It was our first time at The Harvester Performance Center in Rocky Mount, and we went for good reason, to see the iconic singer songwriter whose 1970 album that bore his name played regularly on my turntable throughout the ‘70s: Tom Rush.
While settling into our seats, we ran into friends from Floyd who also wore out Tom’s early albums. One of them, my friend Jonathan Rogers, went to Harvard University at the same time Tom did. Jonathan and I had fun reminiscing about going to the old Boston Tea Party, where we heard some of the best bands of our generation before they were even famous, Led Zepplin, Neil Young and Crazy Horse and so many more.
Tom Rush paved the way for the singer/songwriter genre and helped launch the careers of people like Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Jackson Browne by singing their songs before they were known. He told stories of his days of playing around in cafés in Cambridge. “Any old misplaced New Englanders out there?” he asked. Of course, I let out a whoop.
Hearing him perform The Urge for Going, one of the earliest that Joni Mitchell wrote, choked me and my friend Ellen up.
When I met Tom in the lobby during intermission, he remembered the South Shore Music Circus, where I first heard him in concert around 1976. He talked about how the merry-go-round outdoor stage made him feel like he was going to fall of it. I secretly admired his shoes.
I thought of my sister Sherry the whole time because we loved Tom Rush together, and it was she who sat next to me at the Music Circus in Cohasset, Massachusetts so many years ago. I hadn’t known it at the time, but I had just contracted Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (which had no name then) and was just figuring out that something was really wrong. Sadly, what I remember most about the concert in Cohasset was how tired I felt, and because it took so much energy to lift my arms to clap in between songs, I left them mostly in my lap, even though I loved the songs.
I still love them.
Here’s Tom talking about how his song No Regrets took on a life of it’s own, was widely covered and helped put his kids through college. You can hear me and Jonathan laughing louder than anyone else.
He introduced a few new songs. Before playing “My Baby Loves Me,” he told us how the muse had woke him too early, and he didn’t want to get up. “If you don’t take it, I’ll give it to Arlo,” the muse said, and so he got up and wrote a new song.
Matt Nakoa accompanied Tom on piano. A fabulous musician in his own right, Nakoa took the stage on two occasions to play some of his own songs, on piano and guitar. The one above is called You are My Moonshine, introduced by Nakoa as a drinking song, a love song and a children’s song (new take on You are My Sunshine).
At the end of the show when Tom was in the lobby again, I joked with him and half-hugged him while thanking him for playing the requests I made during the intermission (like the one above). I told him I wouldn’t have been able to even talk to him back in 1976 because I was so young and star struck (aka crush). Joe snapped the picture of Jonathan and me with Tom (below), one to go down in history.
As we were leaving Joe told me that he had just purchased a ticket for us to see Jesse Collin Young (of the Youngbloods), another one of my mainstay favorites back in the day, who I also saw perform in the late ‘70s. “It’s like meeting up with old boyfriends!” I told him.
We all left singing the Youngbloods Let’s Get Together …Come on People now… Smile on your brother… Everybody get together… Try to love one another right now … and feeling the full circle of life.