Sign in to follow this  
Michael Stuart Kelly

Gordon Bok - special personal memories

Recommended Posts

Gordon Bok - special personal memories

Here's a moment from my past. Gordon and I crossed paths indirectly over 30 years ago, he in Maine and I in São Paulo, Brazil. Our connection was an American pilot instructor for the military academy in a neighboring city, São José dos Campos--a guy named Larry.

Larry was friends with Gordon and knew I only liked classical music (this was before I went into popular music). Still, he insisted that I listen, so I did. There was no hesitation. I became an instant albeit distant fan. Larry told me that Gordon was flattered to have a classical musician in Brazil admire his music. We never talked, but sent some communications to each other through Larry. I had hoped to meet him one day and, if I remember correctly, the feeling was mutual.

I don't even know if Gordon remembers me after all this time. After all, I heard his stuff, but he never heard mine (I had a brass quintet at the time that was well-known in the Brazilian classical world). I never communicated with his partners in crime, Ann Mayo Muir and Ed Trickett, either, but I remember liking her voice a lot and not so much Ed.

The work that blew me away was a solo presentation by Gordon called "Peter Kagan and the Wind." It was impossible to find Gordon's LPs in Brazil, so I got permission from him to copy Larry's LPs on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. I used to listen to this song (and all the others I recorded) over and over and over when I felt lonely. There is something about Celtic-sounding music that puts me in the most wistful mood--even now. It was a good break from the symphonic repertoire back then. Something different and something I felt was mine, even though it really was Gordon's.

Then life happened. I moved on. Larry faded into the ether of my past. And the memory of this experience got filed away somewhere in my brain as tender forgotten value.

Quite by accident, I came across Gordon's name the other day and looked him up on Google to see what I could find. I was enormously pleased to see that he has done well for himself. Here is his website: Gordon Bok.

He has become a minor classic. Unfortunately very little is on YouTube, but as I listened to what little there is, the cobwebs blew off and all around in my head and it all started coming back. I did not find hardly any of the songs I used to listen to, but I did find some beautiful stuff. I would have loved it, too. Probably more.

I will present a few items--one per post for easy linking should anyone like them. Some of the things below are by Gordon and some are songs by him performed by other artists.

Here is a song called "Saben The Woodfitter." I love the groove he got in once the song got going at the end. That riff haunts my mind. A bit like a gentle bell that won't stop quietly chiming. And the metaphor of the boat for people and things that accompany you over the years almost puts me in a trance when I contemplate it. Oddly enough, his voice is perfect for speaking here, but not all that good singing.

I know this stuff isn't very Objectivist, but it is quite special to me...

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAU1tXGMNvw&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param'>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAU1tXGMNvw&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAU1tXGMNvw&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

These words from the song echo in my mind: "You'll never serve a man again..."

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is the very first song I heard of Gordon after over 30 years. It's a comical little thing called "Old Fat Boat." The metaphor of the boat being his wife is a hoot.

But like the song says, "I'm happy..."

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2vm9Pvmqes&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param'>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2vm9Pvmqes&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2vm9Pvmqes&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Gordon Bok is one of my personal favorites. I play his song Handsome Cabin Boy on the fiddle. Whenever I go home to Iowa, I play my mom's Gordon Bok LP which also has Tune for November and Isle Au Haut. I grew up in a folk music playing family and Mel Bay still publishes my father's book How to Play Folk and Blues Harmonica.

Jim

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The next is a capella with Gordon, Ann and Ed. I did not know this one. As I started to listen, the words started jumping out at me.

These were not normal song lyrics. The wording and range of emotions is way too rich for modern songs. Hell, for old songs, too. As a song-writer, this really caught my attention.

Then I noticed in the comments that the words are from a poem by Rudyard Kipling. It is such a beautiful poem, too. Once again, not very Objectivish, but very, very special...

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dojJTFH7iCM&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param'>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dojJTFH7iCM&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dojJTFH7iCM&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

I got the poem on Gutenberg here.

The fifth and sixth verses are not given in the song and several words are changed. Still, it's quite lovely.

THE SEA-WIFE

There dwells a wife by the Northern Gate,

And a wealthy wife is she;

She breeds a breed o' rovin' men

And casts them over sea.

And some are drowned in deep water,

And some in sight o' shore,

And word goes back to the weary wife

And ever she sends more.

For since that wife had gate or gear,

Or hearth or garth or bield,

She willed her sons to the white harvest,

And that is a bitter yield.

She wills her sons to the wet ploughing,

To ride the horse of tree,

And syne her sons come back again

Far-spent from out the sea.

The good wife's sons come home again

With little into their hands,

But the lore of men that ha' dealt with men

In the new and naked lands;

But the faith of men that ha' brothered men

By more than easy breath,

And the eyes o' men that ha' read wi' men

In the open books of death.

Rich are they, rich in wonders seen,

But poor in the goods o' men;

So what they ha' got by the skin o' their teeth

They sell for their teeth again.

For whether they lose to the naked life

Or win to their hearts' desire,

They tell it all to the weary wife

That nods beside the fire.

Her hearth is wide to every wind

That makes the white ash spin;

And tide and tide and 'tween the tides

Her sons go out and in;

(Out with great mirth that do desire

Hazard of trackless ways,

In with content to wait their watch

And warm before the blaze);

And some return by failing light,

And some in waking dream,

For she hears the heels of the dripping ghosts

That ride the rough roof-beam.

Home, they come home from all the ports,

The living and the dead;

The good wife's sons come home again

For her blessing on their head!

Even though this is in the third person, if I think of it from the woman's percepctive, it puts me in that wistful trance I like so much...

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is "Peter Kagan and the Wind." I could not find Gordon's version, but this one by Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy does quite nicely. Still, it misses the masculinity and sense of drama Gordon brought to it.

I happen to like this tale a lot. Notice that the villain is not another person, but one of nature's elements. That's almost Randish.

Also, Kagan's wife loves him so much she sacrifices herself to keep him safe when he was losing his battle against nature. I find this extremely moving. You don't find love like that much anymore in the modern world. It's around, but it's rare. Kagan's wife is my kind of people, even if she was a seal.

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="

name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="

name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm sorry to say that the next interpretation is not so hot. It's OK, but the song, Turning Toward the Morning" is so beautiful that I had to include it.

The singer is doing an improvised presentation in front of a video camera. His name is Will and his YouTube name is theprinsonersix. At first he gets a little out of tune, but gets better as he goes along. Not great, but good enough to show the beauty of the song. He repeats the last line ("toward the morning") a couple of times before going on and I am pretty sure this was not part of the original. It's a wonderful idea, though. I like it.

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="

name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

I found the lyrics here and I am giving them below, along with a quote by Gordon.

Turning Toward the Morning

When the deer has bedded down

And the bear has gone to ground,

And the northern goose has wandered off

To warmer bay and sound,

It's so easy in the cold to feel

The darkness of the year

And the heart is growing lonely

For the morning

(refrain)

Oh, my Joanie, don't you know

That the stars are swinging slow,

And the seas are rolling easy

As they did so long ago?

If I had a thing to give you,

I would tell you one more time

That the world is always turning

Toward the morning.

Now October's growing thin

And November's coming home;

You'll be thinking of the season

And the sad things that you've seen,

And you hear that old wind walking,

Hear him singing high and thin,

You could swear he's out there singing

Of your sorrow.

When the darkness falls around you

And the Northwind come to blow,

And you hear him call you name out

As he walks the brittle snow:

That old wind don't mean you trouble,

He don't care or even know,

He's just walking down the darkness

Toward the morning.

It's a pity we don't know

What the little flowers know.

They can't face the cold November

They can't take the wind and snow:

They put their glories all behind them,

Bow their heads and let it go,

But you know they'll be there shining

In the morning.

Now, my Joanie, don't you know

That the days are rolling slow,

And the winter's walking easy,

As he did so long ago?

And, if that wind would come and ask you,

"Why's my Joanie weeping so?"

Wont you tell him that you're weeping

For the morning?

(Quote by Gordon from the album):

"One of the things that provoked this song was a letter last November from a friend who had had a very difficult year and was looking for the courage to keep on plowing into it. Those times, you lift your eyes unto the hills, as they say, but the hills of Northern New England in November can be about as much comfort as a cold crowbar. You have to look ahead a bit, then, and realize that all the hills and trees and flowers will still be there come Spring, usually more permanent than your troubles. And if your courage occasionally fails, that's okay, too: nobody expects you to be as strong (or as old) as the land."

Also, I found a lovely audio version sung by one Wendy Grossman: Turning Toward the Morning

I really fell in love with this song. I didn't know it until yesterday.

I can't get the following image out of my mind--and the metaphors are having a field day inside me: "That old wind don't mean you trouble, he don't care or even know, he's just walking down the darkness toward the morning."

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jim and PDS,

Thanks.

That's all for now.

I found some other videos, but nothing so special I want to share it. I hope more stuff will come up as I go along.

Michael

Michael,

Did you ever have LP's from Folkways Records? Another of my favorite LP's is Sara Grey accompanied by Ed Trickett.

Jim

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Michael,

I have always loved those lilting Celtic songs that speak of real life and fortitude in the face of it.

Thanks

Tony

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gordon Bok is one of my personal favorites. I play his song Handsome Cabin Boy on the fiddle.

Jim,

Cross dressing sailor?

Heh.

I think this is a traditional Irish song. I tried to look it up with Gordon, but I couldn't find it. I did find a few interesting versions, though. Here are 3 of them. The first is highly stylized by an artist called Kate Bush. It's funny how she made the song haunting and killed the humor in it, and her accent sounds like a cheap 1930's gun moll, but still it's pretty.

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="

name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

The next is a more traditional amateur version accompanied by a mandola that is very well done. The twang of the mandola gives it a really nice old-time Irish flavor and this dude, spinzorelli, rehearsed it properly. It's a nice listen.

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="

name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

Finally, here is a rare instrumental version by Frank Zappa. (This would be the kind of theme that would interest him. :) )

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7pagsrSlmI&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param'>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7pagsrSlmI&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7pagsrSlmI&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gordon Bok is one of my personal favorites. I play his song Handsome Cabin Boy on the fiddle.

Jim,

Cross dressing sailor?

Heh.

I think this is a traditional Irish song. I tried to look it up with Gordon, but I couldn't find it. I did find a few interesting versions, though. Here are 3 of them. The first is highly stylized by an artist called Kate Bush. It's funny how she made the song haunting and killed the humor in it, and her accent sounds like a cheap 1930's gun moll, but still it's pretty.

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="

name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

The next is a more traditional amateur version accompanied by a mandola that is very well done. The twang of the mandola gives it a really nice old-time Irish flavor and this dude, spinzorelli, rehearsed it properly. It's a nice listen.

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="

name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="
type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

Finally, here is a rare instrumental version by Frank Zappa. (This would be the kind of theme that would interest him. :) )

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7pagsrSlmI&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param'>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7pagsrSlmI&hl=en_US&fs=1&"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7pagsrSlmI&hl=en_US&fs=1&" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>

Michael

Michael,

Thank you for this thread. I don't think a lot of people get to hear some of the better folk musicians of the 1960's. Gordon Bok is certainly one of the best. His deep baritone and experience at sea make for some very heartfelt, interesting musical stories. Thanks for reminding me of Handsome Cabin Boy's traditional origins. In Gordon Bok's renditions on Folkways Records, you can absolutely hear the twinkle in his eye as he deadpans the song.

Jim

edit- I checked a couple of sources and Gordon had an album for Verve records with a Folkways imprint. That must be the one I play regularly when I visit home in Iowa.

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is an old thread and some of the links to the videos have become busticated. Tomorrow I might go through it and find new videos to replace them with.

But I'm posting right now because, quite by accident, I stumbled across Gordon Bok's version of "Peter Kagan and the Wind."

It was pure delight to hear this again after all those years. 

Way back in Brazil, in my orchestra days in fact, I used to go into a trance every time I heard this. I just now went into that trance again. What a joy...

So yes, it makes me trance-like happy and will continue to do so. But it's a mystery why. Other than this song, I don't have any kind of connection with myths about female guardian seals. None. And I certainly didn't marry one. 

:) 

Recently, I read Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea." Even though this story is set in the tropics, Santiago's form of inner dialogue (anthropomorphizing, challenging and one-upping nature) once at sea was the same as Kagan's in the song. I wonder if that is typical of the way people talk to themselves when alone at sea for long stretches of time.

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this