Back to Music

The horned king

The radio maestro plays Olympia

“He may not know it yet, but this dude is going places.” Photo credit: ABC News

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

He didn't know it yet, but young Kenneth Gorelick was destined for greatness and international fame. He was born in 1956 in Seward Park, a largely Jewish community in Seattle. As a child, he took up golf and the alto saxophone but seemed more gifted at the former than the latter; he made the Franklin High School golf team but not its jazz band his freshman year. The next year, however, he made first chair, and at the age of 17 he gigged as a sideman for the 40-piece Love Unlimited Orchestra -- led by Barry White. His long solo earned him a standing ovation. Then it was off to college at the University of Washington, where he graduated magna cum laude in accounting before joining pioneering jazz band The Jeff Lorber Fusion for four years. Lorber produced and strongly influenced Gorelick's eponymous debut album, which didn't set the charts on fire. Musical majesty remained elusive.

That changed with Gorelick's second album, G Force, which hit #6 on the Billboard jazz chart and earned platinum-level sales numbers. His third album, Gravity, did almost as well. Yet as Gorelick passed his 30th birthday, no one could've guessed he would soon be the household name he is today. Then, in September of 1986, the world got its first taste of Duotones, an album that sold millions of copies in the U.S. and many more worldwide, thanks in large part to "Songbird" a massive hit single that reached #4 on the Billboard Top 100 chart -- the chart for actual radio play -- despite the fact that it was clearly just some guy from Seattle playing jazz on an alto sax. And if that doesn't impress you, we invite you to go out and try it for yourself. Good luck with that.

Gorelick spent his money wisely: He was one of the first investors in another scrappy upstart from Seattle, a coffee outfit of note. We call it Starbucks, which is probably why your neighborhood favorite's playing one of Gorelick's hit songs right now. And make no mistake, Gorelick was no one-hit wonder. After the smooth-jazz detonation of "Songbird," he hit Billboard's top 20 four more times between 1987 and 2000. He recorded the bestselling instrumental album of all time, Breathless, and made the Guinness Book of World Records for holding a sax note for almost 46 minutes. Gorelick recorded the U.S.' bestselling holiday album, Faith, appeared in Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" video and composed the closing music for many Chinese businesses ("Going Home"). He's also the licensed pilot of a De Havilland Beaver seaplane and topped Golf Digest's list of the best pop-star duffers in the world in 2006 and 2008.

So hey! How 'bout showing a little respect for the radio god we all know as ... Kenny G.

Kenny G: Miracles, Holiday & Hits Tour 2017, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 29, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, $34-$117, 360.753.8586

Read next close

Travel

Explore beyond Deception Pass

comments powered by Disqus