David Gates: The Goodbye Girl

David Gates was a member of Bread and released a number of solo albums.  In 1977, he provided the theme song to the Neil Simon film, The Goodbye Girl.  The film went on to earn over $100 million, which was a really big deal then, and an Academy Award for Best Actor to Richard Dreyfuss.


In 1978, Gates released the album, Goodbye Girl, which included the song of the same name, a few new songs and a smattering of songs from his two earlier solo albums.  Most of the big Bread hits were written and sung by Gates.  He had a talent for melody and a perfect voice for radio.


“It Don’t Matter to Me”, “Make it With You”, “If”, “Everything I Own”, “Diary”, “Baby, I’m a Want You”, “Aubrey”, “The Guitar Man”, “Lost Without Your Love” were all Gates-penned chart hits.  You get the idea he can write a memorable tune.

The Goodbye Girl album was an interesting mix of songs.  They weren’t all ballads, Gates had a hard rocking side, but he also had a progressive jazz flair where he built several longer-form compositions.  He obviously had the greatest success in shorter pop songs and that’s how he earned his reputation.  I always felt he could have done film scores or more complex instrumental songs.

Although not a greatest hits album, Goodbye Girl did collect the better songs from his solo albums along with six new songs.  If you like Bread, this album’s songs will be pleasing.  Gates, who plays several instruments (guitar, bass, keyboards), used a core group of Larry Knechtel (bass, piano), Mike Botts (drums) and Dean Parks (guitar) on the new songs.

“The Goodbye Girl” followed in a similar vein, a gentle ballad that built to a big conclusion.  The song is less than three minutes long, efficiently written and covers a lot of musical ground in that amount of time. Gates grew up as a contract songwriter in the 1960s, writing songs hopefully to get on the radio, three minutes or less.

“Took the Last Train” (4:32)  The second single from the album, it has that programmed drum beat, Moog synthesizer and jazzy horn (by Jim Horn), a bit unlike past Bread songs.  The sound was fresh and contemporary.  Future Gates solo material failed to pursue this new path.

“Overnight Sensation” (4:58)  A soft piano song dominated song, enhanced with strings and other instruments. Nice guitar solo by Parks (Steely Dan).  The lyrics are about making it in Hollywood.

“California Lady” (3:52)  A straight rocker with growling guitars.  Exactly what you would have heard in Bread.

“Ann” (previously released on First) (3:50)  A gentle, acoustic guitar ballad. Somewhat similar to “Diary” and “If.”  Gates plays all of the instruments.

“Drifter” (3:37)  A country-rock song, similar to Poco.  Steel guitar by Dan Dugmore (Linda Ronstadt) and fiddle by David Lindley (Jackson Brown, Crosby & Nash).   A nice change of pace.

“He Don’t Know How to Love You” (2:43)  Reminds me of early Eagles with the guitar work and pounding country beat.

“Suite: Clouds, Rain” (previously released on First) (8:52)  One of the best things Gates has ever done, a great suite of songs in one.  He uses the Moog very effectively, along with strings, but quite adaptable to creating an images of cloud layers.  Larry Knechtel plays on nearly every song and co-produces with Gates.  The song changes direction a few times and is very pleasing. Very Paul McCartney-like. Why didn’t he do more of these?

“Lorilee” (previously released on First) (4:42)  Another syncopated jazzy melody with a great bass-line.  Knechtel plays organ and piano, with Gates on bass and guitar.  A really nice piece of music, very Steely Dan-like.

“Part-Time Love” (previously released on Never Let Her Go) (2:23)  Very Bread-like.  A jazzy piano-bar kind of ballad.  Nicely played by Gates and Knechtel.

“Sunday Rider” (previously released on First) (3:21)  A gritty, electric guitar song.  Guitars by Gates and a solo by Larry Carlton (Steely Dan).

“Never Let Her Go” (previously released on Never Let Her Go) (3:07)  A really nice song, in the same style as “The Guitar Man.”  One of the best songs Gates wrote, sweet, but not syrupy.


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