Sweet Inspiration: Renée Fladen-Kamm

“And when I see the sign that points one way, the lot we used to pass by every day…”

leftbankeIn the summer of 1966, radio listeners were treated to a heavenly slice of baroque-flavored pop when the song “Walk Away Renée” hit the airwaves and became a Top 5 smash. The group responsible, The Left Banke, was formed in New York City the year before. Keyboardist Michael Brown, who was just 16 years old, wrote the lyrics about bass player Tom Finn’s girlfriend, Renée. Michael later said of her, “I was just sort of mythologically in love, if you know what I mean, without having evidence in fact or in deed…But I was as close as anybody could be to the real thing. My hands were shaking when I tried to play (during the recording), because she was right there in the control room. There was no way I could do it with her around, so I came back and did it later.” One year after the release of “Walk Away Renée”, the Four Tops recorded it and the song once again reached the top five.

reneeMichael’s love for his bandmate’s girlfriend inspired him to write another hit song for the group: late 1966’s stunning “Pretty Ballerina”. It also climbed the pop chart, peaking at number 15.

Michael Brown departed the group after their first album, and later worked with the band Stories. Renée Fladen-Kamm became a singer and vocal coach, working mainly in medieval music. The rest of The Left Banke soldiered on and recorded one more album before calling it quits. Their influence can still be felt in the use of orchestral instruments in pop music today. 


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