Song of the Day Revisited: Sharon Shannon/ Dessie O'Halloran ... Say You Love Me
Song of the Day: Fairport Convention with Sandy Denny ... Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

Song of the Day Revisited: Jackson C Frank ... Blues Run The Game


Enjoy it while the enthusiasm lasts. This is another in the revival series, Song of the Day Revisited. My choices so far have drawn entirely on the material that ran at Salut! Live between June and August 2011; the format may change. The re-posted and in some cases updated articles replace the originals. This is one of the songs I really wanted to master but could not; so far as I recall I never dared sing it in a folk club, whatever else I was prepared to murder ...

What a tragic life Jackson C Frank led.

At 11, living in Cheektowaga, New York State, he suffered severe burns in a school fire that killed 18 of his classmates.

He had already shown himself to be a gifted singer, and learning guitar formed an important part of recovery and therapy. Eventually, a compensation payment allowed him to drop out of journalism college and follow the handful of troubadours who made their way across the Atlantic to explore the booming London folk scene.

Frank shared a flat with two of them, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and became the boyfriend of the fabulous English singer Sandy Denny. He is credited with persuading her to give up nursing and concentrate on singing.

Simon produced an album for him and also covered one song that was on it and which I have chosen for Song of the Day. There was a time when Blues Run The Game was part of many self-respecting contemporary folk singers' repertoires. It is a great song, an ideal vehicle for Frank's smooth, mournful tones and has not aged a second.

It brought him respect but not fame and wealth. Soon, his money ran out. He suffered a bout of writer's block and went home to the US. He took a job as a journalist on a local paper, married and fathered a son. Then the marriage broke up and the son died from cystic fibrosis.

The medical profession let him down. The anti-depressants he was prescribed made for a spectacularly bad cocktail with the painkillers he still took because of the burns. Bloated from rapid weight gain, he had spells in hospital and on the streets of New York City. Then he was shot in one eye by young louts.

Eventually an American folk music buff called Jim Abbott tracked him down, took him under his wing and did his level best to straighten out this wasted talent and blighted life. He recovered well enough to start writing and performing again but died from pneumonia and cardiac problems, aged only 56, in 1999.

Whoever he hoped might help him out of his protracted decline had failed to do so, at least until the heroic figure of Jim Abbott entered his life. He left many good songs, and a number of fine memories, but none better than this.

A man also called Jim wrote this at the YouTube page where I located the clip: "I worked with Jackson in the early 60s in London. Paul Simon produced this album for him. Such a terribly sad ending for a marvellous performer."

Jacksoncfrank
* Blues Run The Game is the title track of an album available at this Salut! Live Amazon link.

Comments

Ian Evans

What a great choice Colin!

I had thought of nominating this track myself but could not find a clip of Jackson playing it.

All I could find is a 12 second clip of Jackson singing ‘Just Like Anything’ at The Cousins. I believe that this was from a BBC documentary about Judith Piepe.

Bert Jansch still over 40 years later almost invariably plays ‘Blues Run the Game’ as part of his set.

I had mates who were regular performers at The Cousins (never called Les Cousins by aficionados) in the summer of 1965, so that period is indelibly inked on my memory.

Because they knew Andy the proprietor of The Cousins well, we used to get in free to all shows! We used to haunt the place.

At one time Al Stewart was a fellow flat mate of my friends; he played second guitar on ‘Yellow Walls’ on Jackson’s eponymous album, Jackson C Frank, not 'Blues Run the Game'.

Through Al we got to know Jackson.

One of the greatest privileges was that we got to hang out with him and spent hours drinking with him in the Pillars (of Hercules) just across the road.

He was really charismatic. Although only a couple of years older than we were he seemed so worldly wise.

The only thing I remember his saying was, ‘God is a pigeon’! At the time we thought this hilarious and it had us in stitches.

His only album is one of my most treasured possessions.

It was a shame he subsequently suffered from writer’s block and could never reproduce the heights of that album.

His life story is unbelievably sad.

colin

Priceless memories, Ian. I also used to (try to) play one of his called The Sea Remembers Nothing, or at least I remember it as his.

Colin

The two comments above were, of course, posted when the item originally appeared, hence before Bert Jansch's death.

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