of Norm Hacking's Racetrack Hack family have read occasional references
to "my manager Shirley" - yes, that's me. A few years ago,
he even included me in his beautiful column about his "angels".
Indeed, he inspired many angels throughout his life - much deserved
and much needed, and he treasured each, with a special place for his
mom, Kathy O. Her death in October 2006 left a huge hole.
Norms columns were brutally honest, either directly or poking
fun at his sometimes dire situation. Others were shear imagination.
So you might wonder how anyone could manage Norm. I too
pondered that back in 2000 before accepting that big M word. He was
definitely his own person with an acclaimed career that was again under
the radar. He had worked with experienced managers, and I was a music
biz neophyte, though a keen fan.
Norm convinced me that manager was a shorter title than
person who publicizes gigs and applies to perform at folk festivals
- my scope back then. It always applied only to his music-related activities,
but those eventually expanded to webmaster, email correspondent, driver,
CD warehouse, photographer, the book....
I first heard and met Norm at a 1989 one-day festival in Torontos
Kew Gardens and bought his Stubborn Ghost tape.
Many concerts later I helped publicize the 1999 tribute concert that
Wayne Marshall of Brantford organized. It was an incredible loving evening,
with Norms fellow songwriters and fans filling the Tranzacs
Main Hall. Some of that music became part of the One Voice
tribute CD Wayne produced. It was an evening that Norm always treasured.
Many of us recalled it during the 8-hour tribute open stage that was
part of the memorial this December 6 - a room so totally filled with
love that we felt Norms influence bringing us together.
Working with Norm brought me a beautiful gift - all the love he generated
in his community for decades encompassed me too, and I gained a huge
Norm consistently made deep friendships that endured whether they began
back at Winston Churchill Collegiate, or this summer, or anywhere between.
Id phone to read an email from someone excited to find him through
the web, and hed remember that person, even from his early open
stage or theatre days.
But Norm also struck a chord with those he never met in person. The
song When Cats Go Wrong hitting the airwaves (especially
on Jurgen Gothes DiscDrive on CBC radio) sparked a flurry of emailed
feline tales, some with photos of kitties who get into mischief. A second
grade class wrote letters to the author of the illustrated childrens
book version, and he answered individually. Kids love the book, but
many copies brought joy to adults.
I always loved Norms performances. When I arrived to pick him
up, sometimes hed be weary or apprehensive, not sure he could
really do this again, maybe in pain. It took a while to actually leave,
even if I was a bit late. Just before going out the door, he always
phoned his amazing Kathy O. Hed either doze or chat in the car.
But when we arrived, he came alive with his friends and fans. His commanding
presence on stage - the songs, poems and prose (favourite Taxinews
columns) - was magical, with that direct connection. The room hushed,
discovery written on faces of new fans. Norm loved it.
Norms website - www.normhacking.com
- has grown to many pages since its birth in 2001. Updates continue:
two poems by Linda Stitt, links to Matt MacLeods new song, Greg
Quills Toronto Star article and others. Watch for a 2008 tribute
concert with release of Norms The Ache CD.
Take time there to explore Norms prose, song lyrics and a few
song excerpts. Revisit about 20 of Norms favourite Racetrack
Hack columns, and Heino Molls beautiful biographic tribute
guest column last month.
No computer, or no time to browse? Well try to meet Taxinews
deadlines for any key news. Theres a toll-free number (1-800-633-8282)
to buy Norms music CDs from Festival Distribution in Vancouver.
Messages poured in from the musical community when Norms passing
was announced. So many of us have lost a great friend - you've been
generous in condolences to me, and mine go to you also. Ill end
with short bits from a few of the many public list posts:
Joanne Crabtree: Like his good friend Rick Fielding,
Norm was a wordsmith who was also blessed with a sense of humour and
a healthy dash of cynicism.
Linda Saslove: An amazing human being... He inspired
so many of us...
Jim Marino (Hamilton folk DJ): ...The world can
boast about all their great "Folk Artists" but Canada had
David Woodhead: ...he was warmth personified and
we could all bask in his glow.
Mike Regenstreif (Montreal folk DJ / reviewer): ...
when I did an interview ... with Clay Eals about his bio of Steve Goodman,
most of the songs I played ... were by Steve. The one exception was
Norm's "Richer for the Time," a song he wrote about Steve.
I think we're also all richer for the time that Norm spent with us.
Howard Gladstone: ...Norm's a capella version of
[Steve Goodmans] "Penny Evans" touched every heart in
Hughs Room that evening...
John Jackson: ...We ... played our songs well into
night many times. He was the very soul of a poet and an inspiration
to so many...
Steve Paul Simms: ... few people in my experience
have been able to gather kindred spirits together in the pursuit of
musical joy quite so well... He'll be hugely missed.
Brian Gladstone: ...He was a great man who gave
freely of himself, and expanded the artform
Frank Prather: ... his spirit lives on in song
Chris McKhool: Hearing Norm sing about thunder
and lightning at Blue Skies when I was 18 years old is one of
those magical moments that moved me to be a singer-songwriter.
Doug McArthur: I always thought that Norm was one
of our best writers... Those who knew him loved him.
Phil Ball (poet, recorded Norms spoken word CD):
...He and I would often share banter, something that allowed me
to travel to the silly & frivolous side of my life...
Lenore: ...a brilliant songwriter who will be missed
by all who knew him.
Steve Fruitman: ...I've never known anyone not
liking a Norm Hacking song! ...he will be a stubborn ghost, watching
us, being with us, and laughing with us.