Songwriters can find inspiration anywhere. Even celebrity news or social media can trigger a tune.
When Debbie Reynolds died the day after her daughter Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016, John Gorka noticed a Facebook post.
It was a note about the Paul Simon classic, “Mother and Child Reunion.” It couldn’t have been more apt since this half of Simon and Garfunkel was once married to Fisher.
Gorka’s friend and frequent songwriting collaborator, Pete Kennedy of the Kennedys, talked about the significance of “Mother and Child Reunion.”
“Pete said, ‘Maybe every song comes true in time,’” Gorka said by phone from Williamsburg, Va. “I took it from there. I came up with a tune and the chords, and had a song in no time.”
The track is the title cut to Gorka’s latest album, which dropped in 2018. “True in Time” is a gentle, sentimental song, like much of the material on the folkie’s 15th release.
“I was thinking about things quite a bit after I wrote the song ‘True In Time,’” he said. “It’s an eternal mystery where songs come from. I wish I knew where they came from. If I knew where they came from I would go back more often.”
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Don’t let Gorka fool you. The veteran bard has written hundreds of songs. The New Jersey native has composed a number of wistful and witty songs with the moving “True In Time.”
“Crowded Heart” and “Fallen For You” are two of the prettiest songs Gorka has ever penned. “Mennonite Girl” is another solid love song.
“That one comes from a long-distance relationship I had with a woman in Winnipeg,” he said. “People often ask me about the inspiration for that one, and it’s simple. A Mennonite girl inspired the song ‘Mennonite Girl.’ Some of the strongest songs come from the strongest feelings. I had very strong feelings with that one. For those who are curious, I ended the relationship. Long-distance romances are difficult to keep going.”
That’s especially so a road warrior like Gorka.
“It’s true but this is my life,” he said. “Touring is what I do. It’s tough going to some places, but I love going to a place like Cedar Rapids. It’s just a drive from where I live (in St. Paul, Minn.). I also love CSPS. It’s an oasis for a touring musician since they treat you so well. I wish there was a CSPS in every state.”
Gorka, 60, knows how he’ll start the set. “But I’ll let the audience and the atmosphere dictate the rest of the evening when I return to Cedar Rapids,” he said. “I always feel like doing something a little different there, since the fans there are so supportive. Maybe I’ll relearn a song I haven’t played in a while. It’ll be a good time.”
Music is a welcome diversion from reality for Gorka.
“I never think my job is being a musician,” he said. “My job is being a parent. I have kids in college. One is at the University of Michigan and the other is at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I didn’t become a father until I was 38. It’s kept me young. So music takes me away briefly from what is going on with them and with the country. I’m already looking forward to the next (Presidential) election. I would love it if we could have some stability. There are worse things to deal with than the mundane. Every day, there’s some crazy news item with this administration.”
Perhaps such a story will inspire a song.
“You never know,” Gorka said. “Songs can come from the least likely places. I’m always looking for a good story.”
Not many stories are as good as the Fisher/Reynolds reunion.
“That’s true,” he said. “I’m just glad I stumbled onto that one. That was like finding gold in the street.”
WHAT: John Gorka
WHERE: CSPS Hall, 1103 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday (5/19)
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TICKETS: $23 advance, $28 door; CSPS Box Office, (319) 364-1580 or legionarts.org/events/upcoming/
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: johngorka.com/