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Music / Oliver!

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Oliver in 1974
"Good morning starshine
The earth says hello
You twinkle above us
We twinkle below
Good morning starshine
You lead us along
My love and me as we sing
Our early morning singing song."
"Good Morning Starshine"

Oliver, born William Oliver Swofford (22 February 1945 – 12 February 2000), was an American pop singer. He could be described as something of a two-hit wonder. Nowadays, he is mostly remembered as either the guy who brought the Hair song "Good Morning Starshine" onto the pop charts, or the singer of "Jean", the theme to the film adaptation of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

Prior to his solo success, Oliver was a member of two popular music groups — The Virginians and, later, The Good Earth — and was then known as Bill Swofford. He became an overnight sensation in the summer of 1969, when his recording of "Good Morning Starshine" reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of that year, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. a month later.

That fall, "Jean", a softer, ballad single bested his previous effort by one, reaching No. 2 on the Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Billboard Easy Listeningnote  chart. Written by poet Rod McKuen, "Jean" also sold over one million copies, garnering Oliver his second gold disc in as many months. Performing both hits on a number of TV variety shows and specials in the late 1960s, including The Ed Sullivan Show, helped both songs.

Oliver had more modest commercial success, however, with the cover of "Sunday Mornin'", which peaked at No. 35 in December 1969, and "Angelica", which stalled at No. 97 four months later. In addition, his cover of "I Can Remember", the 1968 James & Bobby Purify hit, missed the Hot 100 but climbed into the top 25 of the Billboard Easy Listening chart in the mid-summer of 1970. Late that fall, Oliver also had one inspirational recording entitled "Light the Way", composed by Eric Carmen. Oliver's last single to enter the pop music charts was his 1971 cover of "Early Morning Rain" by his personal friend, Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot. The song "Bubbled Under" at No. 124 on May 1, 1971 and also reached No. 38 on the Easy Listening chart a few weeks later.

As producer Bob Crewe preferred elaborately orchestrated musical arrangements and Oliver preferred a simpler folk sound, these "creative differences" led them to part ways in 1971. Resuming the name Bill "Oliver" Swofford after the release of his Prism album, the singer toured hundreds of college campuses throughout the United States from the early 70s until the early 1980s. He eventually retired from the music industry in the 1980s after issues with the release of his last album. He was decidedly a people person and took on a job at Merck Pharmaceuticals and enjoyed a tremendously successful career there; however, after just 8 years on the job, he found out he had cancer. His younger brother Johnnote  stepped up and donated bone marrow and although it appeared to be well accepted, Oliver's health took a turn for the worst in late 1999 and he died of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in February 2000, in Shreveport, LA. He was laid to rest at Laurel Land Cemetary in Dallas.

In February 2016, Oliver was given a fan page through Facebook under the name "William.Oliver.Swofford.Fans", with an accompanying YouTube Channel "The William Oliver Swofford Music Channel". The FB page contains a plethora of, links to videos including rare footage of TV and concert performances, and information on his life and career. The YouTube Channel is where ALL of his music is being put to video segments using his personal digital masters and photos. You can check out his fan page at URL/\


  • Good Morning Starshine (1969)
  • Again (1970)
  • Prisms (1971)

Non-album singles:

  • 1969 - "Good Morning Starshine" / "Can't You See"
  • 1969 - "Jean" / "The Arrangement"
  • 1969 - "Sunday Mornin'" / "Letmekissyouwithadream"
  • 1970 - "Angelica" / "Anna"
  • 1970 - "I Can Remember" / "Where There's A Heartache (There Must Be A Heart)"
  • 1970 - "Light the Way" / "Sweet Kindness"
  • 1971 - "Early Morning Rain" / "Catch Me If You Can"
  • 1972 - "Why You Been Gone So Long?" / "Please"
  • 1973 - "Everybody I Love You" / "I Am Reaching"

Provides examples of:

  • '70s Hair: Oliver sported long shaggy hair and sideburns as were popular during the time of his music career.
  • Breakup Breakout: He achieved far greater success as a solo artist than he ever did in the groups he was previously in.
  • Break-Up Song: "If You Go Away" from Again','After All' from Lonely Days, and 'You're Not Gonna Break This Heart Again' from his last album, to name a few". Also, "Now That You're Leaving", a song that he wrote and performed as part of The Good Earth on their 1968 album How Deep Is the Ocean''.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Oliver performs "The Arrangement" in an Irish accent. This is most noticeable during the spoken word section at the end.
  • Cover Version: "Ruby Tuesday" by The Rolling Stones, "In My Life" by The Beatles, "I Can Remember" by James & Bobby Purify, "Leaving on a Jet Plane" by John Denver, "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell, "Early Morning Rain" by Gordon Lightfoot, among others. "Good Morning Starshine" could technically be considered a cover, it being a song from the Broadway musical Hair.
  • Deadpan Snarker: He had a talent for deadpan comedy which he would put to use during his live concerts.
    "Well, there it is. If you liked it, remember my name's Oliver. If you didn't, remember my name's Engelbert Humperdinck."
  • Downer Ending: "Angelica" is about the regret the singer feels for not expressing his feelings to the object of his affections. It could be inferred that the titular woman has, in fact, died.
    But then the cold winds came
    And when I spoke her name
    And held her near me
    She couldn't hear me
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Ironically, Oliver was embarrassed of his middle name in school, usually whispering it when asked his middle name (Since he was named after his Aunt Olive). He eventually warmed to it when it became what he would be called professionally.
  • Face on the Cover: Each of Oliver's albums feature his face on the cover. On the first two it is especially prominent.
  • Folk Music
  • Greatest Hits Album: A posthumous compilation CD, Good Morning Starshine: The Best of Oliver, was released by Taragon Records in 2005. It is the only place you'll find the majority of the songs that are on it outside of the original vinyl records, and certainly the only way to hear them remastered. To date, none of his studio albums have ever been officially released in either CD or digital format.
  • Let's Duet: His duet with Lesley Gore, "Come Softly to Me". It was released under the names Billy & Sue (with Billy referring to Oliver's first name William and Sue being Lesley Gore's middle name).
  • Motor Mouth: The rhythmic spoken word section of "Sweet Kindness" which could almost be considered rapping. This is what he is saying:
    Welcome, brother
    Have a drink on me
    Would some coffee do instead?
    Can't you keep your eyes open
    Just a little while longer
    And someone'll take you to bed
    I'll call you friend
    And I'll call this home
    'Cause this is where I've come
    And this is where I'm bound to stay
    'Til the wire begins to hum
  • New Sound Album: Prisms, his first and only album released on United Artists Records, was done in a simpler, folk style.
  • Nice Guy: By all accounts, he was very humble and kind. He would say that he found it amusing when fans were hesitant to approach him as he never succumbed to the "Stay away. I'm a big star" mentality.
  • Renaissance Man: Oliver was an outstanding musician, songwriter, arranger, and singer - but he was also a highly accomplished intellectual having read literally thousands of books, and mastered virtually every subject in school - so well that he won the prestigious Morehead Scholarship and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the fully paid award.
  • One-Woman Song: "Jean", "Angelica", "Anna", "The Picture of Kathleen Dunne"
  • One-Word Title:
    • Again
    • Prisms
    • "Please"
    • "Jean"
    • "Angelica"
    • "Anna"
  • Only One Name: Professionally, he was known mostly by his middle name, but he spent the last 10 years of it performing as "Bill Swofford"
  • Phrase Salad Lyrics: "The Arrangement" falls into this. The overall song, in fact, seems out of place amongst the others on the album. It can be rather hard to make sense of its meaning:
    I'll look around and find you a nice bowl
    If you won't miss a small piece of your soul
    In a crowd you'll be at ease
    You'll never sneeze
  • Pose of Silence: In the outro of "The Arrangement", Oliver breaks into a suggestive whispered Irish brogue to assume the role of an impish vendor trying to make a deal with the listener for a sneezing remedy.
  • Protest Song: "Days of Rage" was written by Oliver himself (although later was not happy with that song), and he also did a cover of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth". Both of these are on the Prisms album.
  • Record Producer: Bob Crewe produced Oliver's first two albums and their accompanying singles. He was the one who thought the young singer's voice would be perfect for "Good Morning Starshine" and had him record it. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • Scooter-Riding Mod: While not exactly a Mod himself, Oliver's early career fashions were very much influenced by them. He often wore jabots and tailored suits. During the 70's he sported a more bluegrass hippy look which was more in alignment with his true style. Later on in life, he was known for a more conservative professional look.
  • Silly Love Songs: His earlier albums featured several of these. He wasn't a fan of them, however because he felt they did not have much depth.
  • Singer-Songwriter: About half of Oliver's material was music he wrote himself.
  • Speech Impediment: He had a slight lisp.
  • Spoken Word in Music: The outro of "The Arrangement" is Oliver whispering conspiratorially in an Irish brogue.
    "It's what you might call kind of an arrangement. No one need know except you and me. And besides, you'll never sneeze. Never."
  • This Is Your Song: He performed a cover version of the Trope Namer, "Your Song" by Elton John, on Prisms.
  • Translated Cover Version: He performed Spanish versions of his hits "Good Morning Starshine" and "Jean".