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Photo of John Gorka, by Jos van Vliet

Photo by Jos van Vliet, Amsterdam, March 1992

"And so I will not name my heroes
And I'll keep my distance when I can
But if time should bend or break them
I hope I won't forsake them
If by chance they need a friend
Or need to walk on ordinary ground."

-- John Gorka, "Heroes"

John

Photo of Jos van Vliet
with John Gorka by Jan van Egmond,
Amsterdam, Sept. 22, 1994

Date: 8 October 2000
From: Jos van Vliet

"Ever since I've heard John Gorka for the first time in 1989 on the Windham Hill compilation "Legacy", I have been following his musical career closely. In February 1992 he was giving a concert for the first time in Amsterdam (Holland). A great concert. Right before the birth of my twins the "Out of the Valley" CD was released and the songs from this album could be heard on the national radio in Holland for weeks. VPRO radio DJ Jan Donkers was one of his fans. In September 1994 John Gorka was going to give a concert in Holland again and I drew Jan Donker's attention to this and asked him if it would be possible to arrange a radio performance. Shortly after I received an invitation to be part of a small selected studio audience. John was playing for more than one hour and before the concert the audience (12 people) had a drink together with him outside on that sunny autumn day. After this concert I made some photographs of John Gorka and we chatted about David Wilcox.

The live concert, which was broadcasted later that week, is cherished by me on a mini-disc and the song "Gypsy Life" from this concert can be heard on the compilation CD "Sunday Morning Coming Down" (Munich Records, MRCD 176, 1995). The day before he performed in the VPRO studio, I happened to see John during the extras of the Shawn Colvin concert in Amsterdam and the day after I was amongst the audience during his one and only concert in Utrecht. To be short, this was THE John Gorka week in my life so far.

In 2000 I decided to make 10 bootleg CD's of the radio performance (plus 6 extra John Gorka tracks several CD samplers). They were sold out in 24 hours. And on the John Gorka list was a enormous discussion about this illegal action. Even John's manager wrote something about it (it was permit to make less than 50 copies!!) Of course I was proud that John also wanted to have a copy of the (again, very limited) bootleg CD. I am just a great John Gorka fan from the other side of your world and I don't want to "make" money with John's music. Of course John didn't have to pay for this CD: It was a nice way for me to "pay" for the royalties!! Greg Steele wrote: "Live recordings and other unreleased material is offered free in exchange for trades of other music or blank tapes and postage". For years I tried to exchange for trades but I think there are not so many people who have a live tape of John Gorka.

Another thing for me was that I wanted to provoke the record label with this small illegal action (Red House Records be honest: We have to wait to long for a new record. Make for example, 1000 copies of a live show like we saw on that wonderful video "The Artist Profile" for the hardcore fans, or make a sampler with all the songs John made for other samplers)."

Regards, Jos

Jos, King of John Gorka Fans

Jos van Vliet, King of John Gorka Fans
Photo by Freek van Vliet

Date: 11 December 2000
From: Timothy Miller

"I was sitting in the living room of a friend's house, he had been playing me his list of "must hear" artists. Like so many times before, the list included and was basically limited to, a bunch of artists that neither related to me, nor interested me. I was a rocker, rapper, head banger, you name it, but I wasn't a folker. He was. As we sat talking, and I sat hoping it would end soon, he popped in a CD called Land Of The Bottom Line. It was the best sound I had ever heard come out of his speakers, and the best thing I had heard in a long, long time. I sat, captivated by the singer's voice, and mouth wide open at the honesty and cleverness of his lyrics. I still am. That was eight years ago.

Since that time, I've bought all of John's CD's. In fact, I've bought them twice (grand larceny is a *%&#!). He has even opened me up to many other artists I would have never considered just a few short years ago. About two years ago, I moved to Pennsylvania, and my wife bought me tickets to my first Gorka concert. He opened for Don McLean. I stayed for John, and left for Don. I showed up with every CD I owned, plus my guitar. John signed all of them while I stood and stared. Since that night, I've heard that John has added a security guard and two watch dogs at his home (kidding). I've seen him one other time since then and have tickets to two of his shows in February. This guy is amazing. I never get tired of listening and if could ever get it out in front of him, I would thank him for his honesty and his inspiration. I'm sure that many of John's fans have one song that they feel was written for them. Mine is Flying Red Horse. Thanks John. Still listening."
Tim

Date: 26 January 2001
From: Steve Lind

"I first met John in the early 80's. I was a volunteer at Godfrey Daniel's Coffee House and John was living in the basement. We would go to open mike night's together and it was obvious that John was destined for greater things. His original songs touched the mind and his beautiful voice touched the heart. Both still do. John and I became fast friends and we enjoyed sharing the stage together on many occasions singing a few cover tunes. It was not long before "I Know" was released and blew us all away. I have many great memories of seeing John perform live since those days. Now John is playing sold out shows at great venues all over the country. As for me, I'll be performing at the open mike night at Uncle Stoopid's the second and fourth Wednesday of each month."

Peace, Steve Lind

Date: 02, July 2001
From: Sue Broderick

"I first heard of John Gorka many years ago at an open mike night in Westboro, Mass... by a self proclaimed John fanatic. This man got up (who looked just like him then too) and sang 'Blues Palace'. I was hooked. I bought a cassette of his first two albums (the only two released at the time) for my car to listen to shortly after Brian Doser's faithful rendition for a trip across country. By the time I pulled in home from my trip, I knew all the songs by heart. As the years have gone by, I made it a mission to try to see him perform in every New England venue. I have seen him in music halls, camping in a field within walking distance to the festival stage, tiny coffehouses, city greens, park stages, and church halls. I have also managed to 'drag' a good amount of my friends to his performances with me. To cap off a long affair with john and his music, on September 29, 1993, my boyfriend who was sitting in on his first John Gorka live experience, proposed to me before the main-act..and we danced to 'Love is Our Cross to Bear' at our wedding a few months later.

I have sinced moved to Florida, and haven't seen him perform in over a year. Last summer, 2000, I was home in Mass. for a visit and a friend mentioned the Lowell summer concert series, and guess who was the act that night we went! I was soo happy to get a 'fix' of his live performances for a while. His music has also made a fan out of my 6 year old daughter. I will always be a fan of his, and his music will always be in my heart."

Party on Edgar,
Sue Broderick

Please share your stories

There is just something about John's music that's inclusive, makes you feel like he is writing from inside your head. It's real life set to music. Perhaps it is the honesty in the music and the lyrics that helps create a connection between folk artist and fan.

When did you first find that the music of John Gorka was a part of your daily life?

Because of the intimacy of John's venues, fans often have a chance to make personal contact with him. Do you have a story to tell about meeting John or how one of his songs has impacted your life?

Share it with us. Whether you just wish to express your appreciation of the music, tell about how you had a CD signed as a reminder of the moment, delivered a fan letter or a gift, or want to share a story about what a certain song means to you, this is the place to write it.

Please send your encounters to The Gypsy Life. If you have a photo of yourself to share, please send it along as well.

Date: 8 Oct 2000
From: Gail Lindekugel
(Please click on image to see a larger version)

Levi Lindekugel"I lost a little boy to cancer in 1998, his illness spanned nearly 4 years of intense sadness mixed in with the blessings of having an angel disguised as a little boy living in our house. Love is love, when your heart is shattering, be it a tall dark man in a leather jacket or a small, pale, bald child who is doing the breaking. I found I could only listen to Gorka music for most of this time, it was just a sound track of sorts, not cheery and false like so much else seems in the world when one is lying on the bottom looking up. The song "Love is our Cross to Bear" was played at our Levi's funeral service, it is the perfect anthem to lost love and I dream of when I can throw my arms around my son again.

Levi LindekugelWe saw John play in Hastings, Nebraska last fall at the Listening Room. We were waiting outside when he very simply pulled up in a car and walked in, no pomp and circumstance for our hero. He also sat behind us between sets and I turned around just to ask for songs. I could not tell him about my son for fear of sobbing. He also sang a song about soldiers lost at war, it was an old song, it was perfect. I'm glad the room was dark.

My favorite Gorka lines are: "Without feather or branch love brings you closer to the sky" (having all your babies asleep under the same roof is paradise, even if the roof is leaky. I had paradise for a little while, now I have to be content with the memory) and "I'll love you past the boundaries that time and breath allow."

Thank you,

Gail Lindekugel
Nebraska

Date: 16 April 2001
From: David Good

"I am a John Gorka fan in every sense of the word. This site complements exactly why I am drawn to John's music: his wit; his intelligent home hitting lyrics that leave you nodding in agreement; his subtle musical arrangements; his complete absence of flash....It's a very good site, keep up the good work!!

In 1989 I was driving down a road in Maine, listening to my favorite radio station WCLZ which at the time offered an adult alternative format (but has since switched to a "Classic Hits" format, Yuck!). From the first line of "I Saw a Stranger with Your Hair" spilling out of my car radio I was mesmerized by this man's voice and knew instantly I had found a new favorite singer/songwriter. I called the station to get the artists and album name. "I Know" was the beginning of my now extensive John Gorka collection.

In 1992 John was touring solo to support his "Jack's Crows" CD (one of my all time favorites). I read he would be making a stop at "Raoul's Roadside Attraction" in Portland, ME. (since closed) A venue that attracted the likes of John, Patty Larkin, Steve Forbert, Livingston Taylor, Cheryl Wheeler, Jonathan Edwards and many others of their genre. A very intimate place conducive to listening. The place was full to capacity and my friend and I had to settle for standing on chairs at the very back of the room. As I stood there before the show gazing at the sea of people I glanced over toward the bar and there was John making his way to the bar for a glass of water. I was blown away by his casual, regular guy presence. I had seen many shows at Raoul's and never had I seen an artist milling about prior to their show or after for that matter. He shook a few hands and made small talk with a few people. As much as I wanted to step down off the chair and introduce myself my less than enthusiastic feet would not budge. I settled for standing there and enjoying a show of good music and humorous stories.

I have been playing acoustic guitar and singing at clubs in southern Maine for about 15 years. Mostly, as a second income to support my family but also as a vehicle for some artistic expression. I play mostly covers but am able to squeeze in a few originals along the way. I think why I relate so intensely to John Gorka and his music is that he's accomplished something that I have only dreamed about and that is writing good music, making CD's and touring the country playing for people who really dug the music. His influence is found throughout much of the music I've written in the last ten years. I hope he continues to write, sing and tour well into his rocking chair days.

I've found after a hard day in the working world a John Gorka CD in my CD player for the drive home (I've been wearing out my new copy of "The Company You Keep") is better than any sedative I have discovered thus far in life. Many of his lyrics reflect moods that all of us feel. Who hasn't experienced a "...big time Moses lonesome..." and I can count a few times when "My former view was backward, my backward view was blue....." and finally one of my all time favorite lines "....some forget the kindnesses that others never will."

Forever Gorka,
David Good

Date: 10 Oct 2000
From: Matthew Miller

"I first heard John's music in the fall of 1993. I was watching CMT when the video for "Houses in the Fields" came on. I was struck immediately by the emotional power of John's voice and the sheer beauty of the lyrics. About a week later I saw John on an interview show where he played several songs. I remember sitting on the couch, unable to move. John's music totally captivated me. I had played music for awhile, but it was then that I first thought of becoming a writer. John Gorka completely changed the way I listened to music, and even the way I looked at life. I learned how to be more at peace with all sides of myself by finding communion with the characters in his songs. I am sure that I would not be a writer today had it not been for the influence of John Gorka and his music.
By the way, my music is in the folk/country vein, kind of outlaw country I guess."

Matthew Miller

Date: April 28, 2001
From: Hugh Blumenfeld

"I've had the pleasure of knowing John since the early 80s back in Greenwich Village - Fast Folk Musical Magazine, Speak Easy Musicians Cooperative, Cornelia Street Songwriters Exchange. John just kept writing these songs filled with wisdom and whimsy.

Here's some clarification/embellishment of the story John included in the liner notes to the song "Heroes" on his last album.

I learned "Heroes" from John in Kerrville - I think it was 1987. He was camped next to my wife Andrea and me in an enclave that had been dubbed "Little New York." I forget when we first heard the song, whether it was there or earlier in NYC, but it was at Andrea's request that I learned it. The song was brand new and we both loved it as soon as we heard it, but Andrea was the one who wanted to sing it. So, one bright midmorning when things in the campgrounds are lazy and slow, John passed over his notebook and I copied out the words. Soon afterwards, the notebook - along with his guitar - was stolen from his car and never recovered.

Andrea and I sang it at home from time to time during the next ten years - our own private little treasure. It never occurred to either of us to ask John about it, until I opened for him at Godfreys in 1997. It was only then I learned that the song had been lost in the notebook and that he'd forgotten it long ago. So I was able to play it for him downstairs in the dressing room before the gig and write him out a copy of his own lyric.

But Andrea deserves all the credit."

Hugh Blumenfeld


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