In honor of a man who, as of today, has lived a half-century, here is a birthday song by They Might Be Giants. I’ve chosen this song for two reasons:
- It’s from an album called John Henry, who may have been a distant relation.
- It’s about the fact that Joe Henry will still be with us, through his extraordinary songs, performances, and production, in a thousand years.
What? You haven’t heard Joe Henry?
Go immediately to your favorite source of music and pick up a few of his albums. Blood From Stars, Civilians, Tiny Voices, and Scar are four albums that I would dare to call “masterpieces.”
Then listen to a few of the projects he’s produced, including Over the Rhine’s The Long Surrender (my favorite album of their 20-year run), Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Genuine Negro Jig, Allan Toussaint’s The Bright Mississippi, Elvis Costello and Allan Toussaint’s The River in Reverse, Solomon’s Burke’s Don’t Give Up On Me, and many more. He even worked as a production associate with T-Bone Burnett on one of my favorite albums – Bruce Cockburn’s Nothing But a Burning Light.
He writes as beautifully as he composes. In a recent issue of Mojo (the issue edited by Tom Waits), he wrote a moving tribute to Harry Belafonte. And the liner notes he contributes to many of his album projects are worth the price of the record.
I had the privilege of shaking his hand after his stormy performance at Seattle’ Triple Door this year. I’ve found him to be humble, generous, and full of great stories. No surprise there.
Happy birthday, Joe!