Thursday, February 3, 2011

Catch a boat to England, Baby, Maybe to Spain

I really enjoy crate digging that turns up true lost artists that deserve a wider audience but are obscured by the fog of time. How is it that I've never heard Jackson C. Frank before? He is so deeply linked to some of my favorite artists of the 1960s & 70s -- Sandy Denny, Nick Drake, Simon & Garfunkel, and many other admirers. His story is extraordinarily sad, having survived a fire in his school as an 11-year old when a fireball from a furnace blast rolled through the halls and into his classroom, killing many students and leaving him permanently scarred.
In a pre-internet age the way information was transmitted, absorbed, and sent back out was obviously slower, but also somewhat random and odd. For instance, R&B performers who may have found little fame in their native US were embraced fanatically in England in subsequent years, elevated to icons of Northern Soul, and then much later the descendents of that thread emerged on US charts delivering back to us the sound of our own culture.

That process of exchange is clearly evident when Jackson C. Frank travelled from America to London in the mid 1960s, finding himself at the center of a folk boom, falling in with another expatriate there for similar inspiration, Paul Simon, and also becoming one of Sandy Denny's lovers. His influence on Bert Jansch and Nick Drake are clear and acknowledged by both who recorded several of his songs. Frank recorded a single album before dropping out of music and into obscurity, rising briefly in later life a disheveled character with mental and physical problems stemming from the traumatic events of his teenage years, dying at age 56.
Here is a podcast telling his story and showcasing a number of his songs. Discovering his delicate, shattered songs is a musical revelation and helps connect a few more dots from a fertile period that seems to continue slowly giving up its gifts for posterity.

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