Bruce Hornsby

  • Rock/bluegrass singer and songwriter, born in 1954 in Williamsburg Virginia.
  • In college, Hornsby played in a Grateful Dead cover band at frat parties. In 1980, he moved to Los Angeles with his brother and songwriting partner John, where they wrote songs for 20th Century Fox. Bruce also was a session musician during this time, and toured with Sheena Easton.
  • In 1984, he formed Bruce Hornsby and the Range. Hornsby was on keyboards and vocals, David Mansfield played guitar, mandolin and violin, George Marinelli played guitar and vocals, Joe Puerta played bass, and John Molo played drums. They signed a record deal in 1985. They released 3 studio albums from 1986 to 1990 – The Way It Is, Scenes from the Southside, and A Night on the Town. Top 10 hits from these albums were The Valley Road, Mandolin Rain, and the band’s only #1 song, The Way It Is. This song makes my top 50 all time list. Its theme of homelessness, the Civil Rights movement, and racism hits home for rap artists – samples of the melody have been covered at least 6 times by various rappers.
  • Due to the popularity of The Way It Is, the band won a Grammy award for Best New Artist in 1987. By 1991, the band was done, as Hornsby moved to other projects.
  • Hornsby collaborated with The Grateful Dead, and performed over 100 shows with the band from 1988 until Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995. He played accordion and piano with the group. He was the presenter when the Dead was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
  • In 1993, he released his first solo album, Harbor Lights. It had a jazz feel, and included guest artists Jerry Garcia, Branford Marsalis, Phil Collins, Bonnie Raitt and others. Also that year, he won a Grammy award for Best Pop Instrumental for Barcelona Mona, which he co-wrote with Marsalis for the Barcelona Olympics.
  • He also won a Grammy in 1990 for Best Bluegrass Recording for his song The Valley Road – the song was released by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, with Hornsby on vocals and piano.
  • Two more solo albums followed – Hot House and Spirit Trail. They show more of a jazz and classical influence, and feature more complexity in Hornsby’s piano work.
  • Starting in 1998, Hornsby’s back up band started to change, and his concerts evolved into a more spontaneous experience. He moved away from set lists, choosing songs based on audience requests. Concerts were a hybrid of rock, jazz, classical music, performed by a jam band. By 2000, the touring band became known as The Noisemakers, and a live album was released. It included Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence, which Hornsby co-wrote with Henley in 1989. Five more albums have been released by Hornsby with the Noisemakers as his backup band between 2002 and 2016.
  • Hornsby also has collaborated with Ricky Skaggs to release a blue grass album, and with Christian McBride and John DeJohnette to release a jazz album.
  • It is unique to see an artist cross over into so many music genres. Clearly, Hornsby is a connoisseur of music. Here’s the video for his classic, The Way It Is. 

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