February 2005, Vol 21 No 2 p.19
© Norm Hacking 2005
Some things come to us later in life than we may have first expected.
Sometimes this is a good thing.
Having first graduated the 1960s, and, subsequently, having gone on to
receive top marks at University (Honors, Bachelor of Folksinging and Pharmaceutical
Research), I anticipated fame and fortune would soon be mine.
Imagine my surprise, when the seven night musical gigs (with Saturday
afternoon matinee shows) in Rimouski, Quebec, only generated enough income
to pay for the bus ticket to the next gig at the Quinte Hotel in Belleville!
Also, there was a particularly poignant paucity of autograph requests,
and fan mail, accompanying Canada Post's numerous daily bill deliveries.
Nevertheless, I adopted the attitude of all good sea captains, who refuse
to man the lifeboats, choosing, instead, to go down with the ship.
The romance and the eccentric vagaries of the independent artist's life
probably contributed to one marriage, and, seven "odd" years
later, one divorce.
By the 1990's, I was hopelessly in debt, having financed and released
a handful of albums of original songs - an expensive proposition considering
studio time, musicians, manufacturing costs, etc.
The album projects that came close to breaking even were considered,
"tours de force."
Yet, now and then, the world would dangle a carrot in front of a now
self consciously aging donkey.
The Kingston Whig-Standard favorably compared the writing on the album
entitled "Cut Roses" to that of (I blush) John Steinbeck!
The Toronto Star, in reviewing the album "Stubborn Ghost" wrote
that, "the title track is as fine a piece of songwriting as has ever
been committed to vinyl."
Getting to share folk festival and concert stages with the likes of Richie
Havens, John Lee Hooker, Tom Paxton, Bruce Cockburn, Bonnie Raitt, Arlo
Guthrie, etc., etc. didn't hurt either.
There was just enough TV and radio to make it not completely astonishing
when someone recognized me, here and there.
This was, however, a long way removed from "celebrity."
Just as my initial onslaught of failing health and fading resolve was
setting in, a guardian angel, 'Mr. X', appeared out of nowhere to assist
financially in the release of three more CDs.
Coincidentally, Three Flamingos Music recorded and released a "tribute"
CD of 17 of my musical heroes and peers singing songs I'd written. This
was entitled, "One Voice," with a "Volume Two" currently
The Toronto Star even called me to write a feature article about Christmas.
All wonderfully gratifying for the aging artist's soul...
But, it was one of the silly "throwaway" songs that I wrote
for my cats, that led me into becoming - ta da - a published author!
A west coast children's storybook illustrator affiliated with Raincoast
Books (Canadian publishers of the Harry Potter series) heard my song,
"When Cats Go Wrong" on CBC's Vinyl Cafe show, hosted by Stuart
McLean, and decided it would make a great illustrated kids' book.
After a late 2004 Canadian release, and after great reviews in The Globe
and Mail weekend book review, Quill and Quire magazine, Maclean's Magazine,
The Vancouver Sun, etc., we now have a book (with CD included) that has
been several weeks on the B.C. best seller list for children's books.
Last time I heard, it was number two.
And, recently, I received in the mail, nearly 30 cut out kitty cats,
with letters printed on their tummies, from an entire grade two class
at St. Catherine School in Metcalfe, ON!
I couldn't wipe the smile off my face as I read comments like, "Are
your cats really that bad? If they are, then mine aren't!" and, "When
our teacher plays the CD I am forced to sing!"
But, what felt especially wonderful was the comment in the covering letter
by their teacher, Mrs. Weir, that, "Even my 'reluctant' readers were
quickly able to grasp the story line with the CD accompaniment ... You
have really captured the imaginations of the children in my class."
So, move over Bob Dylan! Just as your fans, (myself included), are getting
too old and deaf to listen to music, I'm cornering a whole new fan base
that will have all their sensory faculties for a long time.
Ah, celebrity, at last you are mine! More champagne please, Jeeves...
Read the full lyrics of "When Cats
Go Wrong" and see our When Cats
Go Wrong book information - both include a link to a generous music
sample (mp3) of the song. Check with your favourite bookseller for
When Cats Go Wrong, written by Norm Hacking, illustrated by Cynthia
Nugent [ISBN 1-55192-729-2, from Raincoast Books, www.raincoast.com
]. The book - complete with a CD single of the song - arrived in Canadian
stores in late October 2004, with U.S. release (through Publishers Group
West) in March 2005
See the list of Norm's on-line lyrics, poetry
and prose, including other "Race Track Hack" columns for
Taxi News. Norm has been writing his monthly column since
Taxi News website is www.taxinews.com
with Norm's current monthly column at www.taxinews.com/racetrackhack.html
and a few archived issues in .pdf format at www.taxinews.com/archives.html
(check the last few pages of each issue). Taxi News is a
monthly publication with news and commentary on Toronto's taxi industry
and is available by subscription or free at distribution points.
Added to Norm's website February 2,