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Al Kooper

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Mike Bloomfield (left) and Al Kooper (right) album cover

Al Kooper (born February 5, 1944) is an American songwriter and musician, probably best known for organizing the group Blood, Sweat & Tears.

He was born in Brooklyn in 1944. His first musical success was as a 14-year-old guitarist in the Royal Teens, best known for their novelty blues riff, "Short Shorts". In 1960, he joined the song-writing team of Bob Brass and Irwin Levine, who wrote the hit, "This Diamond Ring", for Gary Lewis and the Playboys. When he was 21, he moved to Greenwich Village.

He performed with Bob Dylan in concert in 1965 and in the studio in 1965 and 1966. He worked extensively with Mike Bloomfield for a number of years after the two met as studio musicians on Dylan's legendary Highway 61 Revisited album. His most notable playing with Dylan likely are the striking organ parts on "Like a Rolling Stone". Kooper had been invited to the session as an observer, and hoped to be allowed to sit in on guitar, his primary instrument. After hearing Mike Bloomfield play guitar, Kooper put his guitar aside and sat down at the organ. He had rarely played organ before the session.

In 1965, he co-formed The Blues Project and played their most famous gig at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. He formed Blood, Sweat & Tears in the same year, leaving after the group's first album, Child is Father to the Man, in 1968.

Kooper played on hundreds of records, including The Rolling Stones, B.B. King, The Who and Cream. On occasion, he has even overdubbed on his own efforts, as on The Live Adventures Of Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper album, as Roosevelt Gook. He produced the first three albums for Lynyrd Skynyrd, whom he discovered. Kooper also wrote the score for the TV series, Crime Story, and has also written music for several made-for-television movies.

Al Kooper has published a memoir, Backstage Passes: Rock 'n' Roll Life In The Sixties (1977), now available in revised form as Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'N' Roll Survivor (1998).

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