A raw post.
The music of John Gorka is looping in my garage office corner as I write. It’s not recent music, and from time to time I reach up with my right ring finger and hit the ‘advance’ key on my keyboard to skip this song. Not every track is conducive to my thinking right now. Some would soothe me as I write, but that’s not how I’m feeling right now. I’m excited and a bit sad.
John Gorka is an American musician who has been around for a while. He’s been doing his thing for a bit longer than I’ve been doing mine.
I was introduced to him in college. I’d hit the road in my folks car some fall in the early ’90s, bound for Ames, IA, to visit a high school friend. She was a sweetie and close friend back then, though we were never a couple. (Back then, there was no such thing as a ‘friend with benefits’, but wouldn’t that have been nice.) She was going to school at Iowa State and I was at St. Olaf College. We arranged for a time to reconnect. I don’t remember my pairing situation, but I remember she had a boyfriend. (A thin, dark haired and bespectacled guy who was easy to forget.)
But that’s not what I’m writing about. I’m writing about what she introduced me to that weekend. I drove down on a Friday or Saturday, planning to reconnect , crash for the night, and then head back the next day.
She thought we could head out to a place that had some live music. (Music was always part of our shared experience in high school.) She brought us to this little bar-type place, with a long, narrow main area that ended in a slightly elevated stage. I think we ate something, and while we were eating we didn’t notice a guy set up a stool, microphone stand and mic, and a glass of water down there. I’m not sure if the lights went down when he started his set, but when he began to sing, the room’s focus turned to him.
Gorka’s rich baratone filled my mind. His guitar an understated rhythm-lead mix that supports the pictures he painted and shared with his lyrics.
I remember being mesmerized. I have no idea what we ate or drank. Andrea may have been sitting next to me at our little sticky table, but John’s music is all I remember from that evening. He sang songs from his Land of the Bottom Line and Out of the Valley albums, which I purchased within weeks of visiting Ames. Those songs painted pictures of living, hurting, change, and affection in ways I’d not heard before. Songs of David Wilcox acheived a similar level of poetic delivery, but Wilcox’s songs wer more like parables. Gorka’s were stories whose lessons were left to the listener.
Today, Gorka’s music gives me pleasure and pain. I revel in the poetry pictures he paints, often pretending to be the poet with an acoustic air guitar. I wish I could do more than fake it. I wish I could cover his songs. My 10,000+ hours of being an avocational musician (piano lessons, high school choir, college choir, etc.) beckons. But until make the effort to acquire the skill to pass his music on myself, I’ll enjoy listening to it and faking it on my air six-string.