Sunday, January 20, 2013

John ("Daydream Believer") Stewart Remembered

John Stewart, the musician and songwriter, died almost exactly 5 years ago (January 19, 2008).  

I just heard him on the radio singing a Nanci Griffith tribute song, "Last of the True Believers" on WFUV (Sunday Breakfast with John Platt).  Doing just a little research, I am constantly astounded at how many connections the radiate out from the songwriters who just happened to be involved in the Monkees' project.

Start here, with his recollections about writing the song:

The most famous anecdote is about the producers not wanting to include the word, "funky" and replaced it with "happy".  "Now you know how funky/happy I can be"

But the phrase that stands out for me in this is "I went to bed that night and thought, 'The only thing I did today was write 'Daydream Believer,' ' ".  Talk about an overachiever.

He joined the Kingston Trio, LEGENDARY folk music group of the 50's, when Dave Guard left in 1961.  Oddly enough, the group (3 Boys playing folk music and gaining sudden and widespread fame) is sometimes attributed to the commercialization of Folk music in the 1950's.  

Keep in mind that Pete Seeger (b.1919) and the Weavers (active 1948-1955) had been successful, but had been victims of McCarthyism.  A group of "kids" taking over the reins of the spirit of the movement-but not all the political baggage was the inheritance of acts like Joan Baez, Dylan and even Peter, Paul & Mary.  As of 1965, there were actually a few pilot scripts floating around, one of them being a folksinging trio, 2 guys and a girl.

Read this touching interview with Buffy Ford on No Depression.

His brother was Michael Stewart, we founded the group, We Five.  ("You were On My Mind" was their biggest hit, originally done by Ian and Sylvia).  He eventually became a record producer whose biggest hit was "Piano Man" by Billy Joel.

"Daydream Believer" came out of a larger folk music legacy.  When he wrote it, Stewart was heavily involved in the songwriting scene in California.  This one song out of his entire writing output allowed him to continue writing for the rest of his life. Except for a 2 year stretch of writer's block when his wife, the singer Buffy Ford, had a brain tumor.  He even wrote  after he learned he had Alzheimer's. If a creation can give back to its creator, this one certainly has.  Not just a matter of a seed being fruitful, but a way for it to keep giving.  Some art is like a seed which grows into a fruitful plant.  Some art is like HeLa cells.  Immortal and constantly growing.

More Links:

The Kingston Trio "official" website is here (I always "skip intro", no offense)

But I'd recommend Wikipedia for better linkage and better perspective.

As a researcher, I'd always rather go to primary resources and am not always loving Wikipedia.  When I find better resources, I will update.
Also, as a Geek Blogger, I want to recommend a tribute site, which has started posting a few good pictures, but the "depositfiles" links somehow didn't allow access to songs.

"The John Stewart Appreciation Society"

His obit is here:

HeLa Cells:

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