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Music / Jonathan Richman

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The troubadour in action.

Jonathan Michael Richman (born May 16, 1951) is a prolific American singer-songwriter. He rose to underground fame as leader of The Modern Lovers, who were among the Trope Makers of Punk Rock during the early 1970s. After the band broke up, Jonathan ("Jojo") made a Heel–Face Turn towards mellow acoustic rock that couldn't be more different to the Modern Lovers' edgy and intense proto-punk rock. He is recognized for his innocent lyrics, charismatic stage presence, "wide-eyed" performances and distinctive lo-fi style of acoustic rock.


  • Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers (1976)
  • Rock 'N' Roll With the Modern Lovers (1977)
  • Modern Lovers 'Live' (1978)
  • Back in Your Life (1979)
  • Jonathan Sings! (1983)
  • Rockin' and Romance (1985)
  • It's Time For... (1986)
  • Modern Lovers 88 (1988)
  • Jonathan Richman (1989)
  • Jonathan Goes Country (1990)
  • Having a Party With Jonathan Richman (1991)
  • I, Jonathan (1992)
  • Jonathan, te vas a emocionar! (1994)
  • You Must Ask the Heart (1995)
  • Surrender to Jonathan (1996)
  • I'm So Confused (1999)
  • Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow (2001)
  • Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love (2004)
  • Because Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild (2008)
  • ¿A qué venimos sino a caer? (2008)
  • O Moon, Queen of Night on Earth (2010)

This man is associated with the following tropes:

  • Breakup Breakout: He became the most popular member of the defunct band. He also recruited a new band of the same name as a backing band.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: A talented songwriter whose discography gives the impression that hard work is a foreign concept to him.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Considered one of the most influential singer-songwriters of all time.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Sings songs about yetis in a supermarket and aliens visiting Earth on a regular basis.
    • He doesn't allow air conditioning during his concerts, because it is "fake air".
  • Denser and Wackier: And how. It's not like The Modern Lovers were the most serious band of all time, but his solo music is downright goofy compared to that.
  • Double Entendre: Sometimes blatantly averted, to the confusion of people not familiar with his innocent music.
    • Examples: Ice Cream Man is not about a drug dealer, it's a celebration of the ice-cream man. Buzz Buzz Buzz is not a metaphor for wild sex in nature, it's about bees. I was Dancing in a Lesbian Bar is in fact about dancing in a lesbian bar and nothing else.
    • At other times he plays them straight. My Love Is a Flower clearly is about masturbation.
  • Epic Rocking: Maybe one of the strangest examples: the 8-minute long doo-wop homage Ice Cream Man.
  • Emotional Bruiser: Once again, his ballads, in which he intentionally plays against the light-hearted tone of his music.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Jonathan Goes Country is, well, a country album.
  • Gentle Giant: He is a tall man and was quite muscular back in the '70s, contrasting with his absurdly soft music and Cloudcuckoolander persona.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Jonathan, te vas a emocionar! An entire album of Jonathan going Spanish.
  • Greek Chorus: Memorably played the part in There's Something About Mary.
  • Genki Boy: His highly entertaining live performances.
  • Idiosyncratic Cover Art: His album covers are often goofy or corny shots of him.
  • Jabba Table Manners: "I Eat With Gusto, Damn! You Bet" from Jonathan Richman consists of the narrator reveling in how disgusting his table manners are.
  • Jewish and Nerdy
  • Love Nostalgia Song: Back in Your Life is an entire album of these.
  • Manchild
  • Pastiche: Completely anachronistic surf-rock instrumentals that are frequently included in his albums.
  • Quirky Curls: At least until 2009 when he shaved his head.
  • Serious Business: Inverted, all the time. Nothing of Jonathan Richman's solo career even makes the slightest impression of being the result of hard work. Bandmate Ned Claflin remarked in the liner notes of I, Jonathan that "nothing you do with Jonathan is ever work".
  • Ur-Example: Of Indie Folk, Anti-Folk and Lo-Fi rock music in general. Members of the next generation of musicians followed his lo-fi approach, such as Violent Femmes or Daniel Johnston.