World Premiere: Oscar Award winner John DeNicola reunites with Sweetback on “King”

(July 9, 2024) In the summer of 1987, John DeNicola netted the most successful compositions of his career. He co-wrote two of the standout tracks from the best-selling Dirty Dancing motion picture soundtrack: “Hungry Eyes” for “All by Myself” singer Eric Carmen and the Grammy + Oscar award-winning “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” for Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley. He’s netted other notable successes over the years, including having his bass lines sampled by Erykah Badu on “Back in the Day (Puff)” and producing the first independent album for Kara’s Flowers — the band that would eventually become Maroon 5 – but mostly stayed in the background up until his very first solo album, The Why Because, in 2019 and a follow-up LP (She Said) two years later. 

This summer, the talented singer-songwriter is taking yet another step in the spotlight with a new single, one that unites him with old college friends and band members of long-defunct ‘70s soul group Sweetback. Bearing a distinctive Steely Dan bluesy strut, DeNicola belts and strains with a similar effort akin to Donald Fagen on “King of His Own World.” The smart, poetic nature of the lyrics (“You can’t break the spirit of the one that’s running free”) along with the hot bed of punchy horns, Wurlitzer runs and sultry backing vocals on the jazz-soul arrangement feel like a reprise taken from 2000’s Two Against Nature.

The arrival of the song along with the reuniting of Sweetback also serves as a heartfelt tribute to the late Tim Lawless, his childhood friend and former bandmate. “[He] was a formidable presence who did things his own way, but with positivity and humor that made everyone around him feel good,” DeNicola, 67, says. “I wanted to bring together some of the folks who valued Tim as a person and an artist to create something in his memory.”

While acting as the de facto workhorse providing lead vocals, keys, bass, conga, DeNicola is completely surrounded by a fine cast of support including four original Sweetback members (guitarist Ken Favre, drummer Bob Myers, keyboardist Greg Schleich and saxophonist Jeff Lange) along with additional brass support from Terry Nigrelli and Leon Petruzzi.

Check out the refreshing new single in this World Premiere for SoulTracks and let us know your thoughts. 

By J Matthew Cobb

John De Nicola

"King of His Own World"

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