Get Back, Jojo: Jonathan Richman Returns to Athens

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Well, take me way up north to meet your mom and dad

So they’ll see that Jonathan ain’t quite so bad

I want to be back in your life

I want to be back in your life

Baby baby baby

Baby baby baby

– “Back in Your Life,” Jonathan Richman

Jonathan Richman is no stranger to Southeast Ohio. The former Modern Lovers frontman has performed in Athens County on several occasions: At The Union, Donkey Coffee, and most recently, the 2013 Nelsonville Music Festival.

Area fans can get their “Jojo” fix once again when Richman returns to The Union this Sunday, Nov. 17.

Tim Peacock is the man responsible for bringing Richman to Athens this time around. Having booked him at Donkey Coffee and worked with Blackout Booking’s Scott Winland on past Union shows, Peacock is excited about this Sunday.

“[Richman] consistently puts on one of the most compelling and genuine live shows that I have seen,” he said.

Born in 1952 and raised in Boston, Richman grew up infatuated with the music of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground. He attended 80 Velvet Underground shows, opened for them in New York City and even slept on their manager’s couch for a period.

“If the Velvet Underground had a protégé,” said the late VU guitarist Sterling Morrison, “it would be Jonathan.”

Richman formed The Modern Lovers after returning to his hometown in 1970. The short-lived original lineup, which included future Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison and Cars drummer David Robinson, split in 1974. A self-titled album, featuring tracks produced by The Velvet Underground’s John Cale, was released in 1976 and is now considered a proto-punk classic.

Since then, Richman has fronted other versions of the Modern Lovers and has been recording under his own name since the late 1970s. Although he has never been a household name, casual observers may recognize him from his standout role in There’s Something About Mary (1998) or his numerous appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

This Sunday, Richman will be accompanied by his longtime drummer Tommy Larkins (“Really tight as a combo,” according to Peacock) as they perform songs from Jonathan’s recent release, O Moon, Queen of Night on Earth.

Doors open at 8 p.m. with Richman and Larkins taking the stage at 9 p.m. Advance tickets are $12 at Haffa’s Records and $14 at the door.