Thursday, 5 November 2015

Old Folkie

My father raised a folkie.

It was embedded in utero. Instead of traditional lullabies, my dad sang me the songs of Woody and Pete. I was cradled with a proverbial hammer in my fist and was rocked to sleep by the gentle lilts of a hobo. I sang the entirety of Stewball at two,(verses and chorus) and by the time I was six Dad had already taken me to my first Peter, Paul, and Mary concert. (My first of many.)

I would spend hours playing Dad's extensive vinyl collection until the records were pitted and grooved. Woody, the Weavers, PPM, Harry Belafonte, The Kingston Trio, Joe and Eddie, The Christy Minstrels, The Serendipity Singers, Pete, Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, and of course Tom Paxton. Dad would always sing along in his deep and lustrous baritone. (I would always giggle when he tried to mimic the sound effects Tom made on The Marvellous Toy.) These artists were the soundtrack of my youth. Their music stirred my passions, my politics, my social conscience, my inner faith. I was and still am, a disciple.

The Husband also shares my passion. We've happily doled out much cash over the years to add to and upgrade that original collection, and we've spent many a happy hour in dark clubs listening to our favourites perform live. So when it was announced that Tom Paxton would be returning for a final farewell this fall at Hugh's Room, we were amongst the first to snag tickets.

We have seen Tom countless times over the years and he never fails to disappoint. His voice and his stories are mellifluous, and his easy demeanour with an audience makes me feel as though he were singing just to me in the living room. He his consistent and constant, and his songs return me to an era of social involvement, collective protest, community involvement, and loving importance. At the youngish age of 78 and with more than sixty albums to his credit, Tom still wields a commanding charisma onstage, and his pathos when he speaks of old friends and loves is sincerely moving.

Tom's new songs (yes he is still actively writing and recording) mix easily with old favourites. His acerbic wit is biting and his short shelf-life songs are still ironically relevant. He has promised to keep writing and maintain his strong internet presence, but he has decided to retire from the road. He said he is tired and I suppose that after more than fifty years in the trenches he has earned the rest.

I didn't expect to be so emotional at Tom's Toronto swan song. As he tuned his Martin for a final performance of Ramblin' Boy, I realized that this was truly the end of an era. Somewhere around the second verse I was misty, and by the final chorus the tears were copious. I had a chance to shake his hand after the concert as he signed a CD for me, (a remix of his very first recording) and I thanked him for the music. It seemed like so little to say to a man who has given me so much.

My dad is presently out of town and unfortunately he missed this special evening. It seemed almost a loose end that he wasn't there with me. When I see him in a few weeks, I will share the CD, tell him the stories, and we will listen like old times. Maybe I'll even giggle when I hear The Marvellous Toy. What could be better than that?

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