meeting a hero

(photo by Bret Gilliam)

Ever have one of those moments where you actually get to meet someone whose work or artistry you’ve admired for a long time?

I had one of those moments Saturday night.

I’ve enjoyed David Mallett‘s music since I played it on my first radio show back in 1985.  That was just a couple of years after his “Open Doors and Windows” album came out (it was still a 33+1/3 “album” back then…). I immediately took to his deep, rumbling voice and acute observations on life in his native Maine in evocative songs like “Northern Lights” and “Snowbound” and “Photographs and Memories”.

It’s music that’s come to mean all the more to me now that I, too, live in New England.

You know his music even if you don’t know you do. His most famous lyrics go, “Inch by inch, row by row, all I need is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground. Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow. Someone form them from below, ’til the rain comes tumblin’ down…” Yep – Dave Mallett wrote the ‘Garden Song’.

He came to Randolph’s newly renovated Chandler Center for the Arts this past Saturday night. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything – I’d been waiting over 25 years to hear him perform live! And it was everything I could have hoped. The old songs had worn well and the new ones were welcome but not so new as to remove themselves completely from the familiar sphere of sound. I started writing down the set list to share here with you but the truth is I just kind of got swept away and forgot to take notes before too long. I can tell you for sure he sang these:

  • All Right Now
  • My Old Man
  • 10 Men
  • The Painter
  • At the End of the Day
  • Somewhere in Time
  • Our Love is Like a Red Red Rose
  • Midnight on the Water

…and the ‘Garden Song’ too. No ‘Northern Lights’ unfortunately, maybe next time. After both generously long sets David Mallett came out and sat down on the edge of the stage to chat with fans who had clustered there. I was one of them. He patiently nodded, signed programs and other memorabilia, laughed, and despite looking a little drained from the show he took the time to genuinely engage with everyone who had a story, a recollection, or praise to share.

When Mallett introduced the song during the show, he seemed to get a kick out of the fact that his most famous song had become so thanks to its performance on ‘The Muppet Show’. Here’s that memorable scene, as John Denver tries to keep his cool even as the watermelon and hyacinths are singing along with his rendition of Mallett’s ‘Garden Song’.

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