I was 9 years old when I met him, before a show, in Fargo, North Dakota. My parents had brought me to his buses in the parking lot between which he and a small group of his bandmates, drivers and road crew were standing, talking.
He looked like a wizard in street clothes, with dark, burly eyebrows over deep, infinite eyes and a piercing long nose, a wide long mouth that spoke with glittering teeth and a tongue like silver, like mercury flowed from his warbled and haggard throat.
He asked me my name, and I told him my father had named me “Golden”, but everybody called me “Joe”. He said he liked both my names and that he would decide later which one he would use, “but for now I’ll call you ‘Flint'”. I thought it was so strange for him to say, and several of the grown-ups laughed. But I didn’t mind, I kinda liked the name Flint.
He asked me if I played any musical instruments, and I told him I could play my parents’ piano, and that my mother had just bought me a guitar, and I had a little toy harmonica that sounded pretty good.
I told him I like to write songs, and he said he did, too. He asked about my songs, and I told him about my piano piece, “Cherries Falling on the Rooftops”, and about my guitar composition, “Sky Stop”, that had — despite only having played the guitar for a couple of months — won me a blue ribbon in the 3rd grade talent show!
He asked me what it was I liked so much about writing songs, and I told him it was the thrill of making something out of nothing, especially when I was bored, and of guiding the melodies to the pleasures of my ears and my body, to my soul.
He said he thought of songs as pictures, and writing for him was a way of creating worlds that he could visit and share, anytime he wanted to play and sing those songs.
I don’t remember much else from that conversation, or that first meeting there behind those buses in Fargo, North Dakota, but that his face seemed so large, and his eyes drew me in. I remember I left with a handful of guitar picks with his name on them.
It wasn’t ’til years later, when I had an interest to look through Bob Dylan’s songs he’d written, to get an idea of just what wonderful worlds he’d created in them. Seeing song titles such as “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding”, and realizing, as I’d hoped, that the entire song contained as much and indeed immensely more biting irony as the title suggests. The sardonic humour, the merciless darkness, the tender consoling beauty.. It was all in there, in such dimension.
And I would be stuck on Dylan for many years after, still am, always will.
And I would learn about other songwriters, too. Woody Guthrie was Bob Dylan’s hero and I was learning his songs in my guitar lesson books. Pete Seeger, and Peter, Paul and Mary, whose songs I was learning in my guitar lessons, whose music I had known since childhood, since birth and my earliest days. My preschool teachers, Monica and her mother, at La Petite Ecole, would play Peter, Paul and Mary records throughout the day while we worked in their wonderful, magical school. (it had a lollipop garden! and so much more..) In a way, writing songs, and playing them with my friends, has become over the years for me a way of going back to those gardens, those lucid memories of my earliest childhood days.
I started to notice a few of the better songs in my guitar lesson books, favorites to my ear at least, for their melodic turns and bouncing rhythms, were written by the same people: John Lennon & Paul McCartney. “Hey, no wonder those two songs sounded similar, and that one as well ..” I thought, flipping back and forth the pages, “Yesterday”, “We Can Work It Out”, “Yellow Submarine”, “Blackbird”, “All You Need Is Love”, “Ticket To Ride”, “A Day In The Life”. “They’re written by those guys .. The Beatles!”
Well, ever since, songs and their songwriters have led me with interest and filled me with wonder, lifted me up and danced me through every sadness of my life.
I love a good song.
And that’s why I write them, and why I hope you’ll listen to them. And not only to mine, but to all of them, and together we can share in the appreciation of all the many varied lives and visions that so many artists have shared in song.
It was just like he said, back behind the buses, all those years ago when he named me Flint. Songs are pictures, worlds that we all can visit and share, anytime we wish to sing them.
And at the end of the day, it’s YOU, the listener, that brings all of it to life.
If you’d like to hear some of those stories, and visit some of those worlds we’ve created in the songs I’ve been singing with my friends, click hear to listen to my most recent album, Fallin’ Through The Sky.
Thank you for being a listener, checkin’ out my world, and for making it all matter.
— Joe Eddie