Happy Birthday, Kenny Loggins!

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Born January 7, 1948, Kenny Loggins became the poster child for soft rock radio back in the '70s, both as a solo artist and as a member of the million-selling duo Loggins and Messina. While he never was the hippest performer, his songs still made him a mainstay on the adult pop airwaves and assured him superstar status. Yet even as his career progressed to new plateaus, his music became an anathema to those whose tastes ran to edgier intents. Once commercial success beckoned, he catered to it exclusively.

Surprisingly then, when he started off at the helm of an irascible young outfit called Second Helping, his coolness and credibility seemed all but assured. Enough anyway to land him a stint in a later incarnation of the seminal underground band the Electric Prunes for a few months in 1969. However, it soon became apparent that he fit better in the budding country rock firmament of the late '60s, and he eventually found his way to that terrain via a handful of songs he composed for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He next went out on his own via an obscure roots rock band called Gator Creek before scoring a solo contract with Columbia Records.

Shortly thereafter, Loggins was introduced to producer Jim Messina, whose ties to the country rock community were firmly established via his membership in Buffalo Springfield during the tumultuous final months prior to their break-up, and Poco, the band many considered the Springfield's heir apparent. The two began their relationship somewhat tentatively, with Messina initially taking second bill to Loggins even though he contributed a considerable amount of material to their debut. With their next effort, they shared equal billing and attracted an immediate college following, which generally bodes well for being embraced by cutting edge audiences. And even though most of their early work was schmaltzy to the max -- songs like "House at Pooh Corner," "Danny's Song," "A Love Song" and the like -- it found a natural niche alongside the songs of James Taylor, Crosby Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, the Eagles and all the other Southern California purveyors of breezy acoustic pop. But as they began to opt for the catchy over the cool -- as epitomized by the obvious radio pap of "You're Mama Don't Dance" -- the hipness facade began fading.

After eight albums and sales of over 16 million records, the two parted ways and their popular following was left to anticipate Loggins and Messina's individual efforts. Messina dropped from sight quickly after a lackluster solo debut failed to ignite any excitement, but Loggins seized on the duo's momentum and delved further into commercial fodder. Barbara Streisand covered his song "I Believe in Love" and he sang a duet with Stevie Nicks on "Whenever I Call You Friend," while his co-writes with Michael McDonald - "What a Fool Believes" and "This Is It" - and a string of soundtrack contributions - "I'm Alright," "Footloose" and "Danger Zone" chief among them - made him a mainstay on the music charts and a darling of the adult contemporary crowd.

Periodic reunions with Jim Messina, occasional television and web appearances, ventures into children's music and a further string of solo and soundtrack albums maintain his steady paycheck and keep him a staple on the AC charts. But while he's rumored to be working on songs with a country combo called the Blue Sky Riders, it's clear that Loggins early concessions to commercialism have long since stripped him of any edge or intrigue. Here again is proof positive that the money trail always leads way beyond the underground.

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