Music

Byrds founding member Gene Clark to be saluted Saturday in South Pasadena

Gene Clark and the Byrds
The Byrds circa 1965: David Crosby, left, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn.
(Don Hunstein / Sony BMG Music Entertainment)

Gene Clark — a founding member of the Byrds whose musical legacy is often overshadowed by those of his onetime bandmates Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, Clarence White and latter-day member Gram Parsons — will get a salute of his own on Saturday at the South Pasadena Library from several peers and collaborators.

Singer-songwriter Carla Olson, who recorded with Clark, will be joined by Moby Grape member Peter Lewis, ex-Byrd John York and Clark’s son, Kai Clark, for “The Songs of Gene Clark: A 50th Anniversary Celebration.”

Clark wrote the Byrds’ hits “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” (on which he also sang lead vocal), “She Don’t Care About Time” and “Eight Miles High,” among others he wrote during his two-year stint with the group when it shot to stardom.

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“At one time, he was the power in the Byrds, not McGuinn, not Crosby — it was Gene who would burst through the stage curtain banging on a tambourine, coming on like a young Prince Valiant,” Hillman said of his former bandmate. “Few in the audience could take their eyes off this presence. He was the songwriter. He had the ‘gift’ that none of the rest of us had developed yet. … We learned a lot of songwriting from him and in the process learned a little bit about ourselves.”

George Harrison credited the Byrds’ recording of Clark’s “She Don’t Care About Time” for inspiring the signature guitar riff in his 1965 Beatles song “If I Needed Someone.”

Clark launched a solo career that included a number of well-respected albums and reunited for one album with McGuinn and Hillman in the short-lived band McGuinn, Clark & Hillman. His other collaborations included the 1987 duo album “So Rebellious a Lover” with Textones singer, songwriter and guitarist Olson. Clark struggled through the years with substance abuse and other health issues and died at 46 in 1991.

Proceeds from tickets for Saturday’s tribute, which cost $25, benefit the library. Information is available at the library’s website.

The 50th anniversary designation recognizes the release in February 1967 of his first album after leaving the Byrds, “Gene Clark With the Gosdin Brothers.”

Clark’s influence on folk-rock and country-rock has been increasingly acknowledged in Americana and indie-rock circles and was further buoyed last year with the release of two dozen previously unreleased recordings on “Gene Clark: The Lost Studio Sessions 1964-1982.

And in 2013, a group of indie rockers including members of Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, the Walkmen and Beach House briefly toured performing the songs from Clark’s 1974 solo album, “No Other.”

“It is so great to see my father finally getting the credit he so well deserved,” Kai Clark said recently. “I think there is still a big, bright future for my father and his legacy. His music only seems to be growing, still on the cutting edge of anything out there in music.”

randy.lewis@latimes.com

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