A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man: Jackie Greene Turns 30
About four or five years ago, my friend Bill invited me to a show at The Ark: a history laden folk/roots music venue in my home state of Michigan. Knowing my taste in music better than most, he guaranteed I would like Jackie Greene, a singer-songwriter out of California that he had already been listening to heavily for the past few months. So even though I had personally never heard of him, I agreed to come along.
The night of the show, one of the skinniest little guys I had ever seen strapped to an acoustic guitar took the stage and, without a doubt, made me realize what was missing from my collection. Even the Ark regulars, well known for being a slightly older and rather stuffy bunch, were moved to more than the usual golf clap when Jackie closed his already phenomenal set with a solo piano version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (still one of the best encores I’ve ever seen). I was a Jackie Greene fan through and through by the end of that night, raiding Bill’s albums the minute we got home.
Flash forward to the present day and I’m proud to say that I’ve seen Jackie grow into a kind of institution among the Americana world. The skinny little guy that I saw take the stage at the Ark years ago now has more than six albums under his belt along with late night TV appearances, an ongoing membership with Phil Lesh and Friends, onstage collaborations and tours with some of the most respected musicians around (Levon Helm, BB King, Warren Haynes, Buddy Guy), and a community of loyal fans that could give GD fans a run for their money.
So Mr. Greene, in honor of your upcoming 30th birthday, this is my little tribute to you because:
1) You were, and always will be, my first love of the Americana world.
2) More than any other artist you’ve continually inspired me to go back and study the depths of roots music.
3) You’ve never made the same record twice.
4) You were the first thing waiting for me after my harrowing move across the country from Michigan to Oregon, when a night spent stage left was sorely needed.
5) You’re a workaholic and a perfectionist in the best possible way. When you’re not on tour, you’re in the studio and vice versa. I would venture to guess that there hasn’t been a single day that has gone by since you were 14 that you haven’t picked up your guitar. It makes you one of the hardest working musicians around and it shines through in everything you do.
6) You’ve always handled Dylan comparisons and the craziest of crazy Grateful Dead fans with grace and style.
7) No matter how much fame you’ve garnered over the years, you still treat your fans to acoustic shows at the small venues where you made a name for yourself.
8) Rusty Nails will never move from my Top Ten Favorite Albums.
9) The memory of getting to hear your raw, unaccompanied voice practicing “Midnight Special” backstage before your New Year’s show at the GAMH last year will always make me smile.
11) I’ve made wonderful and beautiful friendships through your music.
12) The bus in Bend.
13) You’re officially the artist that I’ve clocked the most miles to see.
Happy Birthday JG!!
“Sweet Somewhere Bound” 2004
“So Hard To Find My Way” Video
“Don’t Let The Devil Take Your Mind” Harmony Festival 2008
“New Speedway Boogie” Rothbury Festival 2009
Cleveland House of Blues 2009
“Shaky Ground” Hopmonk Tavern 2009