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