Jackson C. Frank
Nick Drake's story reads like a Richie Rich comic compared to the tragic life of Jackson C. Frank. Frank barely survived an elementary school fire at age eleven; he suffered burns all over his body, and many of his young classmates were killed. He learned to play the guitar during his long and tedious recovery in the hospital. Frank was drawn to Greenwich Village's coffeehouse folk scene in the early '60s and, at the age of 21, he received an insurance settlement that put him on a plane to London, England. He moved into a flat with a young Paul Simon, who produced ten songs in 1965 for Frank's only official release, Blues Run The Game, a bona fide work of genius damned to obscurity. The recordings became cult music gold, influencing Brit Folk artists including Sandy Denny and Nick Drake (who would cover Frank's "Here Come The Blues"). When Frank couldn't come up with songs for a comeback album and his money began to run out, he moved back to the New York, where depression overtook his life. He wound up homeless. (At one point a street kid shot him in the face with a bb gun, blinding him in one eye.) During sporadic bursts of health in the '70s, Frank recorded half-baked demos that never came anywhere close to what Paul Simon had captured on tape in '65. But in the '90s, a fan named Jim Abbott literally pulled Frank out of the gutter to guide him through demo takes that were great in comparison to say, Leonard Cohen, but still nowhere nearly as impressive as Frank's debut. The late demos sound like another man wearing Frank's skin. Over the years, hard living and mental anguish had weighed down both his voice and his once inspired songwriting. Frank passed away in 1999, but if you listen to Blues Run The Game you will hear how his melancholic troubadour voice borrowed from Fred Neil and how it influenced Tim Buckley and Tim Hardin's inflections as well as Nick Drake's songwriting.