I remember Dick Van Dyke smiling wryly, at age 86, and saying, "I'm circling the drain." But a birthday can bring up the subject of mortality to most anyone...especially as 20's turn to 30's turn to...
So Sammy wrote the following, acknowledging birthday wishes from so many of us:
"Thank you all, dear friends and family from near and far for the Happy Birthday wishes and messages you posted today 7-7-14. At age 62, the finish line is beginning to come into view. This morning I was doing my little crossword puzzle in my little simple book that I have done most every morning for several years. The book is the July issue and I was working on puzzle # 7 and the clue for 7 down was "_____ birthday to you". The answer was of course, happy. I've never come across this clue in one of these books before. I have no doubt in my mind that this was a Happy Birthday wish from my mom and my dad and my sister, Janet.
Sometimes those who have passed on choose to contact us in strange and mysterious ways when we need it the most. I'm sure most everyone experiences this a time or two in their life if you are aware enough to recognize it when it happens. It also helps us to know that we need not fear the finish line and that there is life beyond it. There is a place reserved in Paradise for the homeless, the hungry, those suffering in pain and anguish and for all who choose to live a good and righteous life and who have faith in the Creator and Keeper of The Paradise."
62 ain't old, Sam. Bob Dylan is over 70 now, and still here with us. When he tours, he makes this Earth into some kind of paradise. People sure look like they're seeing Jesus, Moses or The Pope when he comes out. So as they say in the Dutch cheese shops, "Make good use of the time you have left." Aging can be a good thing...you can wine about it. But as we get older, and either have the material things we want or know we'll never get 'em, it's natural to ponder "the finish line," as Sammy notes.
Things get better? Well, Sammy's two Warners albums were re-issued this year. So you never know what's going to happen. How nice if there was a travelin' folkie show mounted...so people could get an entire evening of Sammy, Eric Andersen, Jim Glover, Billy Edd Wheeler, Barry McGuire...whatever combo you'd want from the great days.
It's been a double-edged sword for Sammy Walker; he was "discovered" by Phil Ochs, and billed almost instantly as a Dylan sound-alike. This has helped him get sampled by fans of Phil and Bob...but it's come at a price, with some people never getting those names (or Woody Guthrie's) out of their heads. The fact is, Sammy Walker is, most assuredly, his own man. His best songs don't make you think, "Oh, that could've been on an Ochs album," or "that's early Dylan." You think: "This Sammy walker is a damn good singer/songwriter." And once you get into his albums, the more you pick up on the unique themes, musically and lyrically, that make these Sammy Walker songs.
The brief notes for the re-issue CD booklet mention that Sammy's major label days ended with the two WB albums, and that he's only issued a few sporadic indie releases since. The later material is well worth getting. Some of it is pricey on CD, but a lot is easy to find via cheap download...the kind that delights fans while pauperizing the artist. Not to mention the secret forums and torrents that give the stuff away so the uploader can make some spare change or pretend to be in show biz.
Here at the blog of less renown, one sample song is sufficient to let educated (and this blog isn't aimed at dummies) music fans discover a new favorite. On your next birthday, you might ponder if you're one year closer to your own personal Jesus, or just to a wooden box or incineration.
You might also ponder the odds of heaven on Earth...and if Jesus (or Mohammed or Buddha or Moses or JFK or Lenny Bruce or Phil Ochs) might come down and make this place a little less miserable than it is now. Sammy's had such thoughts, as have we all. It's just the Sammy has done a good job of putting those thoughts to music. Some people ask "what if Phil was alive...what would he be writing about..." or "What if Bob cut it out with the Delta blues stuff..." I'm tempted to say that the answer is in the song below...which covers religious war, global warming, the fate of animals and humans, and those who simply leave it to a "savior" to come down and save us. But this song is not an Ochs and not a Dylan...it's a great Sammy Walker song.
IF JESUS DON'T SHOW
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