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Catching the Song Fish

David Herlihy ’82: Lawyer turned band frontman, turned lawyer again, turned solo artist.

David Herlihy ’82.  Photograph by Cheryl Clegg

Herlihy’s first memory is of music. “I was sitting at the kitchen table with my family, and everybody was singing,” he says. “It was almost like their voices had colors, and I could see my own color.” That near-spiritual connection with music became the driving force of Herlihy’s career in rock and in entertainment law, which he teaches at Boston’s Northeastern University. The former frontman of the band O Positive has also embarked on a solo music career.

Although he began writing songs in fifth grade (many were about dogs, and one featured a hippie who took LSD until he turned blue), Herlihy didn’t consider music a career path. Inspired by TV lawyer Perry Mason, Herlihy decided to pursue law—but he couldn’t give up music entirely.

While attending Boston College Law School, Herlihy DJ’d at the college radio station. Balancing radio with law school was challenging, but he persevered and, after graduation, began working for a white collar criminal defense firm. Herlihy hated it. 

“I didn’t want to squander my golden ticket of life on this planet for clients who were not good people,” he says. Herlihy abandoned law to “follow my bliss” as frontman for the band O Positive. The first time they performed, at the Channel nightclub in Boston, he says, “I felt like I was forty feet tall.” 

Twelve years, hundreds of shows, and nine albums and EPs later, O Positive hit a plateau, and Herlihy returned to law, with a focus on the music industry. He advised musicians in copyright law and intellectual property rights, which is what he teaches at Northeastern. Herlihy has also embarked on a new stage of his music career. Before Covid, “I felt like a canoe going down the rapids,” he says. But during lockdown, “the water was calm and I could see all these song fish swimming around.” He wrote more than forty songs and in May, Lunch Records produced his solo EP, “Postcards from Kindergarten, Volume One.” Herlihy has also returned to the Boston stage, where he performs with the joy of someone who knows where he belongs. The colors are bright, and all his own.