4 Songs You Didn’t Know Featured Steve Martin

Steve Martin is one of the world’s most unique and consistently hilarious comedians. Martin came bursting onto the scene in the 1970s with his notorious King Tut skit, making history as the first comedian to have a platinum-selling album. In 1981, Martin took an unannounced break from standup that lasted more than 30 years.

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In the interim, he made music into a substantial pastime, offering up his master banjo skills in live performances with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Steep Canyon Rangers and his multiple collaborations with Edie Brickell. His 2009 debut album, The Crow: New Songs for the 5-String Banjo, won him the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2010. Check out four songs you didn’t know featured Martin.

[RELATED: The Steve Martin Banjo Prize Announces 2022 Winners]

1. “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” by Earl Scruggs

Perhaps Martin’s most famous banjo performance is that of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” by Earl Scruggs. Originally written by Scruggs and released in 1950, the iconic banjo player offered an updated version in 2001 with an all-star cast of Martin on the second banjo, along with Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Leon Russell and more on various instruments. At the 2002 Grammy Awards, it won Best Country Instrumental Performance.

2. “I Hate Love” by Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson got a little musical help from none other than Martin on her 2023 album, chemistry. Martin’s banjo-picking skills appear on the second-to-last track, “I Hate Love.” In fact, the sound of Martin’s banjo is the first thing listeners hear as they press play, layered over an electronic-infused pop beat.

“I wrote it like a stream of consciousness, like most of this album,” Clarkson told American Songwriter about writing “I Hate Love” in the wake of her divorce from Brandon Blackstock. “When I wrote [‘i hate love’], it was more cutesy. I just pictured myself smiling for the camera, because while the global pandemic was happening, my whole life was also erupting.”

3. “California” by Dailey & Vincent

Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent had one of their dreams come true when Martin joined them on “California,” a deep cut on Dailey & Vincent’s 2017 album, Patriots & Poets. Martin’s presence on the banjo is subtle, yet distinct, contributing to the organic instrumentation of the bluegrass group.

“I grew up being a big fan of his, and when we first met him ten years ago and became friends with him, it was a dream come true,” Dailey raved of Martin to Billboard. “I never imagined that he would actually come and act on an album of ours…Darrin called Steve to see if he would do it for us, and he so graciously agreed to come in and act on the song. I never dreamed I would get to be on an album with Steve Martin.”

4. “Foggy Morning Breaking” by Alison Brown

Martin teamed up with another prolific banjo player when Alison Brown invited him to play on “Foggy Morning Breaking.” The song, co-written by Brown and Martin, is a reference to a lyric in fellow legendary banjo player John Hartford’s song, “Down on the Levee.” It’s also a nod to Scruggs’ famous banjo number, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”

“Steve loves the banjo,” Brown shared with People. “He takes it really seriously. He’s really trying to be the best player that he can be. He’s got such an incredible work ethic to begin with, but when you see how hard he works at trying to be the best banjo player he could be, it’s really inspiring.”

“Breaking” is the second single off Brown’s 2023 album, On Banjo.

Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic

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