A pop singer and songwriter with the presence and the vocal swagger of his more famous contemporary Neil Diamond, Andrew Youakim was born in Montreal, Quebec, either in 1946 or 1952 depending which sources you believe. The third of four sons to a Lebanese immigrant family, he adopted a stage name to obscure his ethnicity, as was a common practice at that time.
Kim moved to New York to pursue a career in music, and in 1968 issued “How’d We Ever Get This Way,” his first single, and the first of his nine Billboard Top 40 hits. Kim quickly struck up a musical collaboration with Jeff Barry, a Brill Building songwriter who composed countless hits of the era while based at that famous hit-record-factory in New York’s Times Square. Notably, the partnership delivered a hit for The Archies in 1968 with “Sugar, Sugar.”
Kim released his own album, Baby, I Love You, in 1969, scoring a hit with both the Barry/Greenwich/Spector-penned title track, and with a lightly-psychedelic second single called “Rainbow Ride.” Both reached the US Top 50, with “Baby, I Love You” cresting at #9 Stateside and earning Kim a Best Male Vocalist Gold Leaf (Juno) Award in Canada in 1970.
Despite releasing a few minor hits and touring extensively across North America, by 1973 Kim had fallen off the charts and was without a label. Persisting regardless, he set up his own label, Ice Records, and personally financed the recording session for “Rock Me Gently.” Released as a single in 1974, it rose (albeit over 14 weeks) to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #2 on the UK Singles Chart, and sold three million copies worldwide. Soon after it appeared as the jingle for a Jif cleaner advertisement, and found new commercial life in a 2008 Liberty Jeep ad.
Kim disappeared from the public eye in 1976, re-emerging in 1980 as Baron Longfellow. He released two albums under that name and a third simply as Longfellow. By 1995, Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies had compelled Kim out of retirement, and the two co-wrote “I Forgot to Mention.” That rather catchy track was released on a five-song EP in 2004, indeed sounds like Andy Kim-meets-Barenaked Ladies. Since that time, Kim has been inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, amongst other accolades, and in 2010 released his first full-length record in 20 years, Happen Again.
As to “Rock Me Gently,” It’s a quintessentially perfect pop song: infectious rhythm, catchy chorus, funky bass, soulful singing, gospel-style backup harmonies. Kim impressively blazed a trail into the Brill Building elite, and then trumped all his successes there by the work of his own hand. This song absolutely deserves a spot in Canada’s Top 100.