Reanimated Lavender Granola Switchblade Nun rides again.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Word Garden Word List--Jackson C. Frank


Hello all, and welcome to the WG Word list, where the challenge is to write a new poem using at least three of the 20 words provided. More on that shortly. But first, let me introduce our theme for this list.

 You know, it's funny how one thing leads to another, and my musical explorations have illustrated this brightly of late. A year or two ago, I discovered the music of Laura Marling, and one of the songs I liked the best was "Blues Run The Game", which I mistakenly assumed was her own composition. Now, hold that thought!

A couple of months ago, I heard a song on Youtube Music called 'One Of These Things First" by a singer named Nick Drake. I loved his finger-picking style immediately and put a bunch of his music on my iPod. I looked into his story, and it turns out he put out three albums circa 1970 or so and they came and went pretty much without notice, including "BryterLayter", which included the song i had heard. Listening to him while doing other things one day, he launched into "Blues Run The Game', the song i thought was Laura Marling's! More investigation ensues. I found out that the song was written by our list man today, Jackson C. Frank, and his story is both fascinating and terribly heart-breaking.

When Jackson was just eleven years old, the boiler in his school exploded, killing fifteen of his schoolmates, including his little sweetheart. Jackson was burned over fifty per cent of his body, but survived, albeit with lifelong mental and physical health issues due to the disaster.

Fast forward to 1965 when Jackson C. Frank was discovered singing in London by none other than Paul Simon. Simon arranged studio time for Frank, and his one and only album was recorded as a result. Jackson was so shy that he had to sit behind a screen to sing, because he couldn't do it with Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, and Al Stewart watching. Though remarkable, his album met pretty much the same fate as Nick Drake's, and both of them fell into obscurity until a new generation--with access to the internet--discovered them both and lifted them to the kind of notice that neither had ever received before. I'm one of those new fans.

Why only one album? Jackson C. Frank was haunted by the boiler explosion and all that he had seen and been through. Although he had an album out and he was in a relationship with Fairport Convention's Sandy Denny, his mental and physical health declined sharply. His burns had damaged his parathyroid, causing weight gain. He suffered from depression and delusions, spending time in numerous institutions and eventually was homeless on the street. He was eventually found by music friend Jim Abbott. Abbott is quoted in Wkipedia as follows:

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.[5]

Jackson C. Frank had a marvelous voice, played guitar beautifully, and composed some of the most interesting songs I have heard. Sadly he died in his fifties, never having reprised his early promise as a singer-songwriter. I'm glad he has finally found a new audience to appreciate what he had to offer. His songs have been covered by Simon & Garfunkel, Sandy Denny, John Mayer, Counting Crows, as well as the aforementioned Nick Drake and Laura Marling. 

And now, without further ado, here is your list. Please use at least 3 of the 20 words provided in a new poem, then link up! Then I encourage you to listen to Jackson C. Frank. Enjoy.



  1. His story made me cry. It is truly a heartbreaker!! 💔 I think that will make this even more meaningful to write to. I love all the deep and wide information of music and his life and story! I love love love your word lists Shay!!!!! I am so happy to see you are doing it today!!

    1. It staggers my mind to think of how much this man went through. There is always some human jack-in-the-box popping up to tell someone that there is always somebody worse off. In Jackson Frank's life, that seems debatable. How can so much go wrong for oner poor person? And yet his music and voice are so beautiful. I'm so glad that Paul Simon got some of it recorded and that Frank is being discovered now, if belatedly.

    2. Very true and I agree about Paul Simon getting him recorded. It gave us a trace of his talent and voice. That is a blessing!

  2. That is an incredible story, and incredible music. Hard to fathom how he went completely unnoticed. What a voice.

    1. Commercial popularity seems to have little to do with actual value or talent sometimes, as you know. Britney Spears sells zillions while Jackson Frank and Nick Drake can't even emerge from the shadows, though both are now, long after their deaths. Part of this is explainable. Neither of them had any taste for touring or performing for audiences. In fact it seems that Nick Drake may have been the single most lifeless live performer ever, just keeping his head down, not talking between songs and just wanting to be somewhere else. The world seems to have been too much for both of them, putting me in mind of Don McLean's lyric "But I could have told you, Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you." At the very least, it seems that music demands sensitivity, while the music industry demands the opposite.

  3. What a sad story. So often talent is matched with personal unhappiness and difficulty, in our era and others.(Sandy Denny also died tragically at the age of 31, IIRC.) I'm in a dry spell these days, but if I can find any words I will return.

    1. I had always thought Sandy Denny died of an illness, but in fact her alcoholism combined with emotional problems and at the end of her life she took to throwing herself down flights of stairs. The second time she did this, she sustained injuries that put her in a coma from which she never emerged and she died shortly thereafter. Her singing is such a counterpoint to all of this personal chaos--no oversinging or vibrato, hitting every note, never rushing--that these details shocked me quite honestly. I found out about it as i was delving into Jackson C. Frank's life and music. As i said in the article, one thing leads to another! I'm glad to see you here, Hedge.

  4. Thank you for the word list and the introduction to Jackson Frank. I really feel blessed, emotional from the list and from the man who brought it out of you.

    1. Hi Susie, so happy you are here! Yes, Jackson Frank's story and his music are something that goes right to the heart.

  5. I listened to his music, read every word of your post twice ... fascinating, sad, thank you for sharing. Now, my challenge is to do your word list some kind of justice.

    1. You always do, Helen. I'm always glad to see your face in the place!

  6. My first thought after reading, Oh God, there's so much pain in this world! And then, how is it that we have the grace to make music out of it, in spite of it?

    1. Because we are stardust, we are golden? I think one of the noblest things a person can do is to make beauty out of pain. I'm so happy to see you again, my friend!

  7. Shay, what a sad story. Thank you so much for sharing the music and the background. I've come to believe over the years that there is a profound beauty in pain.

  8. Late to the party, as usual, but I finally managed to string together a few syllables. I'll be back to read and comment later in the weekend.


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