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Today in Music – Oct 31, 1937 – Tom Paxton was born – Happy Birthday, Tom!!

Tom PaxtonSo another year has gone by and today we celebrate.the 76th birthday of Tom Paxton, and this year is the 44th year that Tom’s music has been a part of the soundtrack of my life! To tell you how ingrained Tom’s music is in my head, I can’t meet a woman named Jennifer without Tom’s “Jennifer’s Rabbit” popping into my head! (You can watch a cover of the song as performed by the University of Pittsburgh’s Heinz Chapel Choir from a Concert, October 11, 2009. Solo: Benjamin Miller here)  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Tom and his music here’s some background information from Allmusic:

 Born in Chicago on Halloween in 1937, Paxton moved with his family to Bristow, OK, in 1948, when he was ten; his father died soon after. His first musical instrument was the trumpet, but he next took up the ukulele, and in the summer of 1954 an aunt gave him his first guitar. In 1955, he matriculated at the University of Oklahoma at Norman, initially as a drama major. There he became interested in folk music and began writing songs. He graduated in 1959 with a BFA and acted in summer stock, though his main interest had shifted to singing. He went into the army reserve early in 1960, and that spring was stationed at Fort Dix, NJ, which allowed him to begin going into New York City and performing at the amateur-night hootenannies in Greenwich Village clubs. When he finished active duty in September 1960, he settled in New York. He began making his name both as a singer in such clubs as the Gaslight and the Bitter End, and as a songwriter, publishing songs in the folk magazines Broadside and Sing Out

I always enjoy the story Tom tells about writing the song “The Marvelous Toy” (watch Tom and Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey perform it here)  that revolves around his boredom while in the military and stationed at Fort Dix ! Pete Seeger says this about Tom’s music:

“Tom’s songs have a way of sneaking up on you. You find yourself humming them, whistling them, and singing a verse to a friend. Like the songs  of Woody Guthrie, they’re becoming part of America.” Pete goes on: “In a small village near Calcutta, in 1998, a villager who could not speak English sang me “What Did You Learn In School Today?” in Bengali! Tom Paxton’s songs are reaching around the world more than he is, or any of us could have realized. Keep on, Tom

You can watch Pete and Tom sing one of those songs “Ramblin’  Boy” here The comment at This Day in Rock Music reads:I

 “Folk singer Tom Paxton, who went from being a topical rabble-rouser to children’s performer”, while many of Tom’s songs are topical I don’t know that he is a rabble-rouser more of a songwriter that makes you think, laugh and touches your heart, too, and while Tom has made some well received children’s songs (which he’s been writing forever see “the Marvelous Toy” and “Jennifer’s Rabbit”) he is still performing and writing topical and touching songs

Ok so image now if you would the lights are low and the crowd is quiet, Tom starts the first few notes of “The Last Thing on My Mind” a song that the audience has been singing for years and as soon as he starts the lyrics the whole quiet audience joins in! There IS something moving and spiritual in it and it moves everyone in the room, you can feel it, it reals. So Tom thanks for moving us with the your music and thanks for the 43 years of musical joy that you’ve brought to me…..and these lyrics are now in my head tonight after hearing the song this afternoon…

I’m in love with Molly Bloom. I want to have her in my living room, Whispering sweet nothings in my ear. When I heard what Molly said, Good golly how my ears turned red. That’s par for the course for Molly Bloom.

So again Happy 76th Birthday and I wish you many, many more!! Here’s that spiritual moment…..turn down those lights…….join the crowd and sign along!!