Unless you’re Paul F. Tompkins or the creator of the video below, it’s pretty unlikely you’ve given Starbuck’s 1976 hit “Moonlight Feels Right” more than a passing thought lately. But those who have are likely to have found themselves spellbound by the track’s most bizarre, captivating element: Its kick-ass marimba solo.
Refusing to let the world live in ignorance of the story behind that solo, Chris Ward decided to make a video that gives us an introduction to both the song and its key player, the late Robert “Bo” Wagner.
After ensuring every viewer knows know that “Moonlight Feels Right” exists, Ward explains that its marimba breakdown was performed by a man who first emerged into the spotlight as the dancing, drumming “pride of Dayton, Ohio” on an old episode of The Mickey Mouse Club. The video then fast forwards a couple of decades, catching up with Bo Wagner again once Starbuck is burning up the charts.
We see him play what Ward describes as “the ‘Eruption’ of marimba solos,” apparently recorded for the album in a single improvised take. The fact that this is performed while Wagner’s wearing a black leather jumpsuit is also highlighted. The video ends by telling us Wagner died in 2017, but not before playing Starbuck reunion shows and working as a “doctor to the stars.”
“The studio-improvised solo is still considered the standard for all students of marimba that few will ever achieve,” Ward writes. “Fewer still will do it in a leather jumpsuit.”
It’s only natural that this video will inspire you to invest in marimbas of your own, and spend the coming years hovering over the bars in various jumpsuits as you attempt to follow the musical path Wagner outlined outlines. Fortunately, you can listen to “Moonlight Feels Right”—and study Bo Wagner’s marimba solo—as often as you want by clicking below.
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