Photo - Norm Hacking

Norm Hacking's Prose
Race Track Hack:
"Celebrity Status"



past gig links

When Cats Go Wrong













Taxi News, 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 in production.

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...

Webmaster's Notes:

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, ]. 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 February 1992.

Taxi News website is with Norm's current monthly column at and a few archived issues in .pdf format at (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, 2005