Michael Lessac

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Michael Lessac enjoyed a multi-tiered career during the 1960s as a theatrical director, actor, and singer/songwriter. That combination of endeavors might not have made him too unusual, in an era that…
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Michael Lessac enjoyed a multi-tiered career during the 1960s as a theatrical director, actor, and singer/songwriter. That combination of endeavors might not have made him too unusual, in an era that saw the rise to prominence of such figures as Richard FariƱa and Leonard Cohen, but the fact that he held a doctorate in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania -- earned when he was 24 -- did set him apart. Born in the early '40s, Lessac's performing career began at age ten when he appeared on a television show that his father directed, and by age 12 he had begun singing as a member of the children's chorus, though he gave that up when his voice changed. He concentrated on theater, first as an actor and then as a director, into his late teens and early twenties, and managed to squeeze in a music career in between studying at Swathmore and the University of Pennsylvania. He was active in the antiwar movement as a performer, and even aspired to a recording career at one point. During the second half of the 1960s, Lessac was managed by David Zimmerman, the brother of Bob Dylan, though his cerebral, bespectacled, almost owlish presence couldn't have been more different from that of the scruffy folk-rock icon. Lessac was good enough to attract the attention of John Hammond, Sr. as the producer of his 1968 Columbia Records LP Sleep Faster, We Need the Pillow. All of that activity helped earn him a place as a footnoted figure in the broader history and range of activity surrounding Dylan in the 1960s. His brand of Eric Andersen-style folk music was not sufficiently commercial to sustain a music career, however, and by the 1970s, Lessac was working almost exclusively in theater as a director. He has since enjoyed a long and lucrative career as a television director, specializing in comedy.