From the Stacks: Who is David Lowery?

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Note: Staff members at the Lawrence Public Library write blog posts about books, bookish things and other media. The Times is reposting some of those blogs in this feature, From the Stacks. Find many other blog posts, titles referenced in these posts and much more on the library’s website,

David Lowery fans: I hope you’re free to join us on Nov. 3 at the Lawrence Arts Center. You can expect an irreverent, wide-ranging conversation about the business of rock music, the Internet, capitalism, and maybe even a little math. 

If you’re unfamiliar with Lowery, you’re not alone. “Who is David Lowery?” is a question I’ve been getting since inviting him to be our 780s Series guest this year, which is back after a nearly 2 1/2-year pandemic pause.

For the uninitiated, Lowery is the founder and singer-songwriter of the rock bands Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. That gets head nods from a lot of us Gen Xers. Most folks are most familiar with his bands’ records from the ’80s and ’90s — “Key Lime Pie” is still my all-time favorite! He continues to record albums and tour frequently with Cracker, less frequently with Camper Van Beethoven. Recently, he has begun a series of recordings under his own name. 

Lowery is a music business educator at University of Georgia and an ardent defender of artists’ rights in the digital age. In 2012, he gave a widely shared and discussed talk, “Meet The Old Boss, Worse Than The New Boss?” His fight for fair compensation for musicians and artists — something Lowery believes is crucial for arts and culture to continue to thrive — has included successful class action lawsuits against Spotify and Napster.

This year, Lowery was awarded the prestigious American Eagle Award by the National Musical Council of the United States for “significant contributions to American musical culture, music education, and the protection and advancement of creators’ rights.” Past honorees have included legends such as Steven Sondheim, Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Marian Anderson, Lena Horne, Vince Guaraldi, and Patti Smith.

I dreamed up the Lawrence Public Library’s 780s Series several years ago. Libraries have hosted events with authors forever. It’s what we do. I have always loved reading stories about music and the lives of musicians. Inspired by a mashup of VH1 Storytellers and the traditional live conversation event format, I thought people would enjoy hearing the stories of musicians just as much as they enjoyed listening to authors. Maybe we could even get them to play a few songs! So in 2015, we started the 780s Series, bringing soul music icon Booker T. Jones to a packed house at Liberty Hall. In the years that followed, we’ve hosted a range of fantastic artists: Kim Gordon, Jimmy Webb, Mavis Staples, and Rakim.

This year, I am thrilled to bring David Lowery to Lawrence for our 2022 event. Lowery will return to Lawrence for the first time in several years to take the stage at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St. He and I will discuss his decadeslong music career, his fight for artists’ rights, and the future of music in the digital age. After a short intermission, he will perform an intimate acoustic set.

A great time is guaranteed or your money back (that’s a library joke)!

— Brad Allen is director of the Lawrence Public Library. 

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