When other young musicians were getting into protest songs and acid rock, a high schooler named Kenny Loggins wrote a song about Winnie the Pooh.
Yet, while his inspiration— “The House at Pooh Corner”—was a children’s book written in 1928, Loggins’ song of the same name referenced adulthood.
“I was about to graduate from high school, and I remembered the last chapter, where Christopher Robin goes off to school,” said Loggins, who performs at the Mid-State Fair on Friday. “And I was relating to that situation in a metaphorical way—where I’d be leaving my childhood behind, leaving high school — and moving on to the next phase of my life, which was college years.”
Loggins would eventually drop out of college to pursue his music career. But that song—first recorded by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and then Loggins & Messina —would launch his career. And it would lead to many Pooh gifts from fans.
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“I’ve gotten my fair share of bear gifts,” he said by phone from Santa Barbara, where he lives. “I usually sign them and give them to charities.”
While that song wasn’t written for a movie, it easily could have been, foreshadowing an important part of Loggins’ career. But before he became a successful solo act, he was teamed up with Jim Messina, who will almost cross paths with his old partner when he performs at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande on Aug. 10.
After Columbia Records signed Loggins, the label assigned staff producer Messina to help. But Messina’s role grew, and the two wound up collaborating on the album “Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin’ In.”
“Jimmy and I had never really intended on being a duo,” Loggins said. “We came together for Jimmy to produce a Kenny record — that’s why we called the first record ‘with Jimmy Sittin’ In.’ He saw it like the old jazz records, where somebody would sit in for one record.”
But the album contained two tender folk rock gems — the Pooh tune and “Danny’s Song” — and the president of Columbia Records wanted more.
“It was really Clive Davis who said, ‘I insist that you guys stay together or I will not release ‘Sittin’ In,’ ” Loggins remembered. “And we were so in love with that album, we said, ‘OK, we’re getting along, we like each other, the music is copacetic. So we agreed to a six-record deal.”
The collaboration would produce more hits, including “Angry Eyes,” “Vahevala,” and “Your Mama Can’t Dance.” But as he was writing songs for what would become his first solo effort, “Celebrate Me Home,” Loggins knew that — like the theme to “House on Pooh Corner” —he was entering a new phase.
“I knew that I had turned a big corner and had nothing in common with the country-folk thing that I was doing. My writing was dictating to me that I was going somewhere else.”
Suddenly, he was writing songs that had much more complicated chords, which prompted him to seek out collaborators with jazz backgrounds.
“I wanted to go in that direction, and the only way I felt comfortable doing that was to collaborate with keyboard guys,” Loggins said.
One of his big early hits
apart from Messina was with Michael McDonald. Their song “What a Fool Believes,” became a hit for McDonald’s band, the Doobie Brothers, in 1979. (Loggins would also have successful collaborations with Stevie Nicks and Steve Perry.) But the following year would be a significant one for Loggins, as it marked his foray into movie music.
Through friends in the industry, he was hired to write a song for the golf comedy “Caddyshack.” As the film was being made, director Harold Ramis put temporary music to the soundtrack to get a feel for what they would eventually want for the movie.
“He had a Bob Dylan tune in there,” Loggins said. “So I knew that meant to me that he wanted to keep this lead character, Danny, as a rebel, even though Danny was trying to fit in — and eventually becomes the rebel. So I figured the music was supposed to tip that off, so that’s why I wrote, ‘I’m all right, don’t nobody worry ’bout me.’ It’s a f---you song.”
“I’m All Right” was the first of several movie hits the famously bearded Loggins would write. Others would include “Danger Zone” (for “Top Gun”) “Meet Me Halfway” (for “Over the Top”) and “Footloose.” Once Loggins had a reputation for movie music, he said, he had total freedom.
“In those days, they would hire me to be me and write whatever I felt,” he said. “I got lucky because the first couple of things I did were totally me. So from that point on, whenever anyone —Stallone or anybody like that — would bring me in, it was, ‘Do what you did for them, do it again for us.’ ”
While the movie hits showed a more rocking side of Loggins, later he would delve more into adult contemporary and, more recently, children’s music. He is currently working on an album of family songs, plus a compilation of Pooh songs. Meanwhile, the oft collaborator is working with Richard Marx on a project.
Meanwhile, he hopes the planned “Footloose” remake will include the song of the same name, which Loggins wrote with “Footloose” screenwriter Dean Pitchford. Having his biggest hit in another movie would introduce Loggins to a whole new audience.
“I hope that if they do remake that movie, they use our song,” Loggins said. “But if it’s Disney, I know Disney wants to own everything themselves, so they might write all new material.”
Reach Patrick S. Pemberton at 781-7903.