The Grass Roots
y the '70s, the Grass Roots were something of an anachronism. All of their pop music cronies from the '60s had fallen from favor, and only those acts that successfully adapted to the more serious demands of album rock were able to survive into the new decade. The Turtles, the Mamas and the Papas, the Monkees, and the Byrds either broke up or were no longer interesting to record buyers. They were all relics of a past age. The bands that survived -- such as the Who, the Doors, and the Rolling Stones -- did so through the sale of albums, with singles being only an incidental part of their output. Replacing the old bands was a new generation of introspective singer/songwriters, who discussed mature and personal themes in their songs. Paul Simon, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and dozens of others were all pursuing their personal muses of self-awareness and had little in common with pop in its traditional form.
The record that preceded "Sooner or Later" was "Temptation Eyes," and it was the best thing the Grass Roots did since 1968's "Midnight Confessions." Singer Rob Grill's vocal similarity to Burton Cummings of the Guess Who was enough to make some people think this was a great and unpretentious Guess Who single, but the lack of pretension is what should have made it obvious that this could never be a Guess Who tune. In the absence of songwriter P.F. Sloan (who appears to have abandoned the music business entirely soon after he left the Grass Roots), the band relied heavily on songs provided by music publishers and often came up with commercial winners. Considering their access to material as good as "Temptation Eyes," and their professional approach to accruing sales through quality recordings, it becomes quite understandable how the Grass Roots survived in spite of the overwhelming social upheavals between 1968 and 1971.
In rock and roll, a full generation usually lasts about eight to ten years. Sure, a few acts have survived much longer than that, but none have remained influential. Even the Rolling Stones, about whom Keith Richards has said "String us up and we still won't die," saw their image become seriously devalued after a decade. The Grass Roots were lucky to hold on as long as they did, particularly in light of the fact that they lacked an image and their music was so light and frothy. They too would soon succumb to the next wave of pop bands, such as the Doobie Brothers, America, Chicago, and Three Dog Night. As inevitably as the turning of the tide, another cycle completed itself, and a new one began.
On July 11, 2011, Grass Roots mainstay Rob Grill died from complications of a head injury he sustained in a fall a month earlier. He was 67. Grill had spent much of the past three decades touring the nostalgia circuit, often playing shows billed as "The Grass Roots Starring Rob Grill." Band guitarist Creed Bratton, who went on to become a successful actor on the hit TV series The Office, described him as a "damn good singer" and that the Grass Roots "were a good-looking pop group in the Summer of Love...It was pretty cool."
- Thomas Ryan, American Hit Radio, Prima Entertainment, 1996.
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