Hi everyone. Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing. But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?
(Image found online. Original source unknown.)
I know we are in a serious situation, but I need a break from the gloom, doom and bullying by way of hoarding. Music has always been my refuge and watching those beautiful Italians singing to each other from their balconies reaffirmed my belief that music is the answer. So until the old normal returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.
There are sad stories in life and then there are ones too sad for words. The only way to describe today’s singer, Jackson C. Frank, is as the second coming of Job. When he was 11 years old he suffered burns to fifty percent of his body when a furnace exploded at his elementary school. He lost many of his classmates including his girlfriend and was in the hospital for months. This would set the stage for a multitude of physical and mental ailments that would plague him for the rest of his life. A teacher gave him a guitar while he was recovering so Frank learned how to play and eventually write songs.
When he turned 21 in 1964, he received an insurance settlement for his injuries due to the fire and went to Europe to pursue a career in music. There he met Paul Simon who produced Frank’s 1965 debut self-titled album which contained today’s song (Simon & Garfunkel would do their own version the same year but would not release it until 1997 on the boxed set, “Old Friends”). Frank began to garner a small following due to his record but by 1966, his mental health began to unravel. He was hospitalized in Europe before returning to America when his insurance money ran out.
Soon after he got married and had two children, a boy and a girl. But when his son died from cystic fibrosis, Frank’s mental health deteriorated again and he was hospitalized a second time. His wife left him, taking their daughter with her, and Frank became increasingly unstable and despondent. His only album was reissued in 1978 but failed to change his situation.
His physical health began to decline due to complications of the injuries of the fire. He lived with his parents for a while but eventually left the house when he was unsupervised to go to NYC to look up Simon. Instead Frank ended up homeless and hospitalized several times, finally receiving a diagnosis as a paranoid schizophrenic. One of the times he was living on the street some kids were playing with a pellet gun and accidentally blinded Frank in the left eye. Eventually a fan found Frank, became his guardian and placed him in a supervised living center until he died of pneumonia at age 56 in 1999.
Rolling Stone Magazine called Frank one of the best forgotten songwriters of the 1960s. His genre of music, folk, is just one I could not embrace. I respect the musicianship but the sound never hit my soul like the other types of music I love did. But then again I do not ever remember hearing this man before today’s song was featured in the third episode of season one of “This Is Us”. That was more than 50 years after Frank recorded it and 17 years after he died. I am forever thankful that I can know him through the rest of his music I found online, too, because it & he are too good to be forgotten.
I share his story because I firmly believe it is my responsibility as a music lover and fan to expose the songs I love to those who might not yet know them. It is how they live on. And because I think today’s song is just that special.
Jackson C, Frank circa 1965. (Image found online. Original source unknown.)
Jackson C. Frank: “Blues Run The Game” (1965, written by Jackson C. Frank).
I do not own the rights to anything. I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.