It's been 30 years since Robbie Dupree struck gold with Steal Away, a soft but infectious FM hit that reached the Top 20 in 1980. Don't even pretend you've forgotten the song. If it's not burned into your iPod, it's burned into the back of your brain.
"Why don't we steal away … why don't we steal away … into the night. I know it ain't right."
The New York native, now 63 years old and living in Woodstock, is on the road a lot these days, touring annually in Japan, Scandinavia and Italy. Between that, Dupree makes time to record new albums — his latest, Time and Tide, was released earlier this year — and perform about 35 shows in the U.S., including a date Saturday at the Largo Cultural Center with Paul Cotton of Poco.
He spoke with the Times about his recent appearance on late-night TV and the enduring career he's enjoyed.
What a surprise it was seeing you in May performing Steal Away on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
It's totally sweet. Jimmy Fallon is clearly a guy who's been given a lot in life. And he knows that and he gives back. And I feel my appearance on his show was a give-back. He loves the music. He was probably 5 years old when that song came out, but he probably grew up on it with his parents. Through the years, the song stayed alive.
Fallon dubbed it "Yacht Rock Night." I'm not sure how you react to that sort of label to your music.
A lot of people take the "yacht rock" thing the wrong way. I know what you mean. It's kind of a left-handed comment. But it isn't really a put-down. We all know about it, whether it's Christopher Cross or Michael McDonald or Kenny Loggins. It's not really to ridicule.
I always felt it trivialized a type of music I love.
I know. It does in a certain way. But better to have that name than no name. It's a way for the college kids and the younger audience to relate to it. You can't fight it. Overseas, they have no idea what "yacht rock" is. They just call it west coast music.
Going back to 1980, your breakthrough success came as MTV started. Do you feel like your career was clipped by the music-video revolution?
I don't feel that way so much. I didn't begin playing music with the thought I was going to be a star. I'm a blue-collar kid who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. For me, playing music was a way out. The success that came to be was deserved, I thought, but I never felt like this business owed me a dime after that. It gave me plenty.
But could it have been better?
Yeah, if it wasn't for things changing, but things change. I knocked off someone. Someone knocked off Perry Como. Music changes. The pop radio scene has a certain duration — 10 years or less. As the next thing comes along, you become marginalized to a certain degree. But there's no debt. I've been very, very lucky.