Wednesday, January 23, 2008

John Stewart

My partner mentioned that John Stewart died(Saturday). John Stewart was a wonderful, truly American singer-songwriter who managed to fly pretty much beneath the popular culture radar for a long time. Even now, were you to google him, you first get references for the funny guy whose name isn't even spelled the same way.
Now, he wasn't always under the radar. He wrote one of the most memorable songs of the rock era, Daydream Believer, and had a top five hit in 1979 with Gold, a song produced by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac featuring vocals by Stevie Nicks. Curiously enough, hard-core Stewart fans are not particularly fond of Gold, although a few songs on that cd are well regarded. Sportscaster Chris Berman regularly references a song from that cd, Lost Her in the Sun, when appropriate.
I first learned of him in 1961, when he replaced a founding member of the Kingston Trio. I first seriously got into his music when one of my sisters, not sure which, bought California Bloodlines in 1969, at Kaufman's in Kearney. (funny what you remember)
We saw him twice, in 1974 at an outdoor concert at Stanford, and 2000 in Loveland, CO. I'll try not to go on and on, but his music was never far from my consciousness. I am sure that I have listened to as much John Stewart in the last 39 years as I have anyone. I counted 8 Kingston Trio cds, 25 commercially released cds, and 20 cds full of about 15 concerts I have accumulated. And I'm a piker by fan standards, many who own all or nearly all of the 47 cds he has released.
I do treasure the one cd that he burned at home, autographed, and mailed to me. Of course, he did the same for anybody who sent him a check. I did save the check, too.
This wasn't the first musical hero of mine to die, and certainly won't be the last. (And that is not a reference to Britney Spears or Amy Winehouse, both of whom, I fear, are not long for this mortal coil)
But this one hit me. This is the first one that I felt I knew, someone I had exchanged emails with. No, I never met him, or talked to him, but the very lack of widespread popularity he enjoyed, made him more accessible, more real to me.
And when he wrote and sang Daydream Believer, the line wasn't:
"You once thought of me
As a white knight on a steed.
Now you know how happy I can be", but was:
"You once thought of me
As a white knight on a steed.
Now you know how funky I can be",
which I think you should agree, changes everything.
Apparently the record company wouldn't let Davy Jones sing "funky".

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