Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Folkie Tom Paxton at 75

Some of the warmest memories I have of the early days with my firstborn is singing with him, mostly singing to him, softly, on our glider late in evenings after a long day at work.  We had a small repertory of songs he liked, some standards like Old McDonald and many tunes familiar from Raffi.  But there was one old personal favorite of mine that I sang a lot.  No doubt the appeal was the father-to-son-to son theme, spiced up by bursts of onomatopoeia amusing to both son and father.
That song is The Marvelous Toy, profound I think in its deceivingly superficially simple and silly way.  It was composed by a young man – in the Army, somewhat incongruously, at the time.  He went on to a memorable career as a singer-songwriter in the “folk” genre, starting off as part of the Greenwich Village scene.  I saw him perform once in the mid-80s or so in Chicago – at The Quiet Night on the north side, I think.  His songs are many – my particular favorite is The Last Thing on My Mind, and a version of his powerful Jimmy Newman by the late Chicago folkie Fred Holstein deserves special mention.   

He’s done a lot of satirical, topical political stuff from the usual simplistic, child-like leftist point of view, and I wonder how his antipathy to warmongering and allegedly corporatist presidents is holding up against such disorienting developments as Obama’s personally directing ongoing drone murders (no due process!) of scores of people all over the Middle East and Obama’s sinking billions of taxpayer money into Solyndra and other failing companies controlled by his political pals and sponsors.  Mature, three-dimensional intellectual thought has never been a strong suit of tres chic lefties, and I suppose we cannot expect any more of this man.  We take him and his music for what they are as they come.   
Born in Chicago 75 years ago today – Tom Paxton.   

Richard Balsamo

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