Beverly Bivens
American singer
Beverly Bivens
Beverly Bivens (born April 28, 1946) was lead singer with the American West Coast folk-rock group We Five from 1965-67. After her marriage to jazz musician Fred Marshall and the break-up of We Five, she sang for a while with the experimental Light Sound Dimension, but, by the late 1960s had largely left the music scene. After many years of relative seclusion, she sang at the opening of an exhibition in San Francisco in 2009. Her son is the saxophonist Joshi Marshall.
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  • 2014
    Age 67
    A memoir by Burgan, touching on Bivens' years in the Ridgerunners/We Five, her impact on the early folk-rock scene and subsequent forty-year seclusion was published in April 2014 by Rowman & Littlefield.
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    However, Bivens' career after leaving We Five is not well documented publicly and, until Jerry Burgan published a memoir of the early folk-rock scene in 2014, sketchy information was derived mainly from recollections posted on the Internet.
    More Details Hide Details Various rumours that she had died persisted for many years.
    However, most sources, including We Five's Jerry Burgan in his 2014 memoir, have rejected this suggestion.
    More Details Hide Details A subsequent 1965 single, Chet Powers's Let's Get Together, was a more modest commercial success, reaching number 31 on the Hot 100. The song, which had been recorded in 1964 by the Kingston Trio, became a much bigger hit in 1969 for the Youngbloods under the shortened title Get Together. A third single, You Let a Love Burn Out, was trailed by A&M as a "3rd We Five smash in a row" on the back of a Grammy nomination for You Were on My Mind. Released early in 1966, its "twangy-oriental sound", with Bivens "really putting her voice in front of the others and setting the tempo for the remainder of the group" represented a significant departure of style that, in various ways, was to be adopted by other bands in the coming year. However, it made limited public impact, a fate shared in May 1966 by a further single, There Stands the Door (which was coupled with Somewhere, a song from the 1957 musical West Side Story). Pete Fullerton felt that, with both these recordings, "there was always that edge of whining".
  • 2013
    Age 66
    Even when she and Burgan visited Bob Jones during his final illness in 2013, she was unwilling to sing High Flying Bird, which the men strummed on their guitars, an omission for which, according to Burgan, she expressed regret during the return journey.
    More Details Hide Details The three were, however, photographed together. The tracks shown in italics were solo (S) or largely solo performances by Beverly Bivens. However, her voice dominated virtually all recordings by We Five and some others (SF) contained marked solo flourishes. 1. "Love Me Not Tomorrow (S)" 2. "Somewhere Beyond The Sea" 3. "My Favorite Things" 4. "If I Were Alone" 5. "Tonight" 6. "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" (SF) 7. "You Were on My Mind 8. "Can't Help Falling in Love" 9. "Small World" 10. "I Got Plenty O' Nuttin'" 11. "Softly As I Leave You" (SF) 12. "I Can Never Go Home Again" (SF) 1. "Let's Get Together" 2. "High Flying Bird (S)" 3. "Make Someone Happy" 4. "Five Will Get You Ten" 5. "Somewhere" 6. "What Do I Do Now" 7. "The First Time" 8. "Our Day Will Come" 9. "Poet" 10. "What's Goin' On" 11. "Inch Worm" 12. "You Let A Love Burn Out"
    This was subsequently sold and, when Burgan saw her in 2013, she was living in "a warehouse district" between Berkeley and Richmond.
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  • 2009
    Age 62
    It is clear from this that Bivens has remained very circumspect about her life since We Five and, apart from her appearance in 2009, has resisted attempts to encourage her to sing again.
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    The sleeve notes for Big Beat's retrospective CD of We Five's recordings, released in 2009, contained several reminiscences by Bivens and, on 24 September of that year, she sang High Flying Bird at the opening of an exhibition, mounted by the Performing Arts Library & Museum in San Francisco, of the rock scene in the Bay area in the mid-1960s to early 1970s.
    More Details Hide Details Asked by an ABC reporter if the latter appearance marked a resumption of her singing career, she remarked teasingly, "God, I hope so. That would be awesome".
  • 1999
    Age 52
    Jerry Burgan reported that, when he spoke to Bivens in 1999, she was not singing professionally.
    More Details Hide Details After Fred Marshall died in Oakland in 2001, an obituary published in his home state of Arkansas referred to Bivens' still living in Berkeley and to his having had another partner of long standing. However, it appears that, when Marshall fell ill, Bivens stepped in to care for him. In the mid nineties Bivens was said by Burgan to be doing up an old house.
  • 1978
    Age 31
    Until their divorce in 1978, she and her husband raised two children in Berkeley, California: the saxophonist Joshi Marshall, who was born in Berkeley in 1971, and a daughter, Zoe Terry Marguerite.
    More Details Hide Details In 2014 Joshi, who has a son, Elijah Cole, with wife Leah, recalled an unorthodox childhood which was dominated by his parents' passion for music: "Everything was about music and art. It was like, you sleep here and you sleep there, and you have to be part of our trip... But I wouldn’t trade it for anything, there was so much love". An earlier publicity biography of Joshi stated that, while still at Berkeley High School in the latter half of the 1980s, he would "play in and host sessions with his mother... and many notable jazz musicians which included saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and pianist, Benny Green."
  • 1969
    Age 22
    We Five are sometimes dismissed as a "one hit wonder", although they actually had two charting singles and were the highest charting 1960s band from San Francisco until Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969.
    More Details Hide Details Jerry Burgan spoke more kindly of the band's management in 2007, recalling that Werber "had an ability to encourage creativity and the musical process without having to direct it. While encouraging us Five to write, to sing, and to play, he surrounded us with a team that shaped all of the other elements which led to our success". However, there may be a certain implication in Burgan's further observation that "we were too young to see it at the time, but I later learned to appreciate the impact he had on my life". The 2009 compilation, There Stands the Door, to which all the surviving members of the original We Five contributed recollections, was dedicated to "the late, great Frank Werber".
  • 1968
    Age 21
    In 1968 We Five were among a number of A&M's artists included in an injunction by a Los Angeles court prohibiting the "pirating" of their recordings by a company named Superba Tapes.
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  • 1967
    Age 20
    We Five were in the vanguard of the San Francisco bands, including Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, that reached international prominence in the "Summer of Love" of 1967.
    More Details Hide Details However, the original band had disbanded by then. Jerry Burgan and Pete Fullerton reformed We Five. Burgan's wife, Debbie, née Graf, who sang with a group called the Legendaires and had sometimes worked with the Ridgerunners (as they then were), took over from Bivens as lead vocalist. A group known as We Five was still performing forty years later. In his notes for We Five's second album, Make Someone Happy (1967), released after they had split (an episode that later give rise to unfounded rumours that Bivens had been killed in a road accident), satirist George Yanok observed that "We 5 was the first "electric band" to come out of San Francisco. It predated the entire present "happening" in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco that became the centre of "flower power" with all its attendant trippery and hang-overs …".
  • 1966
    Age 19
    She herself has confirmed that "A&M called, they wanted me, but I think my husband Marshall, whom she married in 1966 insisted he produce the records... I'd been working hard for a long time and just thought I'd take a break – turned out to be a couple of decades!" On February 13, 1966, at the age of 19, Bivens married jazz bassist Fred Marshall (Frederick Calvin Marshall, 4 October 1938 – 14 November 2001).
    More Details Hide Details Marshall had worked with a number of West Coast rock bands and been a member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio which famously recorded the incidental music for television specials based on the Peanuts cartoons of Charles Schulz. Guaraldi had been an habitué of the hungry i club and Marshall's own band, the Ensemble, played at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco on the same bill as Jefferson Airplane on the night in October 1966 that Grace Slick first sang as their lead vocalist. In 1966, Marshall began to collaborate with lighting technician Bill Ham (William Gatewood Ham, born 26 September 1932), who is generally credited with creating the first psychedelic light show, a concept that originated in the "beat" era of the 1950s and became a feature of many late 1960s rock concerts. Together with Jerry Granelli, who, in addition to playing on We Five's first album, had also worked with Guaraldi and been a close associate of the songwriter and producer Sly Stone, they formed the Light Sound Dimension (which, as with the Beatles' 1967 song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, many were quick to notice bore the initials LSD), an "audio visual multi media group" combining lighting technology and experimental music. The LSD, which continued into the 1990s, established itself at various West Coast venues, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Fillmore Auditorium (which, with its "omnipresent pot smoke" noted by songwriter Carole King, became known for its psychedelic posters), and appeared with, among others, Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Grateful Dead.
  • 1965
    Age 18
    At that time Bivens' favorite band was the Beatles, "... which is fairly obvious. I haven't really heard any that I really like besides the Beatles". Many years later, she recalled that, when We Five played in Pittsburgh in late 1965 with another English band, the Rolling Stones, she had been ignored by the Stones' lead singer Mick Jagger when she had tried to introduce herself.
    More Details Hide Details Jerry Burgan recalled that she was shunned also by Jagger's fellow band-member Brian Jones. On another occasion, Bivens defended Peter Noone, the young lead singer of Herman's Hermits, whose apparent lack of self-control was criticized by other members of We Five, pointing out that he was only seventeen and was not, in her view, being managed properly. In October 1965 KYA, a leading San Francisco radio station, used a large photographic portrait of Bivens to draw attention to its inaugural International Pop Music Awards (maybe patronising her a little in the process with its caption, "Wee One of the We Five"). Other photographs of Bivens included those of We Five taken by Lisa Bachelis (later Lisa Law), using a Leica given to her by the group's manager and producer Frank Werber (1929–2007), who also managed the Kingston Trio, of which, as noted, Mike Stewart's brother, John, was a member. We Five sometimes used Werber's home at Mill Valley to rehearse; one photograph taken there shows Bivens barefoot in a bikini top and jeans, while the group used, among other things, a broom in place of a microphone. Bivens appeared barefoot also on the cover of You Were On My Mind, walking along a beach in a reddish-orange tunic, accompanied by her male colleagues, all fully shod and wearing matching turtlenecks. Bivens enjoyed sunbathing: she was once admitted to hospital on tour with second degree burns after Burgan, who had been called to her room, found her in considerable pain, wearing only the lower half of a bikini.
    As regards fashion, photographs show her wearing dresses whose hemlines were well above the knee in 1965, at a time when the mini-skirt, which, in England, became a defining symbol of "Swinging" London, had yet to make a wide impact in America.
    More Details Hide Details Bivens was then 5 foot 3 inches tall, with brown hair and hazel eyes. Musicologist Alec Palao has described her as "a petite powerhouse with demurely attractive looks and a penchant for European style". Surviving television clips capture her rather chic, mod style of dress, with bobbed hair and go-go boots. She was sometimes mistaken for the actress Barbara Feldon, co-star of the television series Get Smart, who also had a bob. Bivens' relatively brief career covered a period in which she was one of a fairly small number of female rock musicians: her classic style, at least until 1966, was in contrast to the more Bohemian look favored by contemporaries like Grace Slick or Janis Joplin.
    On 2 October 1965, We Five performed You Were on My Mind live on the ABC television show The Hollywood Palace, on which they were introduced by guest compère Fred Astaire.
    More Details Hide Details Video footage of this performance survives, as does that of appearances around the same time on the Jack Benny and Bob Hope shows and Shivaree. There have been some claims that Bivens did not sing on the original studio recording of You Were on My Mind and that the female voice was that of another artist.
    They recorded their first album, the highly eclectic You Were on My Mind, for A&M records in 1965 after Herb Alpert, founder of A&M, heard them at the "hungry i", a folk/night club on Jackson Street in the North Beach area of San Francisco.
    More Details Hide Details We Five's first single, from their debut album of the same name, was a reworked version of Sylvia Tyson's song You Were On My Mind. It became one of the first folk-rock hits, reaching number three in the Billboard "Hot 100" in August 1965. Tyson (then Sylvia Fricker) says that she was unaware that her song had been "covered" until she heard We Five's version on a car radio while driving on Highway 101 in California. One consequence of We Five's success was that Tyson's song, which, until then, had been unavailable in sheet form, was published by Witmark of New York, with a photograph of Bivens and We Five on the cover. However, with the so-called "British invasion" at its height, We Five's recording had only limited international success, having been covered reluctantly, though successfully, in Britain by Crispian St. Peters.
  • 1963
    Age 16
    In 1963, she and Glen Campbell, who also played banjo, had performed background vocals on Desert Pete, a recording by the Kingston Trio, of which Stewart's brother John (1939–2008) was a member.
    More Details Hide Details With the addition of Pete Fullerton, the new group, initially called the and, for a while, the Mike Stewart Quintet, became known as We Five.
  • 1946
    Born on April 28, 1946.
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