Andy Kim (born Andrew Youakim; also known as Baron Longfellow), songwriter, singer (born 5 December 1946 or 1952 in Montreal, QC). Andy Kim is one of Canada’s most successful singer-songwriters. He started out as a teenager writing songs for a television show and thus drew comparisons to Paul Anka and Neil Diamond. His hugely successfully pop hits — such as “Sugar, Sugar,” “Rock Me Gently,” “Baby I love You” and “How’d We Ever Get This Way” — have sold more than 30 million copies. He was the inaugural winner of the Juno Award for Top Male Vocalist in 1970 and enjoyed moderate success as Baron Longfellow in the 1980s and 1990s. Kim has been inducted into the Billboard Hit Parade Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame, the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (for “Sugar, Sugar”), Canada’s Walk of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Andy Kim in Billboard magazine, 12 December 1970.
Early Years and Career
The son of Lebanese immigrants, Andy Kim attended school in Montreal. Sources vary on the year of his birth. Kim has said that he left Montreal for New York at age 15 to pursue his dream of a career in pop music. Kim was signed by legendary songwriter Jeff Barry (“Be My Baby,” “Then He Kissed Me,” “Chapel of Love”) to his new label, Steed Records. Kim recorded his first single, “Give Me Your Love,” for 20th Century Fox.
Career as Singer-Songwriter: 1968–75
Kim and Barry became a phenomenally successful songwriting team, beginning with Kim's recording of their “How’d We Ever Get This Way.” It was a major hit in 1968 in both Canada and the US, selling more than 800,000 copies. Kim enjoyed a string of nine Top 40 hits, mostly cowritten with Barry for the teen market. They included the Top 20 hits “So Good Together” and “Baby, I Love You” (the latter by Barry with Phil Spector), each of which sold more than 1 million copies. In addition to partnering with the youngster, Barry gave Kim the invaluable advice never to let go of the publishing rights to his songs.
Kim had equal success cowriting with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for the televised cartoon series The Archies, for which Kim also provided vocals. The most successful of these tunes, “Sugar, Sugar,” spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1969. It sold more than 13 million copies, making it the biggest-selling single of the year. Artists as diverse as Ike and Tina Turner, Bob Marley and Wilson Pickett recorded cover versions. At the inaugural Juno Awards in 1970, Kim was named Top Male Vocalist.
Kim moved to Los Angeles in 1974, though he returned frequently to Montreal. A career downturn ended when Kim and his brother Joe (his manager) formed Ice Records. Ice released the album Andy Kim (1974) and the single “Rock Me Gently.” This recording signalled a more mature sound in Kim’s songwriting than his earlier “bubblegum” or “teenybopper” style. The song reached No. 1 in Canada and the US. It remained on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for four months. It was also very popular in the United Kingdom and internationally. The single sold more than 3 million copies worldwide.
Andy Kim made many television appearances in this period. He performed on The David Frost Show (1969), Top of the Pops (1974) and American Bandstand (1969–75), among others. He performed at the Juno Awards ceremony in 1975, when he was nominated for Composer of the Year, Producer of the Year and Best Selling Single (“Rock Me Gently”). He also had a world tour in 1974.
Career as Baron Longfellow
Following the massive success of “Rock Me Gently,” Andy Kim maintained a low profile. He retreated from the music business almost entirely after he was devastated by the loss of his father in 1976. However, Gordon Mills, the manager of Tom Jones, signed him in the late 1970s. Mills recommended Kim adopt the name Baron Longfellow to distance himself from his teen idol image. In 1980, Kim-Longfellow released the adult contemporary single “Amour.” It was nominated for Juno Awards in 1982 for Single of the Year and Composer of the Year. It was also popular in Europe.
Kim enjoyed moderate success as Baron Longfellow through the 1980s and 1990s. He continued to write, record and occasionally perform, but remained largely out of the limelight.
Career Resurgence: 2004–15
After becoming friends with the Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson in 1995, Kim began to split his time between Los Angeles and Toronto. Robertson coaxed Kim out of retirement by cowriting the 2004 single “I Forgot to Mention” with him. The song was a Top 10 hit in Canada. It earned Kim the award for Best Solo Indie Artist at the Canadian Music Week’s Indie Awards in 2004. Kim then collaborated with Ron Sexsmith on the song “Whatever Happened to Christmas” in 2005.
A revitalized Kim returned in 2011 with Happen Again, his first full-length album in 20 years. He followed that with the album It’s Decided (2015). It was produced by Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and released on the Arts & Crafts label. The album received mostly positive reviews. Kim and Drew performed the song “Sister OK” on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2015.
Since 2005, Kim has held the annual Andy Kim Christmas Show in Toronto for various charities. The shows have featured such Canadian musicians as Sarah Harmer, Rush’s Alex Lifeson, Sam Roberts and Ron Sexsmith, among others. As of 2021, the events had raised more than $2 million for local charities. In recognition of this, the City of Toronto officially declared 8 December 2021 to be Andy Kim Day. Toronto Mayor John Tory also presented Kim with a key to city at his annual Christmas show at Massey Hall.
Andy Kim’s songs have received several BMI awards. They have been recorded by such artists as Michelle Wright, James Last, the Monkees, Sha Na Na, Tom Jones, Wilson Pickett and Bob Marley. “Sugar, Sugar” has been featured in more than 40 films and TV shows, including The Simpsons (1993), A Very Brady Sequel (1996), The Ice Storm (1997), Being Erica (2011) and Riverdale (2017).