ hit, “Sugar Sugar.”
After his second album as Baron Longfellow called PRISONER OF LOVE failed to make much of an impact in ’84, he again dropped off the radar, releasing “Power Drive,” again under the guise of The Baron in 1991 to little fanfair. Though the singles “I’m Gonna Need A Miracle Tonight,” “Hold Me,” and “In The Night Machine” were all still critically-acclaimed, Kim and Mills parted ways in 1993.
A string of greatest hits packages came out throughout the decade, as the ‘classic’ and ‘oldies’ radio formats began to take shape. Of the bunch, only the 25 track Dutch-only release in ’94 called REFLECTIONS contained Kim’s definitive collection, including pre-album singles and non-album chart-toppers, as well as material under the guise of The Baron.
Kim stayed out of the spotlight for the next several years, but resurfaced with I FORGOT TO MENTION in 2004. Again praised by critics, the 5-track CD showed the maturity of one of this country’s tighest pop writers, with a title-track that showed he still had something to say. Along with a reworking of “Power Drive,” the album contained “This Is Me,” “Love Is,” and “Without You.”
All total Andy Kim has had 19 nationally charting singles, a dozen in the US alone, and has worked with some of the industry’s top people. He’s sold over 30 million records worldwide and has the distinction of having penned songs that defined the 60’s/70’s pop scene, with “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies and his solo mega-hit, “Rock Me Gently.”