Elliott was recently interviewed by Robert Dye with American Songwriter magazine for an article about the new Broken Poet film. Here’s what they had to say:
Elliott Murphy is the anonymous rock star. A recording artist for 40 years with 35 albums to his name, he lives in the anonymity of fame, or perhaps it’s the fame of anonymity. A staple of the New York underground scene in the ‘70s who counts Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen as fans and friends, he’s been awarded the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres by the French Minister of Culture, the country where he’s lived since the ‘70s. He’s never had a huge hit, but still performs regularly to good-sized crowds, and for the most part can walk the streets without recognition.
Touted in the early ‘70s as one of the new Dylans, Murphy was one of several artists (along with Springsteen, Loudon Wainwright and John Prine) destined to grab the musical poetry baton and lead us into a new wave of folk enlightenment. It’s a label he doesn’t particularly think fits, and one we’re only using to give historical context. But like Dylan, he did get the travelin’ bug when he was young, and in 1971 the wordsmith of Garden City, NY hit the road for Europe with guitar in hand and set up shop in Paris, where he built a dedicated following.
All this leads to Broken Poet, the new movie written by Murphy and directed by Spanish director Emilio Ruiz, which, in a roundabout, metaphysical way, parallels a few elements of his own career.
Based on a short story Murphy wrote in 1985 entitled “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” the plot centers around the ‘70s rock star Jake Lion, who is presumed to have committed suicide 40 years ago in Paris. A former roadie happens to be riding the Paris Metro years later and hears an old street musician singing who sounds just like him. Is it Jake? Time to investigate, says Rolling Stone magazine, who sends a journalist to unravel the mystery.
Broken Poet’s plot line is cleverly advanced via key songs in Murphy’s music catalog sprinkled throughout the film, from “Last Of The Rockstars,” the first song off his debut Aquashow to his most recent releases.
Broken Poet also features a rare cameo appearance by Bruce Springsteen and his wife Patti Scialfa, playing themselves. The two discuss their time as contemporaries of Lion and reflect on what made him tick and why he may (or may not) have killed himself.
The film also features Michael O’Keefe, Marisa Berenson, Joanna Preiss and Françoise Viallon. Originally intended to premiere in March as the opening film of the 2020 New York City International Film Festival, but cancelled due to the pandemic, Broken Poet is available online via Vimeo On Demand at the Springsteen fan site Backstreets.
We chatted with Elliott via phone recently to get his take on the mythology of dead rock stars, fame, New York City in the ‘70s and rock journalism.
Read the full interview at American Songwriter.