10 Boz Scaggs Songs Spanning the Late ’60s Through 2010s

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Boz Scaggs may be known for his 1976 hit “Lowdown,” but the former Steve Miller band member was already building a lengthy catalog of songs by the late ’60s, a collection of songs that would take him across multiple genres over more than five decades.

Releasing his folkier debut, Boz, in 1965 in Sweden—the album later went out of print after its initial pressing—by the time of his self-titled follow-up in 1969, Scaggs wrote or co-wrote a majority of the bluesier tracks and incorporated the session musicians of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section of session players in Alabama, which included Duane Allman before his Allman Brothers Band fame.

Exploring more funk and soul on the 1971 release, Moments and Boz Scaggs & Band, maintained his run of signature ballads through his sixth album, Slow Dancer, which was certified gold and the perfect segue into the worldwide success of Silk Degrees. His first hit “Lowdown” along with other hit singles “It’s Over,” “We’re All Alone,” and “Lido Shuffle,” made Silk Degrees, Scaggs’ biggest-selling album.

After taking an extended hiatus throughout most of the 1980s, Scaggs returned with Other Roads in 1988 and has continued to release new music since, including his 2018 release Out of the Blue.

Throughout a career spanning more than five decades and 19 albums, Scaggs’ multi-genre collection of music crossed over into jazz, blues, rock, soul, R&B, pop, and more making his one of the most eclectic songbooks.

“I would like them all to be understood, maybe that’s why I have trouble because I like to have lyrics say something special, and if they don’t say something special I don’t want to put them down, I don’t want them in the song – the music says enough for me,” said Scaggs of songwriting. “I’m more interested in the musical content, whether it’s the arrangement or the particular performance. Other songs just don’t make it for me until the lyrics say the whole song.”

Though Scaggs covered numerous songs over the decades, he also wrote plenty of his own. Here are just 10 songs showcasing some of the diverse roots of Boz Scaggs’ music, featuring songs he wrote from the late ’60s through 2010s.

1. “I’ll Be Long Gone” (1969)
Written by Boz Scaggs

Off his second album Boz Scaggs, the gospel-slanted “I’ll Be Long Gone,” featuring The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, is a song Scaggs likened to something Dionne Warwick would record. The album, predominantly written by Scaggs, also features a cover of early country singer Jimmy Rodgers’ “Waiting for a Train.”

I’ll be long gone
By the time you make up your mind
Gotta make my own way
Around the kinda misery I find

I’ll send you my best
Of regards and the rest
I’ll leave up to your own sense of time

Yes I’m gonna get up and make my life shine
I’m gonna get up and make my life shine
I’ve made up my mind… to make my life shine

2. “We Were Always Sweethearts” (1971)
Written by Boz Scaggs

The opening track of Scaggs’ third album Moments, “We Were Always Sweethearts” told the story of two different people who came together despite the obstacles. Produced by Glyn Johns, who had produced the Steve Miller Band albums featuring Scaggs, “We Were Always Sweethearts,” and the remaining songs on the album, feature brass arrangements by Pat O’Hara, known for his work with the Grateful Dead and Van Morrison, among others.

We were always sweethearts
Different in our ways
Together we spent happy hours
And, oh, happy days

Laughing in the sunshine
And crying in the rain
Together we knew happy days
We never knew no pain, yeah

3. “Slow Dancer” (1974)
Written by Boz Scaggs and George Daly

Before Silk Degrees, Scaggs leaned into a more R&B-driven collection of songs on his sixth album, Slow Dancer. Produced by Motown songwriter and producer Johnny Bristol (“Hang On in There Baby”), who produced Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s 1967 hits “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1967), “Your Precious Love” and many more, the album features a cover of Allen Toussaint’s “Hercules,” first recorded by Aaron Neville and, the title track, written by Scaggs, and capturing the essence of his more soulful ballads.

I have never loved a lady
Never touched no silken knee
Macon baby, you drove me crazy
You were so easy to me

Lay me down in Georgia pine cones
Whisper to me through the trees
You’re the one I always dream of
You’re the only one I see

Whoa, slow dancer, sweet romancer
Shine your light on me
Slow dancer holds the answer
Only you can set me free

4. “Lowdown” (1976)
Written by Boz Scaggs and David Paich

Though it wasn’t the first choice by Columbia Records as the debut single off Scagg’s seventh album Silk Degrees, “Lowdown,” ultimately released as the second single, became a worldwide hit, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 in Canada. Written by Scaggs and keyboardist David Paich—who would later co-found Toto in 1977 and was also the band’s main songwriter, penning their hits “Rosanna” and “Africa“—”Lowdown” was the first song the two would write together. Scaggs and Paich also penned another Silk Degrees hit, “Lido Shuffle” (see below), and “Miss Sun,” released on Scaggs’ 1980 compilation Hits.

“We took off for a weekend to this getaway outside of LA where there was a piano and stayed up all night banging around ideas,” said Scaggs on working with Paich on the song. “We hit on ‘Lowdown,’ and then we brought it back to the band and recorded it. We were just thrilled with that one. That was the first song that we attempted, and it had a magic to it.”

You ain’t got to be so bad
Got to be so cold
This dog eat dog existence
Sure is gettin’ old
Got to have a Jones for this
Jones for that
This runnin’ with the Jones’s boy
Just ain’t where it’s at
You gonna come back around
To the sad sad truth..
The dirty lowdown

5. “Lido Shuffle” (1977)
Written by Boz Scaggs and David Paich

Released a year after Silk Degrees was out, “Lido Shuffle” was also co-written with Toto‘s David Paich and features late Toto drummer Joe Porcaro (who also co-wrote “Africa” with Paich) and the band’s former bassist David Hungate. Toto singer Steve Lukather would also appear as a co-writer on Scaggs’ ninth album, Middle Man (“You Got Some Imagination”), released in 1980.

“I took the idea of the shuffle [from] a song that Fats Domino did called ‘The Fat Man’ that had a kind of driving shuffle beat that I used to play on the piano,” said Scaggs of how the song first started coming together, “and I just started kind of singing along with it.”

Lido be runnin’, havin’ great big fun until he got the note
Saying, “Tow the line or blow it, ” and that was all she wrote
He be makin’ like a beeline headin’ for the border line, goin’ for broke
Sayin’, “One more hit oughta do it
This joint, ain’t nothin’ to it
One more for the road”

6. “Breakdown Dead Ahead” (1980)
Written by Boz Scaggs and David Foster

The lead single of Scaggs’ 1980 album, Middle Man, “Breakdown Dead Ahead” was a classic showcase of Scaggs’ full-on musician collective, featuring Foster on piano, Toto’s Lukather on guitar, and Hungate on bass. Ray Parker Jr., who wrote the 1984 Ghostbusters theme song, is also featured on guitar. This would be Scaggs’ last album, and only one of two he released in the 1980s, for nearly a decade.

Danger, there’s a breakdown dead ahead
Maybe you’re in way above your head
I may burn, might upset you
But you know I’d never let you down…

I told ya
No more lyin’
No more tears fallin’
Stop your cryin’
Ooh, baby, I’m your fan
Before you go back to your side track
Baby understand…

7. “Heart of Mine” (1988)
Written by Boz Scaggs, Bobby Caldwell, Dennis Matkosky, Jason Scheff

When Scaggs returned in the 1980s, nearly a decade after releasing Middle Man, he veered into the adult contemporary world of music with his more pop and R&B album, Other Roads, and single “Heart of Mine.” The song, which peaked at No. 3 on the Adult Contemporary chart, was produced by Stewart Levine, who also produced Simply Red’s No. 1 hits, “Holding Back the Years” and “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” and the 1982 Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes’ An Officer and a Gentleman hit, “Up Where We Belong.”

One day you may find true love that will last forever and ever
‘Till then you’ll spend a lifetime wishing one together
You never thought she’d say goodbye
And you’ll never understand the reasons why

8. “After Hours” (1997)
Written by Boz Scaggs

Scaggs wrote four songs on his more blues-heavy 13th album, Come On Home, including “Picture of a Broken Heart” with Dennis Walker, “I’ve Got Your Love,” the closing piano ballad ‘Goodnight Louise” and the blues guitar-filled standout “After Hours.”

After all the ups and downs
All the dues are done
I want you to meet me after hours
And we’ll make a little run
I want you to meet me, baby, after the lights go down low
I want you to meet me after hours, then we’ll take it nice and slow.

Now, don’t you go out lookin’
No tellin’ what you find
It’s a jungle out there, baby
But just take it off your mind
I want you to meet me later after the lights go down low
I want you to meet me after hours, and leave the crazies at the door.

9. “Sunny Gone” (2013)
Written by Boz Scaggs

Scaggs’s first solo release since Speak Low in 2008, Memphis has an eclectic mix of covers, including Mink DeVille’s 1977 song “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl” and Al Green’s “So Good to Be Here,” along with two new songs penned by Scaggs, the slow soul opener “Gone Baby Gone” and his more tender piano ballad, “Sunny Gone,” which closes the album.

Crazy to remember that frozen winter
Snow-bound by a lovely face
The quiet grace soothed me
The dark wine, the warm gaze
An otherworldly spell conspired to amaze
But like those winter days it wasn’t made to last forever
And Sunny gone that way

Wiled to remember Stockholm December
A drunken choir
The ancient fire cooled me
Suddenly the spark flew off into the dark and left me there
As if she never knew me

10. “Hell to Pay,” featuring Bonnie Raitt (2015)
Written by Boz Scaggs

Off Scaggs’ 18th album, Fool to Care, this uptempo country ditty features a perfectly paired duet with Bonnie Raitt. Produced by The Rolling Stones’ drummer, Steve Jordan, Fool to Care also features this Scaggs original along with covers of songs by Curtis Mayfield and Al Green and The Band’s 1969 song “Whispering Pines,” featuring Lucinda Williams.

Well now you got your devil in the details.
Got your devil in the cake
You can’t look around most anywhere 
that the devil ain’t on the take
He’s waiting on down at the end of the isle 
he’s a waiting at the pearly gates.
I’d say the man’s about everywhere 
ubiquitous some might say
Truth is he’s worn out all us fools 
ain’t no one left to play
He’s bored, he’s mad, he’s all shook up 
and there’s gonna be hell to pay

Photos: Chris Phelps / Concord Records

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