Top 10 List – Mental Musical Masterpieces # 6 (Jackson Frank)

Jackson Frank- “Jackson C. Frank” (1965)

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By Dale Nickey:

The tale of this suffering artist makes all others pale by comparison.  At age eleven, Jackson Frank was badly burned in a school fire.  A fire that killed fifteen of his classmates.  He began playing guitar during his recovery.  He was eventually awarded a $110,000 legal settlement.  Frank traveled to England and became a folk sensation during that country’s early 60’s folk heyday.  He released a dour, finely crafted album produced by his flat mate Paul Simon.  Such was his psychic damage, Jackson Frank could only cut tracks in the studio behind a screen curtain.  There are no  happy moments anywhere in his catalog.  Sullenly wistful is about as cheery as it gets.  His most famous song  “Blues Run The Game” has been widely covered and is the penultimate anthem of the exhausted spirit.  Listen to his album and it’s easy to see the influence he had on Paul Simon’s subsequent work.

Frank was the toast of the London folk scene for a very brief time. However, he did contribute mightily.  Aside from his own timeless debut, he dated one Sandy Denny and convinced her to give up nursing in favor of a singing career.

By 1966 his health and muse started to deteriorate as did his settlement money.  He moved to Woodstock in the 70’s and married an English fashion model. They had a son and a daughter.  Soon the son died of Cystic Fibrosis and Frank started spiraling into a depression that landed him in a mental institution.  He was a diagnosed paranoid-schizophrenic; but Frank always denied the diagnosis, saying his problems stemmed from the childhood trauma of the school fire.

In 1984, Frank traveled to New York in a desperate (perhaps delusional) attempt to find and contact Paul Simon.  He became homeless instead, eating out of garbage cans and sleeping on streets in a filthy blanket between visits to mental institutions.  An admiring benefactor tried to give aid and comfort to Frank late in his life.  It was during this period that  a Juvenal delinquent fired a B.B. gun into one of his eyes blinding him.  The B.B. was inoperable and caused Frank  pain and discomfort until his death at 56.  History will need to look hard to find an artist who walked the walk as Jackson Frank did.

Debut Albums That Shook My World – (Luka Bloom – “Riverside”)

Luka Bloom (Riverside) – 1990

Irishman Luka Bloom managed to paddle in on the first tidal surge of the New Celtic boom. Two years after Van Morrison And The Chieftains breakthrough album and four years before Riverdance came this unfussy, echo-drenched little gem. The core of the album is Luka’s masculine brogue and his clean hyperactive electro-acoustic strumming. What decoration there is on the album only serves to strengthen and support its main character. The songs are sturdy and straightforward and are not begging to be liked. The emotions range from mature whimsy, “You Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time” and “Delirious”, to aching, moody reportage, “Gone To Pablo”. “Rescue Mission ” is one of those songs that any good songwriter wishes they had written. Stardom seemed possible but never materialized. Luka faded further into obscurity with each successive album. He never again reached the bar he set for himself on Riverside .

Sometimes a full band can get in the way of a good song and dilute the power of the artist. This is Luka (straight no chaser) delivering one of his best songs.