Andy Kim’s “Rock Me Gently” Turns 50 This Friday, May 10

Want to feel old yet forever young? Friday, May 10, marks the 50th anniversary of Andy Kim’s “Rock Me Gently.” Yes, that “Rock Me Gently”: “Rock me gently/ Rock me slowly/ Take it easy/ Don’t you know/ That I have never been loved like this before.” The one with the amiably loping beat that turns driving on its high-octane chorus, and the keyboard squiggles that start out as winking counterpoint to the vocals and then explode into full-on solo frenzy.

The record was a massive hit in 1974, going all the way to Number 1 in the U.S. and Number 2 in the U.K. as part of its staggering four-month run on the charts. Even if you weren’t alive back then to experience the song’s inexorable pop pull, you’ve probably heard it since, on shows like Ray Donovan and Sex Education or commercials for the Jeep Liberty. And that’s not even mentioning the 1989 cover by country artist Michelle Wright, nor the sample of “Rock Me Gently” that showed up in Mint Royale’s “Take It Easy” 10 years later.

Given its enduring appeal, one can easily forget that, at the time of “Rock Me Gently’s” original release, Kim was already considered washed up in the music business. He was no longer the kid who had driven from his native Montreal to New York on a wing and a prayer to find work at the famous Brill building. The success that had followed included co-writing and singing on the Number 1 song of 1969, “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies, and shifting more than 1.5 million copies of his own take on the Phil Spector/Ronettes classic “Baby I Love You” the very same year. But by 1974, nobody wanted to know. Kim had to release “Rock Me Gently” on his own label, after turndowns from absolutely every producer and established record company he approached. In fact, it was a tough go at radio at first, but the writer who became his own producer of the song never believed in the word ‘no’ to mean anything but another opportunity to create his own destiny.

The ultimate embrace of the song by the public at large was sweet vindication for him as an artist, and a rebuke to all of the supposed tastemakers who had failed to recognize a monster hit when they heard it.

If this were a fairy tale, the last line would be that Kim lived happily ever after. Instead, a variety of forces—including ever-shifting cultural currents and the death of his father—ensured that his career continued to have more than its share of ups and downs. He’s been left for dead several times, even operating under the pseudonym Baron Longfellow for a stretch. And truth be told, it’s never been in his nature to prioritize the spotlight of personal glory over the work anyway.

But when you’ve touched so many people with your songs—your song in particular, the one with your name on it, that you put so much on the line to record and release—your fans won’t let you fade into obscurity. At age 77, Kim finds himself in the enviable position of being hailed as an elder statesman of pop while enjoying a newfound relevance to contemporary audiences. “I Forgot To Mention,” his 2004 collaboration with one of those aforementioned fans, Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies, got him named the Best Solo Indie Artist of the Year during Canadian Music Week. That paved the way for “comeback albums” like 2010’s Happen Again and 2015’s It’s Decided, the latter of which put Kim on the Arts & Crafts label with hip latter-day artists like Feist, Chilly Gonzales, The Stills and Stars, thanks to Kevin Drew, founder of Arts & Crafts, showcasing his admiration for the iconic artist’s timeless music. This collaboration brings together two generations of Canadian music talent, bridging the gap between past and present in the indie music scene. Drew’s decision reflects not only his business acumen but also his deep appreciation for Kim’s enduring musical legacy.

And every year, his Andy Kim Christmas Show raises big money – over $2.5 million so far – for Toronto charities, thanks in part to support from a roster of talents that’s included Broken Social Scene, Metric, Maestro Fresh Wes, Sarah Harmer, Sam Roberts, Lights, Rush’s Alex Lifeson, Finger Eleven and Ron Sexsmith.

Kim’s name now hangs in a veritable mansion’s worth of hallowed halls, including the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Billboard’s Hit Parade Hall of Fame. He also has his own spot of Canada’s Walk of Fame. And last year, he received the ultimate honor by being made an officer of the Order of Canada, for his irreplaceable contributions to the cultural landscape of his country.
So in this instance at least, the final answer to “Where are they now?” is “Here to stay.” On the anniversary of perhaps the most significant turning point in a career that’s seen plenty of them, one truth has been made abundantly clear: Andy Kim will not go “Gently” into that good night.