Song writer, singer, poet and TaxiNews columnist Norm Hacking passed
away Sunday night, Novermber 25, 2007. He was 57 years old.
Norm was born, raised, and lived as Torontonian as you could be.
From his roots in the east end of the city, through his adolescence
in Scarborough, to his many years in folk clubs throughout the city,
Norm represented everything that was good about Toronto. Norm was caring,
tender, romantic and to top it all off, he was a rascal.
Norm had all the attributes of an extraordinary poet, writer, singer
and songwriter and he brought them all to the tables of many a folk
joint, nightclub and entertainment bar in town. Norm's music is played
to this day all over Canada, America and in fact, the world. He always
played down his own exceptional talent for writing prose and songs but
never hesitated to promote others. His encouragement emboldened many
lesser talents to venture out on stage to play a song or two. For Norm
it was no big deal. For those he encouraged he created a lifetime of
memories and dreams come true.
Norm was an English major graduate of the University of Toronto. He
played hockey throughout his adolescence and early adulthood. At one
point he skated with his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs and was able to
meet and share the ice with many of his heroes such as Johnny Bower
and Billy Smith. Both of them were goalies like he was. Norm was a passionate
Leaf fan all his life.
Norm released a number of albums and CD's. One of them was even nominated
for a Juno. A review of his album, "Stubborn Ghost" in the
Toronto Star declared that his songs were "the best music ever
put on vinyl". Norm played many music festivals all over the country
including the famous Mariposa Folk Festival during its heyday in the
seventies. Norm played every part of Canada including the Yukon Territory.
Norm was raised by a single Mom, "Kathy O", whom he adored
and honoured in some of his songs. When she passed away last year, Norm
wrote of his loss and shared his grief with readers of his column in
Taxinews, the people he had grown to love almost like family.
Norm's column was entitled "Racetrack Hack", a nod of his
ever present hat to one of his other loves; the track. As an east ender
from way back Norm often frequented the old Greenwood Racetrack and
was a pretty good handicapper. He parlayed his skill at handicapping
into winnings of many thousands of dollars on more than one occasion
and each time he did, he shared all his money with many others, often
giving it all away before the end of the day. Norm's generosity embraced
all things; all his money, all his possessions and all his emotions.
For almost 15 years Norm's Taxinews columns featured anecdotes, humorous
musings, and several enduring characters that he made up and wrote about.
Norm had a great affinity for Toronto's taxi drivers. While he traveled
the city from one end to the other playing in clubs, Norm never learned
to drive a car. He just felt comfortable in cabs and traveled everywhere
in taxis. Taxi drivers were Norm's kind of people, late night workers,
hard working people and as Norm often said, "Some of the most thoughtful
and profound people you will ever meet". Over the years he got
to know many of Toronto's cabbies, especially those working the very
late night shifts. A lot of drivers and dispatchers were close to him.
So writing the column was a natural for him. It was like writing a letter
to his friends.
Norm's songs and stories often featured his beloved cats. In fact Norm
gained a reputation on CBC radio as "that cat guy" because
his cat songs in particular were often played. One song in particular,
about two of his cats, "Syd" and "The Flea" generated
frequent requests from listeners who wanted to hear it again and again.
"Syd and the Flea" is one of the featured songs on a CD Norm
put out a few years ago with Kirk Elliott called, "Orange Cats
Make The Very Best Friends". To this day, "Syd and The Flea"
remains a frequently played song on CBC radio and a lot of CD players
across the city. One of his songs, "When Cats Go Wrong" was
made into a best selling children's book published by Raincoast Books,
the same folks that publish the Harry Potter series.
Norm leaves one son, his beloved Ben, behind. Ben is doing his best
to work through his grief and is organizing an informal memorial/wake
to remember Norm on Thursday, December 6th at the Renaissance Restaurant
at 1938 Danforth Ave. (just West of Woodbine). The casual event will
get under way at 4:30 pm. A few words will be said about Norm at 5:15.
Then there will be an open stage for anyone who wishes to come up and
play a few songs or otherwise remember Norm. The phone number of the
Renaissance is 416-422-1441 if you need more information. All cabbies,
poets, songwriters, authors, writers, readers, fans and friends will
be welcome. Please check the web site www.normhacking.com for more info.