by Robert Wilkinson
Today we celebrate the birthday of one of my favorite folksinger-songwriters, the extremely talented John Gorka.
As I’ve written in past birthday tributes, this man could do voiceovers for the Angels, as his pipes resonate on some pretty amazing frequencies! The first time I heard John Gorka (27 July 1958) was on a Windham Hill Christmas CD about 20 years ago, and his voice immediately got my attention. His music is haunting, beautiful, humorous, poignant, rowdy, and definitely genuine.
If you haven't heard him sing, you're in for a major treat. As a reviewer once wrote, "His piercing poetic lyrics are as arresting as his vocals... folk heaven." Once upon a time, Rolling Stone magazine called him "the preeminent male singer-songwriter of what has been dubbed the New Folk Movement."
I've done birthday celebrations for a few years, and found there are quite a few videos out there. They mostly seem from a couple of concerts held in intimate venues, and I suspect one was from a show I attended in West Los Angeles at the ever-fabulous McCabe's Guitar Shop. I just saw him in Austin last December, and he’s still in fine form!
Anyway, prepare to enjoy yourself in concert with one of the great talents of our era! As usual, some require more time to buffer than others, but they're all worth the wait. If you want the video to open in a new tab, right click on the link.
Let's begin with one of my favorites, written in a somewhat grim stage of his life. Here's the title song from his 2nd CD, "Land of the Bottom Line." Though the album features an amazingly powerful set of tracks, as he sez, it really doesn't have any happy songs on it. Still, it's truly a great album!
Here's an extraordinarily funny song, a wry take on aging: "People My Age."
As any one from New Jersey will agree, this song gets it all in a nutshell: "I'm From New Jersey."
My wife is a New Jersey Italian and loves this one! From "Land of the Bottom Line," "Italian Girls."
Combine a haunting voice singing a sad song, and you get a little piece of his genuineness (which is why so many love him!) Here are two sad ones and one fairly in your face, all from "Land of the Bottom Line" (I told you it's an amazing album!)
Another confessional from early in his career (or maybe commentary on the human condition), a bit of a rocker: "Mean Streak."
Another early one, "Jack's Crows."
From "Writing in the Margins," the extraordinary title song: "Writing In the Margins."
Also from "Writing in the Margins," "Chance of Rain."
Here are a few more that you may enjoy!
Here’s a KXT live performance of John doing “I’m From New Jersey”
From WNRN in 2010, John doing a live performance in the studio of three tunes. First, the amazing and deep “Ignorance and Privilege”
Here’s something John did for Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday on Folk Alley. For your enjoyment, "The Water is Wide"
The title song of his DVD (it's great!) "Gypsy Life."
As I said, I saw him in Austin in early December 2013 right before his tour of the Netherlands. For your enjoyment, a full 27 minute show! John Gorka 2013 Tour of the Netherlands
From the tour list on the site, we see he’s playing MD, NY, PA, IL, CA, MN, NJ, ME, NH and WI (as well as one gig in Ontario) in August, September, and October, and TX, NJ, PA, MD, and NC in November and December. In 2016 he’s playing the northern tier of states between Maine and Minnesota numerous times so if you can, check him out!!
Here's a great website courtesy of a big fan in Europe, John Gorka Videosite, with even more videos, interviews, concert listings, and a lot more.
So happy and merry everything to you over the next year, John Gorka! You are truly one of the best, Mister Leo of great heart. May you have many, many more birthdays, happier times to come, and an ever increasing group of fans who love and appreciate you and your music. (And may your CDs and DVD sell at least several hundred thousand. Your works are masterpieces!)
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson