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Biography

  • Born

    2 September 1923

  • Died

    14 February 1990 (aged 66)

Victor Lundberg

Victor Lundberg (September 2, 1923 – February 14, 1990) was an American radio personality. He is best known for a spoken-word record called "An Open Letter To My Teenage Son", which became an unlikely Top 10 hit in 1967.

Lundberg was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and was a newscaster at Grand Rapids radio station WMAX when he released "An Open Letter" in September 1967. The record, written by Robert R Thompson and produced by Jack Tracy, imagines Lundberg talking to his teenage son (in real life, Lundberg had at least one male teenager in his household at the time). Lundberg touches on hippies, the Vietnam War, and patriotism. The voice-over, spoken over "Battle Hymn of the Republic", memorably ends with Lundberg telling his son that, if the teen burns his draft card, then he should "burn birth certificate at the same time. From that moment on, I have no son."

Hit record
"An Open Letter" became a hit in Michigan and was released nationally by Liberty Records, jumping onto the Billboard Hot 100 at #84 on November 11, 1967. Within three weeks it went #58 - #18 - #10, making it one of the dozen or so fastest-climbing records in Hot 100 history up to that point, and Lundberg made an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. After another week at #10, the record slipped to #22 for the week ending December 16, 1967, then vanished from the Hot 100 completely, after a total run of just six weeks. Few other records have ever been ranked so high in such a short chart stay on the Hot 100 (Napoleon XIV's "They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" peaked at #3 but was only on the Hot 100 for six weeks; Kenny G's "Auld Lang Syne" (The Millennium Mix) peaked at #7 but was only the Hot 100 for five weeks). However, it sold over one million copies within a month of release and was awarded a gold disc. "An Open Letter" also received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Spoken Word Recording, losing to Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen's "Gallant Men".

There were also at least eight "response" records: Keith Gordon's "A Teenager's Answer", released on the Tower label, "A Teenager's Open Letter To His Father" by Robert Tamlin., "Letter From A Teenage Son" by Brandon Wade , "A Letter To Dad" by Every Father's Teenage Son" , "Hi, Dad (An Open Letter To Dad)" by Dick Clair , "An Open Letter To My Dad" by Marceline and "Open Letter To The Older Generation" by Dick Clark .

Criticism
The record was heavily criticised in a scathing review by William Zinsser, 'The Pitfalls of Pop's Pompous Pop-off' in Life Magazine, 5 January 1968.

Later years
Encouraged by the single's success, Liberty released an entire album of Lundberg's musings, entitled An Open Letter (LST 7547) that failed to chart. The album featured ten selections, many of which took a less strongly conservative line than "Teenage Son". "My Buddy Carl" (originally the B-side of the hit single) decried racial prejudice, while "On Censorship", takes an almost Libertarian view of "self-appointed … censorious do-gooders". (Lundberg is sometimes identified as a leader of the Libertarian Party, but sources differ as to whether he was actually a member; the national party was not formed until 1971.)

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