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Article on Tom Paxton--nice guy!

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Bill D 06 Sep 02 - 09:14 AM
GUEST,open mike 06 Sep 02 - 12:21 PM
GUEST,open mike 06 Sep 02 - 12:42 PM
Little Hawk 06 Sep 02 - 01:29 PM
Burke 06 Sep 02 - 05:28 PM
Deckman 07 Sep 02 - 06:02 AM
kendall 07 Sep 02 - 12:22 PM
beachcomber 07 Sep 02 - 04:46 PM
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Subject: Article on Tom Paxton--nice guy!
From: Bill D
Date: 06 Sep 02 - 09:14 AM

in today's Washington Post..(Tom lives in this area now)

nice article

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Subject: RE: Article on Tom Paxton--nice guy!
From: GUEST,open mike
Date: 06 Sep 02 - 12:21 PM

yes, indeed, Tom has a lot to say, and keeps singing - he appeared at the Kate Wolf Memorial Music Fest. this was in the year 2000, and here is the web site of his "agent" (formerly fleming/tamulovich)

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Subject: RE: Article on Tom Paxton--nice guy!
From: GUEST,open mike
Date: 06 Sep 02 - 12:42 PM

the flem/tam site has a real audio file of "sometimes i wonder where i'm bound" and here is a site from appleseeds records:

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Subject: RE: Article on Tom Paxton--nice guy!
From: Little Hawk
Date: 06 Sep 02 - 01:29 PM

Hey, good article. Thanks for that.

- LH

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Subject: RE: Article on Tom Paxton--nice guy!
From: Burke
Date: 06 Sep 02 - 05:28 PM

Because these articles can disappear:

Tom Paxton: Washington's Okie Folky

By Richard Harrington Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, September 6, 2002; Page WE08

BECOMING an icon of the '60s folk movement was the last thing on Pfc. Tom Paxton's mind when he began using his weekend passes to journey to New York's Greenwich Village. As the '50s came to a close, Paxton found himself posted at New Jersey's Fort Dix, a quick commute but a world away from the intellectual and musical haven of the Village.

"It was a revelation to me," the Chicago-born, Oklahoma-bred Paxton says of that place and time. "It was the tail end of the Beat Generation and the poets were the stars; tourists were coming down to the Village in great flocks to hear poets use the F-word. It was a much more innocent time, and folk singers then were entr'acte between the poets.

"But even as I arrived, folk music was beginning to be the reason people were coming down to the Village."

And many, including Paxton, were coming armed with guitars ("a nylon-string Goya!") and folk songs, most traditional, but many from folk revival cornerstones like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, who would become a mentor and lifelong friend. Paxton had actually discovered Guthrie as a drama major at the University of Oklahoma, learning that the great populist writer was from Okema, "which was only 26 miles from the town where I grew up, Bristow. And didn't he write a bunch of songs. It was quite a discovery."

So was the live album the Weavers recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1956, which included all manner of folk songs from many lands.

"That's the thing that always got me about folk music, that it had this incredible depth and breadth to it," Paxton explains. "When I was in junior high and high school, I loved the pop songs of the day, which, as it turned out, were really bad! I don't have any nostalgia at all for the pop songs of those days, but I find that I still like the first folk songs I learned . . . "

In the Village, Paxton got his first job, "10 bucks a night at a coffeehouse off Sheridan Square," he recalls. "Then I would dash over to McDougal Street and the Gaslight Club and the Commons, which is where I met Dave Van Ronk in the summer of 1960. It was a basket house, where people tossed money in a basket on their way out and then it was divvied up at the end of the night."

According to Paxton, it was a nurturing community of young writers whose work became increasingly political, greatly inspired by the civil rights movement.

"It was a moment of urgency and certainly the songs that were being created were coming out of the jails and the marches," says Paxton, who had started writing in the early '60s. "In a feeble way, I was echoing that, but I didn't find my voice in topical protest songs until the war in Vietnam began."

Genially ironic songs like "The Willing Conscript" made way for more caustic ones like "Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation" and before long Paxton was part of a powerhouse troika of topical songwriters that included Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. Where Dylan and Ochs were perpetual firebrands, disturbers of folk's status quo, Paxton was pretty much the easy-going, even-tempered traditionalist.

"I loved them both but I did have an extremely different personality," Paxton says with a chuckle. "I liked Bob and we got along fine, but I had much more of a fellow feeling with Phil, who was much more the radical than I was. I was basically the small-town yokel from Oklahoma -- I had my political convictions that were beginning to form but they were always more those of a Democrat than a Marxist. I don't think I ever had a Marxist thought in my life! And Bob was evolving from political songs to whatever he became, moving out even as he was going up . . . "

Paxton ended up following the lead of Guthrie and Seeger, crafting folk songs across a wide spectrum -- topical songs, love songs, and even children's songs.

"The first what I call 'keeper' -- the first song I wrote that I still sing -- is 'The Marvelous Toy,' " Paxton says. "I must have written 40 to 50 songs before that which I thought were pretty terrific but which turned out to be very much a learning process, but the first good one was a children's song."

And it's still good 40 years on: In August of 2001, astronaut Dan Barry got to hear it as his wake-up song during a space flight (his kids requested it for him). That space shuttle is a marvelous toy, indeed.

There have been more than a few keepers, including "Ramblin' Boy," "Bottle of Wine," "I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound," the environmental anthem "Whose Garden Was This?", "What Did You Learn In School Today." And then there's "The Last Thing on My Mind," recorded by more than 100 artists and apparently still inspiring novice writers.

"I recently found some new verses on the Internet," Paxton reports, "including:

[Paxton starts singing]

Well I met this young girl at a folk club, like you do, like you do

So I bought her a drink and we chatted, wouldn't you, wouldn't you

And then after the show she invited me home and she said we were two of a kind

Then she played me every record that Tom Paxton ever made and you know that was the last thing on my mind . . .

"I loved that," he says.

In 1999, Rhino put out a 26-track best-of, and last year Cherry Hill Publishing delivered "The Honor of Your Company," a songbook with 80 Paxton works and 50 pages of reminiscence, apparently as close to autobiography as Paxton wants to get. The common thread of those songs, he suggests, is "a love of music that people make for themselves. That certainly has been what's driven my writing, the love of traditional folk songs, and my desire to be in that tradition. When I hear people say they didn't know I wrote such and such a song, that makes me very happy. It's the best credit I can get, that people think it's traditional."

That's not why Paxton's counsel is so much in demand, of course. On tour, his concerts are often preceded by songwriting workshops where "I tell them I can help them write songs that won't make 'em any money at all," Paxton says.

"And yet, somehow, if you write the best songs you can write, strange things happen -- somebody might record the song and make some money. But it ought not to be your first thought unless that's what you want. There are different kinds of song writing and I respect them all. I have friends who write hit songs every week and they have a lot of fun doing it and a lot of those are songs I like a lot. But I try to tell young writers they should write the kinds of songs they like to hear -- that's what they should be doing."

For some years now, Paxton has made Washington his home. Oldest daughter Jennifer -- inspiration for the song "Jennifer's Rabbit" -- is a history professor at Georgetown University and moved here first with her husband, a professor at American University. The arrival of a grandson, and a Washington move by second daughter Kate (immortalized in "Katie"), inspired a family reunion in a town that, Paxton admits, "has always been good for me, ever since my old Cellar Door days. I've got a lot of friends down here so it was a no-brainer."

Among those friends: Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, with whom Paxton recorded "Your Shoes, My Shoes" earlier this year, an album of children's music that speaks directly -- not down -- to its audience. There are a half dozen of those among Paxton's 40 albums, along with 15 children's books, including last year's "novelization" of "Jennifer's Rabbit."

Family is obviously a rewarding inspiration: "My Lady's a Wild, Flying Dove," written as an engagement present, apparently worked some magic: Tom and Midge Paxton will soon celebrate their 40th anniversary, and the romance seems undiminished. Paxton's upcoming album includes the lovely invitation, "Marry Me Again."

The album, "Looking for the Moon," also features "The Bravest," a song inspired by the firefighters who lost their lives in New York almost a year ago.

They must have seen it coming as they turned to face the fire

They sent us down to safety, then they kept on climbing higher

Now every time I try to sleep, I'm haunted by the sound

Of firemen bounding up the stairs while we were running down . . . Like the best Paxton songs, it's already entered others' repertoires: Garrison Keillor sang it on "Prairie Home Companion" just days after Paxton sent him a demo tape. Same with Pete Seeger, who unveiled it at a Library of Congress performance. Paxton, who will perform it Tuesday as part of the Library's commemoration of Sept. 11, is proud that the song has been embraced by firefighters, who send him e-mails or stop by to share their feelings at his concerts around the country.

"I've been told it's on the walls of a lot of fire departments and that's what I wanted -- to make the firemen feel that they were being honored."

TOM PAXTON -- Appearing Sunday at noon and 2 p.m. at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage and Tuesday at noon at Neptune Plaza at the Library of Congress (shows at both venues are free). Paxton also appears at the Birchmere Nov. 2. • To hear a free Sound Bite from Tom Paxton, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8121. (Prince William residents, call 703/690-4110.)

© 2002 The Washington Post Company

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Subject: RE: Article on Tom Paxton--nice guy!
From: Deckman
Date: 07 Sep 02 - 06:02 AM

Thank you for posting this thread and the article. CHEERS, Bob

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Subject: RE: Article on Tom Paxton--nice guy!
From: kendall
Date: 07 Sep 02 - 12:22 PM

It's true; the bigger they are, the nicer they are.

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Subject: RE: Article on Tom Paxton--nice guy!
From: beachcomber
Date: 07 Sep 02 - 04:46 PM

A smashing article about an early hero of mine, thanks Burke!


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