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Al. Ringling Theatre hosts Rita Coolidge in Baraboo

September 26, 2018

Rita Coolidge says it’s never too late in life to follow the push of passion, and backed up her words by releasing an album this year at age 73.

The two-time Grammy Award winner will perform her latest songs — as well as her hits from decades ago — Friday at the Al. Ringling Theatre.

“Her musical collaborations were the background soundtrack to our youth. Her music was everywhere,” said Stephanie Miller-Lamb, executive director of the Al. Ringling Theatre Friends. “When an artist has the commercial success that she’s had and then refers to her newest work as ‘the best record she’s ever done,’ well, we’re clearly in for something very special.”

Coolidge’s hits have included “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do” and “We’re All Alone.” She has collaborated with Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and onetime husband Kris Kristofferson.

In May, she released a solo album, “Safe in the Arms of Time,” a personal and often autobiographical piece. She conveys the message that it’s never too late to find inspiration.

“I think that people can find love and joy and new careers,” she said.

For her 18th solo album, Coolidge took extra care choosing the songs, the musicians and producer Ross Hogarth. That’s why it took three years. “I think it worked,” she said. “It’s been really well-received by music critics, but because of my age, radio doesn’t want to play it.”

The nonprofit that runs Baraboo’s historic playhouse was eager to include Coolidge in its Living with ART performance series.

“This will prove to be a really memorable evening for us and, I believe, for Ms. Coolidge as well,” Miller-Lamb said. “Performing in the acoustically excellent, absolutely beautiful Al. Ringling Theatre is proving to be a pretty memorable experience for our guest artists.”

Radio stations may not be interested, but for the first time in her five-decade career, Coolidge finds herself playing the CD in her car. As she wrote and recorded songs for the album, she found herself writing her personal story. The “Delta Lady” explores reuniting with an old flame and finding love late in life. “Safe in the Arms of Time” is a roots record about Coolidge’s roots. She even recorded it at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, where she made her first solo albums.

“I think it’s always personal,” she said of writing music. “There’s some of your truth in there.”

Coolidge wrote the famous piano coda in “Layla” and recorded the theme song for the James Bond film “Octopussy.” She made her bones in the 1970s as a top backup singer — that’s her on the refrains of Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With” and Clapton’s “After Midnight” — before embarking on a platinum-selling solo career.

Her latest work reflects a more intimate approach. She performs the hits people expect to hear along with her latest material, backed by a hand-picked band. “We have a good time playing together, and that gets out to the audience,” Coolidge said.

After seeing pictures online, Coolidge said she’s looking forward to seeing the refurbished Al. Ringling Theatre.

“We’ll give them a good show,” she said.

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