Steve Fromholz’s Martin D28

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This guitar, a 1951 Martin D28, used to belong to Steven Fromholz. He bought it in Nashville in 1971. Who knows where it was before that.

I saw him play this guitar at the Texas Opry House in Houston in the late 70’s (I was still in high school and had snuck with with a fake id. That’s a whole other story). Later, I watched him play it on Austin City Limits. When he opened for Guy Clark here in Austin in the early 80’s, I was there. He played the Martin. Later still, I sat around a campfire in Big Bend one night while it was the background for his howls at the moon.

It’s probably a good bet that he wrote “I’d Have To Be Crazy” on this guitar. I used to play that song when I was in high school at parties, and at my first gigs.

It was probably this guitar, the one right here, in the photo, the very Martin D28 that I’m holding right now. I just hit a A minor for Steve. Can you hear it?

(Hear this guitar in action — Angel Flight, from a session at KUT-Austin in July 2013)

Guitars have lives. They hold ghosts, dreams, songs. They speak, call out for you to play them, to pull out the songs. With really good guitars, it’s not who ‘owns’ them necessarily, but who happens to be the one playing it, the lucky person who gets to drag a pick across the strings, or sit up late at night humming an old song to it’s chords, listening for the magic.

Fromholz died yesterday. I hadn’t seen him in years. But I have his guitar. And though I bought it a couple of years ago, really it will always be his. I’m just keeping it for you for awhile, Mr. Fromholz, changing the strings, listening for the songs.

Carry on, amigo.

Now and Forever

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Now And Forever

When the night falls around you
And the light is sinking low
And the stars that would guide you
Have gone missing, where you do not know
And you feel your days
Slip away
Like water through your hands
Know that I
Am always by your side
Now and Forever

When your past starts to haunt you
And you feel the heavy load
Mistakes put upon you
They will not let you go
You look for love
But can’t find love
Even for yourself
Just know that I
Am always by your side
Now and Forever

Let the night fall around you
Let the light slip away
Come into these open arms
Till the new day
Let your mind
Rest easy
Let your heart go where it will
And know that I
Am always by your side
Now and Forever

From “Now And Forever”
© 2014 Darden Smith

Covenant House

For three years, I’ve had the good fortune to bring SongwritingWith to Covenant House in Newark, NJ. Recently, this work was featured by TIME.com.

At Covenant House, I spend my mornings talking about creativity and writing songs with the residents. These young people, ages 17 – 21, formerly homeless all, have taught me a great deal about compassion, understanding, and acceptance, along with some pretty great street lingo. More than anything else, they’ve taught me the value of listening.

Deep down, to judge another person is to strip away their story, their history, their humanity. At Covenant House I’ve written songs with a former Juilliard student, an aspiring law student, poets, singers, writers, fantastic dancers, along with kids who’ve been dealers, gang members, prostitutes and yes, a slave. All of them have stories. Most are hard to hear. Sometimes glimmers of redemption shine through the darkness. At Covenant House I’ve witnessed again and again what happens when someone is seen and heard and valued. As we transform words into songs, their faces open up, they sit straighter, they want to keep going.

We’ve all got stories. And as I’ve learned with projects like SongwritingWith:Soldiers, our stories need to be told and need to be listened to. As you move through your day, slow down, look and listen, and discover the stories that surround you.

DS and friends at Covenant House

DS and friends at Covenant House; April, 2013