Pop Archives

Kevin Johnson - Rock And Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life) (1973)

(Kevin Johnson)
Australia Australia
Original version
#19 Sydney #10 Melbourne #9 Brisbane #5 Adelaide #8 Perth #23 UK

Single on the Good Thyme label through Festival, also released in the US on Mainstream (1973) and in the UK on Decca’s UK label (1974, charted 1975). Began to chart in Australia in September 1973.

This was the first released version of  Rock And Roll. It was recorded soon after Kevin Johnson advised his publisher and label in Nashville that he was about to leave them to record the song himself, as he had submitted it without any outcome. He was told that other versions had already been recorded and were awaiting release in the US, so he moved quickly, recording and releasing his own version in two weeks. (Kevin Johnson, email to Jan Baart, October 2008)

Singer-songwriter Kevin Johnson (b.1943) came from Tungamull near Rockhampton, Queensland. He had written for other artists and issued some singles and an album before his first hit Bonnie Please Don’t Go (aka She’s Leavin’, 1971) led to a songwriting and recording contract with Tree International in Nashville, owners of Dial Records. It was Rock And Roll that made his name internationally: according to Ian McFarlane, there were 27 versions from 1975 alone, making it “one of the most covered songs written by an Australian artist”.

Apart from the versions noted on this page, Paul McHenry in Cover Me lists versions by Col Joye, Doug Kershaw, Gary Glitter, Howard Carpendale, Joe Dassin, John Leyton, Kai Hyttinen, Larry Murray (producer of Digby Richards, see below), Love Wind, Peter Belli, Sam Neely, Stein Sngebrigtsen, The Sets, and Studio Country Singers. This would not be a complete list.

References: 1. Correspondence between Jan Baart and Kevin Johnson, October 2008. 2. Ian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of Australian Rock & Pop, pp. 331-332. 3. Kevin Johnson’s biography at his site www.rocknrolligaveyou.com. 3. Paul McHenry, Cover Me, p.36. 4. Kevin Johnson (singer) at Wikipedia.

Thank you to Jan Baart for suggestion and original research.


The Cats - Rock ‘n’ Roll (1973)

(Kevin Johnson)
Netherlands Netherlands
Later version
#3 Netherlands

Single on EMI, in English, arranged by Wim Jongbloed, produced by Klaas Leyen. Recorded in November 1973 at EMI studio, Heemstede. The song was sourced from a US demo recording.

The Cats were a popular 60s and 70s band from Volendam, initially known as The Mystic Four and The Blue Cats

The Cats also covered Johnny Farnham's In My Room.

References, further reading: 1. Wikipedia entry on The Cats. 2. Cats discography at All Music Guide. 3. Single data at Discogs.com. 4. The Cats – Rock'n'Roll at DutchCharts.nl. 5. Cats site at thecats.nl (in Dutch). 6. Original research by Jan Baat.


Craig Scott - Rock ‘n’ Roll (1973)

(Kevin Johnson)
New Zealand New Zealand
Later version
#13 NZ

Singer from Dunedin, often on the NZ charts in the 70s, groomed as a solo pop star after fronting bands that included Battle of the Sounds winners Revival (Viva Bobby Joe, 1969,#14 NZ).

See also Smiley and Ciao Baby (1971).

Reference: Craig Scott page at Bruce Sergent's New Zealand Music site.


Mac Davis - Rock And Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life) (1974)

(Kevin Johnson)
USA USA
Later version
#15 USA

Single on Columbia, one of four Top 40 singles by country singer-songwriter and actor (b.1942) from Lubbock, TX. Mac Davis's biggest mainstream hit was his composition Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me (1972, #1 USA). Among his better-known compositions are Elvis Presley's  A Little Less Conversation and In The Ghetto.


Digby Richards - Rock And Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life) (1974)

(Kevin Johnson)
Australia Australia
Later version

Recorded in the US with producer Larry Murray. On RCA album Digby Richards. This recording date may have preceded Kevin Johnson’s, but Johnson’s was released first.

Digby Richards (1941-1983), earlier known as Dig Richards, was a prolific and versatile Australian rock and pop star who was in the charts from 1959 and into the 70s when he favoured a country style.

References, further reading: 1. Digby Richards page at Howlspace (Internet Archive). 2.  Digby Richards album credits at Artist Direct. 3. Larry Murray career credits at Artist Direct. 4. Larry Murray bio at ByrdWatch. 5. Original research by Jan Baart.


Sonny Curtis - Rock And Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life) (1974)

(Kevin Johnson)
USA USA
Later version


Terry Jacks - Rock And Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life) (1974)

(Kevin Johnson)
Canada Canada
Later version
#17 Canada [CKLG Vancouver]

Single on Bell. Canadian singer-songwriter Terry Jacks and his first wife Susan Pesklevits had a big hit in 1970 as The Poppy Family with Which Way You Goin' Billy? (#1 USA) but Jacks is best known for Seasons In The Sun, his international hit from 1974.

Reference: All Music Guide biography of Terry Jacks.

Jon English's Australian hit Hollywood Seven was written with Terry Jacks in mind but he never recorded it.


Kevin Johnson - Aussie Rules I Thank You (For The Best Years of Our Lives) (1996)

(Kevin Johnson)
Australia Australia
Later version

Rewrite by Kevin Johnson, the official song of the Australian Football League’s centenary.

Reference: Kevin Johnson (singer) at Wikipedia.