Episode 141: Scott Fagan


By all rights, the story of South Atlantic Blues should have ended in 1968. Released the same week as Van Morrison’s masterpiece of pastoral angst, Astral Weeks, the record failed to garner any notice, in spite of promises that its young singer-songwriter would soon become “bigger than Elvis.” A masterpiece of a soulfully sung, lush psychedelic folk, the record vanished into obscurity, thanks to a perfect storm of record company failure. Not even a chance encounter with acclaimed painter and fan Jasper Johns could rescue the album from the remainder bin. Thankfully, the story of the album and its creator don’t end there. Nearly 50 years after its release, South Atlantic Blues is finally getting the recognition it deserved — and unlike so many of these story, which recapture public consciousness posthumously, Scott Fagan is still alive, well, and singing at 70. In the intervening 47 years, Fagan has led a fascinating life, achieving some fame as a calypso singer, struggling with addiction and reuniting with his long, lost son, Magnetics Fields frontman Stephin Merritt. Fagan was already seated when I arrived a few minutes early to set up for our interview. What transpired was one of the most fascinating conversations I’ve had in some time.