Kenny Loggins has been making music for more than 40 years, first with fellow longhair Jim Messina in the ‘70s, and then as the decade flipped to the ‘80s as a solo star who quickly became synonymous with movie soundtracks.
From “Your Mama Don’t Dance” to “Celebrate Me Home” to “Whenever I Call You Friend” to “I’m Alright,” Loggins’ songs are sonic wallpaper — you can rarely walk into a room without hearing one at some point.
But despite his hall of fame-worthy career, mention Loggins’ name and invariably the response will be, “The ‘Footloose’ guy?”
Although Loggins, still handsome and bearded at 68, continues to flex his creative yearnings, he’s also embraced the multigenerational appeal of “Footloose” and turned the song into a children’s book (which comes with a re-recorded version of the hit spawned from the 1984 Kevin Bacon movie).
On Saturday evening, he’ll sit down with radio personality Mara Davis for a chat and performance as part of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta Book Festival.
Earlier this week, the gregarious Loggins called from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., to discuss the origins of “Footloose” — the book — his thoughts on an autobiography and if he feels “Footloose” — the song — is his defining musical creation.
Q: People might not realize that “Footloose” isn’t your first experience in the children’s world since you’ve had the “Return to Pooh Corner” and “More Songs From Pooh Corner” albums that reflected your interest in appealing to kids.
A: That’s right, those albums and the book “Moose ‘n Me,” which was my first venture into this genre. But it was self-published, so no one ever saw it! But working with an illustrator was a good experience, and that led to this “Footloose,” which is the reinvention of the song. The first question everyone asks is why (I wanted to write this book). This was inspired by my publisher (Charles Nurnberg). He and I did “Frosty the Snowman” a couple of years ago for Peter Yarrow’s (of Peter, Paul and Mary) imprint, and close to a year ago, Charles called and said, “Have you thought about doing ‘Footloose’ as a children’s book?” He said, all I know is it has to have 1,000 animals because my granddaughter loves animals. I have five kids. I get the animals. So if there are 1,000 animals, where would that be? The zoo. And what would they be doing? So it’s “Footloose” and they would be dancing. One thing led to another.
Q: How long did it take you to write?
A: Right away, I knew I wanted Jack to be the zookeeper. I wanted to keep those names (from the song) as constants. Having Jack as zookeeper, that led me to the plotline that he was going to let the animals out under the full moon, then the rest of it sort of emerged. One animal after another poured out. Once I started putting it down on paper, it took about two hours.
Q: Have you thought about doing an autobiography?
A: We’ve kicked the idea around. It may yet happen. My biggest impediment is that I don’t remember a lot of things. I don’t have that memory. I only kept a diary intermittently. The early days are the easiest to remember. I remember the gyms and the Holiday Inns, but mostly the girls. The most shocking part of being a rock star is going from being incredibly shy and girls will barely speak to you and it literally changing overnight.
Q: What can we expect from your appearance at the book festival?
A: I will be coming with my guitarist and we’ll talk a bit and I’ll sing “Footloose” and go home. So far, I have to say the audience is responding really positively. My audience is just becoming grandparents, believe it or not. I think a lot of people are waiting longer to have kids. My first son had his first child at 35. If I move my brand into children’s music and books and stuff, it’s the grandparents (who will be interested in buying it).
Q: Do you think “Footloose” is your defining song?
A: Sadly, yes, and I say sadly only because when I think that’s the thing that will be on the tombstone after 30 years of making music. It’s my “Johnny B. Goode,” but people love it and they get up and dance. Who has a better job than me?
Kenny Loggins at MJCCA Book Festival
8:15 p.m. Saturday. $28 (member); $33 (community); $75 (priority seating and VIP signing line). All tickets include a copy of “Footloose.” MJCCA-Zaban Park, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. 678-812-4005, www.atlantajcc.org.