The Music of John Gorka-Susan's Encounter


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Susan Finn and John Gorka, October 24, 1999

Susan's Close Encounter

Hello. My name is Susan Finn and I am also a Gorkaholic.

When I hear John say in "The Artist's Profile" video that he would rather reach a small number of people in a very strong way than a mass audience in a superficial way, I want to tell him he has succeeded. The people whose lives he has touched with his music can testify to the fact that he has impacted their lives in very significant ways. I hear it all the time. People share with me stories of how they first discovered John's music and how it changed their lives.

My own husband had been an ex-boyfriend who discovered the music of John Gorka while driving down the highway in Seattle, Washington. "Blues Palace" came on the local public radio station and he felt compelled to call the station and ask who the performer was. He started sharing tapes of the early CD's with me and we re-fell in love listening to John Gorka and sharing a passion for his songs.

All other music I had listened to at that time seemed trite and boring. It was just noise. I would turn to my old Joni Mitchell or James Taylor tapes most of the time. But this was music that mattered. Music that had meaning and substance. And in addition to that, John Gorka had that amazing voice. We were hooked. We bought all his CD's, listened to them frequently, and that was that. It was nice sharing a mutual taste for good sounds.

Then we went to see him perform about 3 years ago and were stunned. We could not believe "someone could sing that good." We started getting serious about being big-time John Gorka fans. Last year we got our second chance to see him perform live. By this time I was an addict. I would try to listen to other music. I would turn the radio on and try to sing along, but the music just didn't get to me the way John's did. We took four other friends, hoping to impress them with the strength of this man's talent. I got on the Internet to try to find some sound clips of his music (my husband had taken all the CD's to work) to share with these friends before the concert and stumbled across the Good Noise discussion board. It was here that I met Bryn. We chatted online for over a year before we ever spoke on the phone. When we eventually met, we were like soul mates, united in our respect for the music of John Gorka.

Through people I worked with, my husband and I were invited to an after concert party in 1999 after a show with Greg Brown in Madison, Wisconsin and we got to meet John for the first time. He was humble and shy, unassuming and gracious. I was even impressed with his good manners! Our respect for him grew and grew. My husband couldn't believe I had arranged for him to meet one of his lifetime heroes. I have spent the last year just learning all I could about him and absorbing as much music as I could.

When Annie Nugent decided to abandon her fan tribute web site, Bryn and I decided to merge our creative talents (if you want to call them that!) and recreate the fan tribute site, retaining much of the spirit of Annie's site but adding our own senses of humor which we think (at least hope) that John will get a kick out of. Fans want the basic information found on a favorite artist's web site, but also we see a need to share their stories, their Gorka connections.

On October 20 and 21, 2000, my husband and I were privileged to see Mr. Gorka twice. On Friday night, we drove for hours to see him in a small, intimate café. I got a chance to chat with him briefly and urged him to view our web site. This venue was so exquisitely perfect that I cannot imagine ever topping it again. A little over 100 people in a cozy setting with great hosts and a wonderful crowd. His voice was so beautiful, at times I closed my eyes and soaked it in, feeling so moved. The purity of his voice was so astounding, so moving, the deep, rich tones just resonated.

We then saw him again the next evening with a group of friends, including Bryn, a great group of people brought together by one thing, their love and appreciation of his music. We all approached him after the show and he made each one of us feel special and important to him. That's the kind of person he is. Every time I see him I am struck by the purity of his voice, his musical gifts, his guitar and piano playing, his wry sense of humor, the amazing way with words he has. But what always impresses me the most is what a lovely man he is, kind and gentle, soulful and thoughtful. Since those first few meetings I have seen John many more times, including a theatre in Chicago to a dark, little club in San Diego where we had a chance to really sit and chat, and most recently at a folk festival in Two Harbors, Minnesota and the next night at Big Top Chautaqua in Wisconsin. In the five years since I first wrote these words, I try to see John perform at least once a year and he always greets me warmly. As I get to know him better, I appreciate his talent even more. We feel privileged to be his fans. It is truly an honor.

-- Susan Finn

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