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In Case You Forgot Paul Allen Is Living the Dream, He Just Released a Rock Album


Allen (center), Billy Cox, Eric Gales, and Ernie Isley jamming at a 2012 Jimi Hendrix Tribute show in Seattle

Photograph by Jim Bennett/Corbis

Allen (center), Billy Cox, Eric Gales, and Ernie Isley jamming at a 2012 Jimi Hendrix Tribute show in Seattle

Paul Allen’s bucket list must be getting quite short. On Tuesday the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft (MSFT)released a major-label solo album, Everywhere at Once, on which he sings and plays guitar alongside such guests as Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, Chrissie Hynde, Joe Walsh, Derek Trucks, Doyle Bramhall, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, and Ivan Neville.

Life is good for Allen. He is the world’s 53rd richest man. Since retiring from Microsoft, he has purchased: the Seattle Seahawks, led by a surprisingly exciting young quarterback in Russell Wilson; the Portland Trail Blazers, which hit the jackpot with rookie-of-the-year guard Damian Lillard; and the Seattle Sounders, which is apparently a “preposterously riveting” soccer team. He owns the guitar Jimi Hendrix played at Woodstock.

To top it off, Allen’s songs are hardly the same mockable fare former Groupon (GRPN) Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mason delivered with his business-themed motivational music. Allen plays it straight. The album contains nothing tech-related. It sounds like something that my mom, a mellowing ex-hippie who likes Bonnie Raitt, would put on in the background while we play Scrabble. It’s pleasantly unremarkable; some of the songs are even kind of fun. My favorite track was Six Strings From Hell (which you can listen to here). Allen’s music is funny only if you actively think about the founder of Microsoft playing guitar. At this point, even that isn’t terribly surprising. He founded the EMP museum, a rock ‘n’ roll museum in Seattle, and he cut an album with a band called Grown Men in 2000, with a cover cartoon of a baby burning a guitar.

Such dalliances in sports and music are further evidence of how immense success frees grown-ups up to live their teenaged fantasies. James Dolan, who runs Cablevision (CVC) and the New York Knicks, has JD & the Straight Shots. Stephen King, Dan Barry, and Scott Turow spent years with a band led by Kathi Goldmark, a book publicist. For a time, Michael Jordan fancied himself a baseball player, then a basketball executive.

Allen’s post-Microsoft career is arguably the most impressive of the lot. His teams are winning and his music isn’t bad. Nice work, if you can get it.

Brustein is a writer for Businessweek.com in New York.

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