#1184: Rock ‘N’ Roll (I gave you the best years of my life) by Terry Jacks

Peak Month: January 1975
6 weeks on CKLG chart
Peak Position #17
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #97

Terrence Ross  Jacks was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1944. March 29, 1944, Winnipeg, Manitoba. During his career as a recording artist he became a household name and recognized as a singer, songwriter, record producer and environmentalist. His family moved to Vancouver in 1961 and he formed a band named The Chessmen along with local guitarist, Guy Sobell. The Chessmen had four singles that made the Top 20 in Vancouver, two which were double-sided hits. These included “Love Didn’t Die,” “The Way You Fell” and “What’s Causing This Sensation,” and Top Ten hits. Jacks met Susan Pesklevits on a local CBC music show called Let’s Go in 1966. In 1968 they become the core of the band, The Poppy Family.

In 1968 The Poppy Family had a regional #2 hit with “Beyond The Clouds.” Their follow up in 1969 was a gentle anti-racist, pro-environmental, pro-marijuana legalization tune titled “What Can The Matter Be.” Their next single, “Which Way Is Going Billy?” became an international hit. Terry Jacks won a Juno Award for this recording. The Poppy Family racked up numbers of Top 30 singles in Vancouver through to 1973 including local #1 hits “I Was Wondering” and “That’s Where I Went Wrong.” Concurrently, Terry Jacks released several solo records. The first was “I’m Gonna Capture You” followed in 1972 with the pro-environtalmentalist tune “Concrete Sea.” His  best known for his 1974 hit song “Seasons in the Sun.”

Rock 'N' Roll (I gave you the best years of my life) by Terry Jacks

I can still remember when I bought my first guitar,
I remember just how good the feeling was,
put it proudly in my car.
And I played my friends a thousand times,
my two song repertoire.
And I told my mom her oldest son was gonna be star.

I bought all the Beatles records,
and I tried to sound like Paul.
I bought all the old Buddy Holly’s,
the 78’s and all.
And I sat by my record player playing every song they played,
and I watched them all on TV every move they made.

Rock and Roll I gave you all the best years of my life,
the dreamy sunny Sundays,
all the magic moonlit nights.
I was so busy in the back room,
writing love songs to you,
while you were changing your direction,
I never even knew,
that I was always one step behind you.

‘66 seemed like the year I was really going somewhere,
we were living in San Francisco with flowers in our hair.
Singing songs of kindness so the world would understand,
that the guys and me were something more,
than just another band.

And ‘69 in LA,
well it came around so slow,
but we were really making headway,
and writin’ lots of toons.
We must have played the wildest stuff we had ever played,
because the way the crowds yelled out for more
we thought we had it made.

Rock and Roll I gave you all the best years of my life,
playing my guitar under bright and flashing lights.
I was so busy on the road singing love songs to you,
while you were changing your direction I never even knew,
that I was always one step behind you.

‘71 in Soho when I met Suzanne,
I was trying to go it solo with some else’s band.
And she came up to me later on and I took her by the hand,
and I told her all my troubles and she seemed to understand.

And she followed me to London through a hundred hotel rooms,
through a hundred record companies that didn’t like my tunes.
And she followed me til finally I sold my old guitar,
and she tried to help me understand that I would never be a star.

Rock and Roll I gave you all the best years of my life:
the dreamy sunny Sundays,
all the magic moonlit nights.
And though I’ve never had the chance,
of making it with you,
I thank the lord for giving me the little bit I knew,
and I will always be one step behind you.

Rock and Roll I gave you all the best years of my life
singing out my love songs…

“Rock ‘N’ Roll (I gave you the best years of my life)” is not an autobiographical song. Unlike the narrator of the song, Terry Jacks did achieve substantial stardom. “Seasons In The Sun” and other songs of his continue to be played on oldie radio stations and the royalties keep flowing. However, Jacks song is a story about a common experience of musicians who hope to make it in the record industry, and fame and fortune keeps eluding them. According to the songs lyrics, the primary reason the recording artist doesn’t get a hit record is they are always one step behind the changing styles and trends in rock ‘n’ roll music.

Jacks released eight more singles though only one of these, “Christina,” made the local pop charts. He would go on to produce records for other recording artists including Nana Mouskouri, Valdy, George Jones and Buddy Knox. Jacks remarried and moved to Haida Gwai on the northwestern coast of British Columbia. He has worked on a number of environmental films over the years. In 2016 he suffered two strokes.

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