Bread was an American soft-rock group, formed by David Gates and James Griffin in Los Angeles, California in the late 1960s. In the 1970s, they achieved several hits such as “Make It With You,” “It Don’t Matter To Me,” “If,” “Baby I’mA Want You,” “Everything I Own,” and “Lost Without Your Love.” Bread disbanded in 1977, but their hits have continued to be timeless, nevertheless. They are one of the best acts to embody the “soft rock” sound.
Formation and subsequent popularity
The formation of Bread took place in Los Angeles, California in 1969. Musician, songwriter and singer David Gates (who had worked as a session musician) met guitarist and singer-songwriter James Griffin. Gates and Griffin soon teamed up together to produce a new album. Then the duo recruited guitarist/singer Robb Royer whom Gates had performed with in their previous band The Pleasure Fair.
They named their newly-formed group Bread, and soon they became one of the first pop bands on the Elektra label. Bread released their first single in the summer of 1969 “Dismal Day;” however, it did not chart. In September that year, Bread released their eponymous debut album, where “Dismal Day” and other tracks such as “It Don’t Matter to Me” and “Friends And Lovers” appeared. Gates wrote the bulk of the songs, with some contributions from Griffin and Royer.
Although the album Bread contained the melodic rock pop style that the band would become famous for, it otherwise charted quite low on the Billboard 200 (at #127).
Bread released their second album On the Waters in 1970. The band at last scored a big hit from that album with one of their now-classic songs “Make It With You” (#1 US pop, #4 US adult contemporary, #5 UK), written by Gates. The reworking of one track from their first album, “It Don’t Matter to Me” was released as single later that year. “It Don’t Matter to Me” went to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 (#2 on the adult contemporary singles chart).
On the Waters peaked at #12 on the Billboard 200, selling over a million copies and was awarded with a gold disc. After having worked with a couple of session drummers, Bread hired a full time drummer named Mike Botts in time for their first tour.
Bread released their third LP Manna in 1971; it peaked at #21 on the Billboard 200. It yielded two Top 40 hits “Let Your Love Go” (at #28 pop) and one of their most popular songs “If” (#4 pop, #1 adult contemporary), both written by Gates.
In 1971 Bread released three singles: “Mother Freedom” (#37 pop), and another couple of now-classic Bread tunes “Baby I’m-A Want You” (#3 US pop, #1 US adult contemporary, #14 UK) and “Everything I Own” (#5 US pop, #3 US adult contemporary, #32 UK). The success of these singles built up Bread’s reputation as a popular soft-rock band.
The release of the abovementioned singles predated the January 1972 release of their fourth LP Baby I’m-A Want You. The LP (their first outing with keyboardist Larry Knetchel) became Bread’s highest charting album ever, peaking at #3. Another single from the album, “Diary,” appeared on the pop chart in April 1972, peaking at #15 there (#3 adult contemporary).
Despite the success (or maybe even because of it), tensions began to surface between Gates and Griffin over writing material. Gates had written and sung the majority of Bread’s singles. Griffin claimed that from the day Bread was formed, that the songwriting should be equally divided between the two of them. This, among other things such as fatigue from constant touring, contributed to Bread’s split. Following their disbandment, Gates and Griffin launched their own solo careers, with mixed results.
Bread reunited in 1977 to release their final album Lost Without Your Love (peaking at #26) before splitting up for good. The album yielded their final top ten pop hit “Lost Without Your Love” (at #9).
Gates and Griffin continued to focus on their solo careers. Of the two, Gates was the more successful with hits such as “Goodbye Girl” and “Took the Last Train” under his belt. He also reformed a new group under the name Bread, and as a result Griffin sued Gates for using the name without his consent. Both he and Gates owned the name. The legal battle ensued until it was settled in 1984.
In the mid-1990s, Gates, Griffin, Botts and Knetchel reunited for their world silver anniversary tour. The tour extended up to the following year, but the tour also staged Bread for the very last time. Griffin and Botts passed away in 2005; Knetchel died four years later. Gates and Royer are the only surviving members. Bread was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2006.