- A wise woman once told me that John Gorka songs are guaranteed to
produce two emotions. They make you laugh, or they make you cry.
winning a New Folk award at the Kerrville Folk Festival in 1984, Gorka
has been a master at both. And both were richly in evidence Saturday
night at the Open Door Coffee House, where Gorka performed one of his
typically stirring concerts.
you were the least bit uptight going in, you were the opposite when
you left. The peace and tranquility of the venue helped. The Open Door
remains a mid-city treasure.
the encore, Gorka sang 22 songs, all of which were keepers. But
these were our favorites:
"True in Time." This
is the title track of Gorka's terrific new album. When Carrie
Fisher died, and her mother Debbie Reynolds passed away the next
day, he posted on Facebook a lyric written by Fisher's former
husband Paul Simon, who wrote the song "Mother and Child Reunion."
Gorka heard from Pete Kennedy, who with his wife forms the husband-wife
duo, the Kennedys. Kennedy used the phrase, "true in time." And
a song was born. Who says good things don't come from Facebook?
"I Saw a Stranger with Your Hair."
It doesn't matter who the artist is. Every concert carries with
it a mixture of the old and new. There's a great scene in an episode
of The Simpsons in which Jackson Browne is asked to play at Marge's
birthday party. Sitting at the piano, he announces to a yard full
of guests: "I'm here to serenade you with a song" - a loud cheer
pierces the night air - "from my latest album." That, of course,
brings a collective groan. "Just kidding," he assures them. "Here's
one of my many classics."
Saw a Stranger with Your Hair" is such a classic, about seeing
a stranger who reminds you of a former lover. Gorka once told
me that years ago a woman approached him after a show and told
him she loved the song because it reminded her of her son, who
had died. It's one of those ballads that motivate people all over
the country to keep coming back to Gorka's shows - and to keep
yelling out the songs of his they want to hear.
"Let Them In."
Gorka has sung this one for years. It was inspired by a poem written
in 1942, during World War II, by
a woman named Elma Dean, who agonized over so many
young men dying in war. It's a moving elegy, and yes, while he
sang it, more than a few sniffles mingled with the music.
Strickland/Open Door Coffee House
"I'm Just a Country Boy."
For me, this was the highlight of the evening. "I'm Just a Country
Boy" was written by Fred Hellerman and Marshall Baker and recorded
in 1954 by Harry Belafonte. The print on the original recording
says the song was co-written by Fred Brooks, a pseudonym for Hellerman,
who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Gorka covered it
perfectly, and this one he played on the piano, making it all
the more memorable.
"Particle and Wave."
Gorka says he was inspired to write the song after watching the
March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington earlier this year.
The event followed the February mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.,
in which 17 high school students were gunned down. The song is
a cry for hope and renewal and faith, as expressed in the lyric:
"Never stop believing there is goodness in the world."
yes, there were sniffles during this one, just as there were well-deserved
laughs during "People My Age" and "I'm from New Jersey," two other
old favorites that keep us returning, again and again, to the
music of John Gorka.
this show an "S" for sublime.
was one of the 22 songs Gorka sang on Saturday night in Arlington: