In a week of obituaries and mourning, it is excessive to add one more to the line, but this is one that could not go by disregarded.
Carmelo Esteban Martin Caro, the original lead singer of the 1960s baroque pop band The Left Banke, lent his voice to classics like “Pretty Ballerina” and the eternal “Walk Away Renee.” He went by the shortened, Americanized Steve Martin until 1980 to avoid being confused with the better-known actor-comedian.
The son of flamenco guitarist/vocalist Sarita Heredia, Martin Caro’s voice seemed like the only voice that could have handled songwriter Michael Brown’s elegant compositions. As the band and string section alike sounded ready for takeoff, Martin Caro’s voice kept it earthbound in the best possible sense.
As much a fan as I am of Marshall Crenshaw and his version of “Walk Away Renee,” it could only serve the tribute’s role. Further, the imprint of that song is so deep, it effectively put a haze over much of The Left Banke’s output, which was woefully minimal. The Left Banke arrived at a time where vocal groups like The Association, The Mamas and the Papas, and more could infuse what are essentially intimate songs with a grand, epic sweep. The Left Banke, with Steve Martin (Caro) at the microphone, made that grandeur sound relatable.
You probably couldn’t sing like him, however.
Steve Martin Caro died from heart disease on January 14, 2020. He was 71.