In January of next year, Tom Rush will be 70 years old. The New Hampshire born folk-rock pioneer is still out there on the road, and still releasing albums, as he has been for nearly 50 years now. I’m not going to claim that I’ve been following his career for all of that time, but for a few years back in the ’60s and early ’70s, a new Tom Rush release was something that I looked forward to.
When I saw Laura Nyro perform at the the Fillmore East on Christmas Eve in 1970, the opening act was a young guy named Jackson Browne. Unlike the majority of the people in the audience, I knew who he was. I had heard his music, although I’d never heard him play it. No, I knew that Jackson Browne wrote the wistful song “These Days” because I’d heard it on the self-titled Tom Rush album that had been released by Columbia Records earlier that year.
That’s what Tom Rush did really well. He brought us the songs of now-legendary songwriters like Browne, James Taylor, Jesse Colin Young, and Fred Neil when they were not yet household names. He was so skillful as an interpreter that when you heard his versions, you wanted to seek out the originals. In addition to “These Days,” and another Jackson Browne song called “Colors of the Sun,” this album features Taylor’s “Rainy Day Man,” Young’s “Lullaby,” and Neil’s “Wild Child.” Rush’s beautifully smooth baritone is augmented by some world class musicians including David Bromberg on dobro, Red Rhodes on steel guitar, and Ron Carter on bass.
There are also two songs on this album by the great Canadian songwriter Murray McLauchlan. To whatever extent McLauchlan is known in this country, it’s largely due to Tom Rush’s recording of McLauchlan’s painfully sad “Child’s Song.” Take my word for it, when you sat around in a living room in the early 1970’s, and someone broke out a guitar and played “Child’s Song,” tears would flow. Maybe you had to be there, but it was very real to us.
Tom Rush, I’m sorry I haven’t been around much lately, but thanks for all the great music, and for the introduction to several songwriters who remain my favorites to this day. I don’t know for sure, but I have a strong feeling that if you asked Jackson Browne about Tom Rush, he would tell you that he owes Rush an enormous debt.