Passing through

Passing through
Burt Baldwin - 09/09/2021

There is an old adage that says, “During the course of life you can count your most trusted and loyal friends on one hand.” For me, that adage rings true. As I look back, I find that in most cases, there is a thread that runs through these friendships; and that is music. A close friend passed away a couple years ago. He was an accomplished musician who spent many days playing on the streets of Paris. I had known him since fourth grade, and we played music together for decades. The other four now live in Louisiana, Ohio and New Jersey.  The other day, one of the foursome called me to tell me that Nanci Griffith had passed away. It was somewhat serendipitous as I was listening to her music while working in my studio. It was a shock as she was only 68 years old.

Nanci was an excellent songwriter and singer living in Nashville, but whose roots were in Austin, Texas. She was a teacher for a period of time but then decided to go into songwriting and singing full time. When I moved to Colorado in 1980, she was just becoming popular. One of my favorite songs was “Love at the Five and Dime” which reached No. 5 on the national music charts. She won a Grammy for her album “Other Voices, Other Rooms” in 1993. She passed away due to complications while fighting cancer. She will be sorely missed.

In the early ’70s, I had a bluegrass band, and we would play several dives in central Ohio. One of my favorite regional bands of that time was “Lawrence Lane and the Kentucky Grass.” Our band was lucky enough to open from them in Bucyrus, Ohio. His band opened with a tune entitled “I Remember the Year That Clayton Delaney Died.” I asked Lawrence after the gig about the origins of that song. He nodded and said, “Tom T. Hall.” We immediately included it in our repertoire.  

Tom T. Hall died Aug. 20 this year. Tom’s music spanned several decades. He was the master of the story song. His lyric, “Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine” topped the charts and has become a country classic. Tom T. had 21 No. 1 country hits and was elected to the Country Hall of Fame in 2008. He died at the age of 85 and is buried in his hometown of Franklin, Tenn.

Years ago I had my literature students read a short story by Salmon Rushdie from his collection of “Haroun and the Sea of Stories.” The theme of this particular story focused on the rainbow quilt of humanity and how each of us represents a colorful thread in that quilt of life. I don’t pick up the ole Gibson much these days, but when I do, I think of those musical friends and the songwriters and singers that have influenced me. I am happy to say that their thread of creativity has woven an indelible musical quilt in the heart of my music.