Listen to this song by classicist singer-songwriter Michael Penn. It’s “This & That” as taken from Penn’s debut 1989 album March.
Very generally speaking, the late 80s was something of a dead zone for pop music with more than a few months shelf life. But, Michael Penn’s “This and That”, along with another song of his, “No Myth” were high points in the kind of pop music which is both immediate, and lasting beyond the era in which they were written. The fact that their songwriter has something of a Hollywood name seemed secondary. His younger brothers Sean and Chris were active too, in their own fields in film.
Yet, despite any distractions which his name might have otherwise created, Michael Penn took the time to write great tunes for a solid debut. He refused, however, to meet record label demands that he change titles to songs, and other creative decisions. The result perhaps made him seem difficult to label bosses.
Yet, he escaped the trap which gave many pop writers and their songs the lifespans of fruit flies in the late 80s, justifying his resistance to label interference. His career would be low-key, yet he would create albums of his own design and at his own pace, with the songwriting upfront.
Penn would later meet and marry a fellow songwriter Aimee Mann in 1997, with whom he would also tour and duet on the film I Am Sam on the Beatles’ deep cut “Two of Us”. The film features some of his younger brother Sean’s best work, and features the music of the Beatles which inspired Michael to become a musician from the beginning.
For more information about Michael Penn, check out michaelpenn.com.
Watch for Michael Penn’s music in the upcoming film Sunshine Cleaning.