Elvis Costello and Village Music’s John Goddard. Courtesy image.

One of Mill Valley’s musical icons is getting its latest, well-deserved moment in the spotlight this month as music legend John Goddard, who owned and operated the beloved local record shop Village Music for nearly 40 years, is the subject of the Mill Valley Public Library’s renowned Lower Level Gallery.

Over his four decades owning the shop at 9 East Blithedale Ave., Goddard developed lasting friendships, a renowned concert series, a mighty personal record collection, and a deep sense of community that continues to resonate with Mill Valley’s music lovers. Countless influential musicians from around the world stopped by Village Music to meet with John and peruse the records in his shop. As BB King put it, Goddard was “the owner of the best record store in the world.”

On Tuesday, Feb. 7th, 5:30-7:30, the library is hosting a reception to celebrate the opening of our new exhibit, Village Music: The Best Little Record Store in the World. No registration is required.

The gallery showcase is the latest effort to honor what Goddard built. In 2012, a screening of Gillian and Monroe Grisman’s five-years-in-the-making documentary about Village Music covered a lot of ground in its world premiere at the 35th Mill Valley Film Festival, with a star-studded Sweetwater concert afterwards, musicians and music buffs paying homage to a great record store and the power of song.

More than anything, the Grismans’ documentary is about Goddard’s mighty impact on musicians. That influence spans from the inspiration heavyweights like Elvis Costello and Bonnie Raitt drew from Goddard’s encyclopedic musical knowledge and his one-of-everything inventory to the unexpected career jolt Village’s in-store shows or anniversary parties at the Sweetwater brought to artists toiling in obscurity.

“This is where we got all of our source material,” says Grateful Dead guitarist and Sweetwater Music Hall co-owner Bob Weir.

“This store has been my muse since I moved here,” says DJ Shadow, who played regular DJ sets at Village during its final weeks, including a jaw-dropping, four-turntable set with longtime collaborator Cut Chemist.

Goddard’s influence on musicians was obvious long after the film screening ended as mega-watt stars and under-the-radar powerhouses took the stage at the Sweetwater for the Village Music All-Stars tribute concert. Costello, Sammy Hagar, Narada Michael Walden, Dan Hicks, Jerry Harrison, Elvin Bishop and Bill Kirchen all showed up, as did a cast of longtime local stalwarts, including Austin deLone, Jonathan Korty, Scott Mathews.

Many of the film’s interviews from 2007 perfectly capture the deep melancholy felt by many local residents and regular visitors who worried about the long-term impact of the loss of the Sweetwater and Village Music on the cultural footing of Mill Valley and beyond.

“It’s like losing a species,” actor Peter Coyote says in the film. “The generations that follow have nothing to compare it to, so they’re not going to notice it’s gone.”


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