On the current edition of Art of the Song, we welcome the legendary Tom Paxton to the show. Mr. Paxton is an American folk singer and singer-songwriter who has been writing, performing and recording music for fifty years. In 2009, Paxton received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Paxton’s songs have demonstrated enduring appeal, including modern standards such as “The Last Thing on My Mind“, “Bottle of Wine”, “Whose Garden Was This”, “The Marvelous Toy”, and “Ramblin’ Boy”. Paxton’s songs have been recorded by Pete Seeger and The Weavers, Judy Collins, Sandy Denny, Joan Baez, Doc Watson, Harry Belafonte, Peter, Paul and Mary, Marianne Faithfull, The Kingston Trio, The Chad Mitchell Trio, John Denver, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, Willie Nelson, Flatt & Scruggs, The Move, The Fireballs, and many others (see covers). He has performed thousands of concerts around the world in such places as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Scandinavia, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, and all over the United States; and his songs have been translated into various languages. Paxton enjoys a strong relationship with fans throughout the world.
Paxton’s songs can be emotionally affective and cover a wide range of topics, from the serious and profound to the lighthearted and comical. “What Did You Learn in School Today?” mocks the way children are often taught lies. “Jimmy Newman” is the story of a dying soldier and “My Son John” is a moving song about a soldier who comes back home and cannot even begin to describe what he has been through. “Beau John” is a civil rights era song about taking a stand against racial injustice. “A Thousand Years” tells the chilling tale of Neo-Nazi uprising, and “Train for Auschwitz” is about the Holocaust. “On the Road to Srebrenica” is about Bosnian Muslims who were killed in a 1995 massacre in Bosnia and Herzegovina. “The Bravest” is a song about the firefighters who gave their lives while trying to save others on September 11, 2001. Then there are Paxton’s “short shelf life songs”, which are topical songs about current events and things in the news. These songs can be lighthearted and comical, or serious depending on the situation, and they change all the time as new ones are written and old ones can reappear as things seem to have a way of cycling around in this world. They include: “In Florida”, about the 2000 election; “Without DeLay”, a song about the former congressman; “Bobbitt”, about John and Lorena Bobbitt; “Little Bitty Gun”, which lampoons Nancy Reagan; “I’m Changing My Name to Chrysler”, about the federal loan guarantee to Chrysler in 1979 (which was rewritten in 2008 as “I Am Changing My Name to Fannie Mae” about the 700 billion dollar “bailout of the U.S. financial system”); “The Ballad of Spiro Agnew“, and “Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation” (which became “George W. Told the Nation” in 2007).