Sunday, March 13, 2011

Jack Hardy: "This little experiment of ours"

Jack Hardy (1948-2011)

The folk scene always seems to renew itself when we really need it. No matter how bad the daily headlines or how the political machine seems to grind up our aspirations as a nation, there is a fellow with a guitar over there who knows it's only a matter of keeping on.

Jack Hardy was one of those fellows. Long after Dylan (who claimed he was no spokesman, after all) kept moving his own tent and others followed, Hardy kept to the idea that
this machine kills fascists, words literally inscribed on Woody Guthrie's weapon of choice. He held workshops in his Village apartment, promoted concerts, and recorded new artists.

More importantly he made sure the music was heard: his Fast Folk musicians' cooperative provided a performance space as well as radio station distribution for Fast Folk recordings by newcomers Tracy Chapman, Lyle Lovett, Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin and others over three decades.

Eventually Fast Folk released over a thousand recordings, and many of these tapes are now included at the Smithsonian Institution's Folkways collection. The Monday night gatherings in his Village apartment he kept up from the late 1970s until his recent admission to the hospital for lung cancer.

Jack Hardy, 1975

Jack Hardy died Friday in Manhattan at the age of 63. He himself was writer of hundreds of songs, topical and political tunes that aimed for the heart and seldom missed the target. Two collections of his own Fast Folk performances were released in 2000. As his obituary in the New York Times quotes the songwriter remarking at the time: “I’m undoubtedly the least famous person with a boxed set.”

The twentieth century was a train

Sleek and fast and so streamlined

Steel and diesel power unchained

Cigars and oysters and black shoes shined

The twentieth century is already gone

Come to think of it the millennium is too

All those years and the buck stops here

Except I fear it's not worth as much this year

Thomas Jefferson was a man

Didn't have to grow up to be president

For no woman had to vote

Nor any man of African descent

Two thousand years of the golden rule

We still keep illegal aliens out of school

Someone's gotta wash dishes and clean toilets too

Someone's gotta play football

and someone's gotta sing the blues

This little experiment of ours

Is pretty damn new and shaky so far

We have the freedom to hang out in bars

To buy shiny new guns or shiny new cars

There's no trains left to make run on time

But that's not gonna keep them from trying

How we gonna keep 'em down on Broadway

Let's try religion, sports and a lottery a day

This car screaming down the road

Rebel flag and talk show overload

Passes a school bus on the right

Racing that train to a wreck tonight

2001 candles to blow

Twenty centuries down and one to grow

Except for ten days taken away by Pope Gregory

I lost ten days in college,

they didn't name a calendar after me

And this is the America Columbus discovered

Yeah the Vikings could have discovered this one too

The Indians fought the Braves in the World Series

Let's get serious and open another brew

Photography from the Jack Hardy website (top);
Numero Group music site from the collection
Wayfaring Strangers: Lonesome Heroes (bottom).

No comments: