Robert Vucci remembers coming home from the Vietnam War and finding comfort in the music of James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel.
“Those were violent, turbulent times,” Vucci of The Villages said Wednesday after attending the James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel tribute concert at Savannah Center. “James Taylor’s music is so soothing, it just makes you feel at peace.
“The same could be said for Simon and Garfunkel. This is the kind of music that helped me get through some hard times.”
Songs like “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Fire and Rain,” “Homeward Bound” and “Sounds of Silence” have added meaning for a generation that came of age and took part in the struggles of the 1960s and ‘70s. The family band Fire and Rain, with Greg Pitts singing lead, performed the Taylor songs. Pitts and his brother, Todd, played the Simon and Garfunkel music and call themselves The Boxers.
“You never know what a tribute band is going to be like,” said Villager Bernadette Taverna. “But this band tonight was special. James Taylor’s music tells a story and gives you a warm feeling. That’s how I felt tonight. It was a throwback to another time.”
It was also interesting to watch Greg Pitts go from Paul Simon to James Taylor. He sat on a stool, playing acoustic guitar, for the Simon and Garfunkel set. His brother, Todd, with shaggy, curly hair, took on the Garfunkel part standing up. The brothers, wearing jeans and casual shirts, quickly hit a strong vibe opening with “Mrs. Robinson.” Then they covered a more obscure S&G number, “El Condor Pasa.”
But the fun began when the Pitts’ brothers dipped into their oldies bag for a couple of Everly Brothers’ numbers. Simon and Garfunkel always credited the Everlys as major influences and had the ‘50s duo open for Simon and Garfunkel on their last tour.
Greg and Todd Pitts did justice to an Everly Brothers all-time-classic ballad: “Dream.” Then for a change of pace, they tossed in a Crosby Stills and Nash song, “Helplessly Hoping,” with soft and compelling harmony.
They closed the set with two Simon and Garfunkel standards: “The Boxer” and “Sounds of Silence,” and earned a standing ovation.
You can see a clip of the performance on the Villages-News.com Facebook page at the link below:
The rest of the band came on stage for the James Taylor set. It included Greg Pitts on lead vocals and guitar; his wife, Jenifer, vocals, Conner McNamee on violin and keyboards; Todd McNamee, Conner’s father, on bass. Todd Pitts played drums while Mike Beatty, Todd’s father-in-law, played guitar. Dan Parenti was on keyboards. Last, but not least, Chandra Pitts, Todd’s wife, handles the sound board.
Put them all together and you have a traveling family band that lives with each other and the music of James Taylor.
“We love James Taylor’s music and it’s an honor to pay tribute to him,” Greg Pitts said. “There’s one song that kind represents what we stand for as a family and a band. It’s about letting people know in your life that you love them and will look out for them.”
Pitts and the band went into a stirring version of “Shower the People (You Love With Love).” Soon the audience was singing and clapping along. Greg Pitts has a soft voice with enough musical twang to comfortably fit in Taylor’s vocal range.
“I don’t try to imitate him or look like him but there are times I want to sound like him,” Pitts said after the show.
He covered such Taylor favorites as: “Fire and Rain,” “Mexico,” “Handy Man,” “You’ve Got a Friend” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).” He even put down some down and dirty rocking blues on “Steamroller.”
Greg Pitts admits walking a fine artistic line by playing in a tribute band.
“It’s tricky,” he said. “You have to respect the music and the artist. I don’t want to over-sing. I want to catch the spirit of the music and what it means.”
Pitts and his family managed to accomplish that task and resurrect something else: a time, a place and a feeling that seemed long gone. It all came alive again in the folk and soft rock essence of James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel.