In the realms of American folk music, few artists have been able to achieve the beauty that Jackson C. Frank captured on his one and only, self-titled, record in 1965. Haunted by a fiery explosion at his elementary school which killed several of his classmates and left him with severe burns, Frank would go on to write and record some of the deepest, gorgeous acoustic music ever heard, before disappearing almost entirely after succumbing to mental instability and paralyzing anxiety. He would record a handful more times later on in his life, however, most of it would not be released until a resurgence in interest in him occurred after his death. If you’ve not checked out this record, I implore you to do so, it’s hard to find pieces of music filled with as much honesty, sadness, sweetness, and vulnerability as Frank puts into his.
“When I went down I hadn't seen a picture of him, except for his album cover. Then, he was thin and young. When I went to see him, there was this heavy guy hobbling down the street, and I thought, ‘That can’t possibly be him’…I just stopped and said ‘Jackson?’ and it was him. My impression was, ‘Oh my God’, it was almost like the elephant man or something. He was so unkempt, disheveled.” a further side effect of the fire was a thyroid malfunction causing him to put on weight. “He had nothing. It was really sad. We went and had lunch and went back to his room. It almost made me cry, because here was a fifty-year-old man, and all he had to his name was a beat-up old suitcase and a broken pair of glasses. I guess his caseworker had given him a $10 guitar, but it wouldn't stay in tune. It was one of those hot summer days. He tried to play blues run the game for me, but his voice was pretty much shot.”
Satu dari 10 lagu dalam album folk paling melankolis dan indah yaitu album debut Self-Titled (1965) yang sedihnya juga album terakhir Jackson C. Frank (March 2, 1943 - March 3, 1999). Dan kehidupan Jackson sama menyedihkannya seperti album itu. Life’s sure hard.
Wondering and waiting My back against the wall Not a word that passed between us Comes to call Just your shadow on the window And your step on down the hall You never wanted me babe You never knew me at all
I haven’t any picture To set before my eyes Nothing to blame When the blues start to rise Just the memory of laughter And the living out of lies And if I could change my ways babe You’d never have said goodbye
If you ever get the time baby Please think on me It’s a lock that can’t be broken And there isn’t any key And I’m only in your mind Only you can set me free You can’t hurt me anymore babe And that isn’t hard to see
Someday someone will leave you And I know you’ll feel the same You’ll mark it down to memory And the dream that never came Well there are no answers given When love is just a game You never wanted me babe And now I feel the same
several years of rubies and pearls at her breast she’s a demon lover just like all the rest she’s billing out her wings in the many shades of contentment she brings I got to hide it baby, because of you and I hope that you’re proud now honey it’s all I can do
I opened up today’s digital mix with a bit of Jackson C. Frank because I’ve been obsessed with his one and only solo release since I was first turned on to it a few years back and I think it’s a damn shame his music isn’t more well known. I’ve written about Mr. Frank’s story before but I think it bears repeating. Jackson was a little boy when a malfunctioning furnace at his school exploded and shot a ball of flames into his classroom, killing fifteen of his fellow students and leaving him with severe burns all over his body. It was while he was in the hospital recovering from his injuries that a teacher would give him a guitar to occupy himself with. The event would haunt Jackson for the rest of his life and is generally considered the reason for his mental instability which would sabotage his career. It was in 1965, a little over ten years after the incident, Jackson would record his self titled solo debut which was produced by Paul Simon. What was captured on this record was some of the most beautiful and fragile folk music ever written and performed. Jackson’s pure, clear voice combined with his delicate finger picking and strumming dominates the album and is breath taking to listen to. Sadly, it was not long after these recordings were made that Jackson began to fall apart and retreated back to his home state of New York where he would spend time in and out of mental institutions and sleeping on the streets. He recorded occasionally in his later life as he was occasionally re-discovered by new fans from time to time. However, many of those final recordings were never released in his life time. I keep hoping that somebody will press a Jackson C. Frank complete recordings one of these days, I’d certainly buy a copy.
Some of my Third Man records and real early Green Day singles are probably worth more than this, but hey! This, the first and only album by troubled folk singer Jackson C. Frank is one of my favorites.
This album is the most expensive used record I have ever bought (which isn’t really saying much) and it is probably one of the rarest I own.
If you don’t own this album i highly recommend it. Every track is beuatiful and heartbreaking. It has also been reissued (affordably) on vinyl so what are you waiting for!?