Harvey Brooks: A Bassist’s View From The Bottom

It sounds like a New York Times “Styles” section wedding story.

Growing up in 1950s Queens, Bonnie and Harvey were friends. But she only dated college guys. He figured she was out of his league.

In the late ’80s, after life’s twists and turns for both — Bonnie contacted Harvey. They reconnected, a bit awkwardly at first. It took a while for Bonnie’s daughters to warm up to this new man. She herself was not ready to commit to a guy who had lived all around the world, and still enjoyed a free, unfettered life.

But they had great chemistry. Harvey moved into Bonnie’s Compo Road North home. Her girls eventually came to love him too. They lived happily ever after, even after they moved — first to Arizona, then to Israel.

Bonnie and Harvey Brooks

It’s a charming tale. It becomes even more intriguing when you learn that Bonnie Behar was well-known locally, as marketing director for Bridgeport’s Discovery Museum, and a Cablevision public access coordinator covering arts and politics.

And that Harvey is Harvey Brooks, a bass guitarist.

You may not have heard his name. But you sure have heard his music.

Harvey has played and/or recorded with Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, Seals & Crofts, Mama Cass Elliot, Boz Scaggs, Judy Collins, Loudon Wainright III, Phoebe Snow, John Cale, Phil Ochs, Al Kooper, Mavis Staples, and Peter, Paul and Mary.

Al Kooper, Buddy Miles and Harvey Brooks at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Miles and Brooks were the rhythm section for The Electric Flag, which debuted at the festival and inspired Kooper to form Blood, Sweat and Tears. (Photo by Pat Murphy)

He’s featured on Miles Davis’“Bitches Brew,” the best-selling jazz album of all time. He laid down some of the most famous lines in music history — including “Like a Rolling Stone” — and his work was the hook on the Doors’ “Touch Me.”

On July 4 (his birthday), Harvey published a memoir. “View From the Bottom: 50 Years of Bass Playing with Bob Dylan, the Doors, Miles Davis and Everybody Else” is a music-lover’s romp, from Greenwich Village to Monterey Pop. What could sound like name-dropping is instead a fascinating look behind the scenes of some of rock, jazz, folk and pop’s most memorable moments.

Harvey is the real deal.

But this is “06880,” so I’ll focus on the chapters that deal with Westport.

The globe-trotting musician settled down to life as a suburban stepdad. He drove Bonnie’s daughters to school. He went to yard sales. But he always came back to music.

At one of those yard sales, for example, he saw Weston resident Keith Richards. Harvey’s around-the-corner neighbor was Eric von Schmidt, who he knew from his folk days at Boston’s Club 47. Bonnie threw him a surprise birthday party at Eric’s bocce court; Keith, famed songwriter/session musician Danny Kortchmar, and legendary local guitarist Charlie Karp came too.

I wanted to know more about Harvey’s Westport life. Responding from Israel, he talked about his friendships with music industry heavyweights like Chance Browne, Gail and Terry Coen, and rock photographer Michael Friedman.

Writer Max Wilk and his artist wife Barbara were friends. Max was also a jazz musician. Harvey played at one of his Westport Arts Center concerts. They wrote a country song together: “You Can’t Cut a Deal With Jesus.”

Harvey had a side gig, teaching young musicians. He must have been great: Staples High School grads Dan Asher, Trevor Coen and Merritt Jacobs have all gone on to professional careers.

Harvey had a fulfilling life in suburbia. He and Bonnie now enjoy Israel. It’s a world away from Queens — but then, so was Westport.

He is certainly not without a home. And — after more than half a century in the studio and on stage, and now with the publication of his book — Harvey Brooks is definitely not a complete unknown.

(To order “View From the Bottom,” click here.)

6 responses to “Harvey Brooks: A Bassist’s View From The Bottom

  1. Yet ANOTHER famed Westport musician?! What is in the water of this town?! Looking forward to reading it. Fun story Dan.

  2. Michael Friedman

    Dan, terrific piece on Harvey Brooks. I can only add that he has been one of the most well liked and highly respected musicians in the business .
    Harvey was one of the pioneers in the 60s and 70s and I can’t wait to read his new book.

  3. Charles Taylor

    Just got the book. It’s a great read.

  4. Michael Elliot

    The book is awesome. Only half way through…….taking a long time because every time I read of one of Harvey’s bands, gigs or riffs, I am listening to the tracks. Touch Me by the Doors about a dozen times, what a track. The cover photo with Harvey and his “maple” Fender bass are worth the price of admission!

  5. It’s great that you’ve written about Harvey….Thanks,

  6. Steven Rosenfeld

    I have been waiting anxiously for Harvey’s story to be told. Harvey is one amazing fellow.

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