John Gorka to play Morristown
12:01 a.m. EDT June 6, 2014

Written by Bill NuttCorrespondent
© 2014 All rights reserved.

John Gorka has been writing songs for more than a quarter-century. In that time, he says he has learned a valuable lesson: Don’t worry about writing songs. “I try to get out of the way of the song,” he says.

“I try to let the song become what it wants to be, rather than me trying to force it to become something it doesn’t."


John Gorka’s gratitude for a down-filled winter coat inspired the title of his latest release.
Photo by Jos van Vliet

That lesson has served Gorka well since the release of “I Know,” his 1987 debut. Throughout the course of a dozen studio albums, he has been praised for his rich baritone voice and his literate, introspective folk-influenced songs.

Gorka, a native of Edison who now lives in Minnesota, will return to the Garden State this Friday, June 6, when he plays the Minstrel at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship.

Playing the intimate setting of the Minstrel represents a full circle for Gorka. He says that he fell in love with music by attending concerts at Godfrey Daniels, a similar venue in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the 1970s, while attending Moravian College. Gorka recalls hearing such artists as Rosalie Sorrels, Jack Hardy and Dave Van Ronk at Godfrey Daniels.

“Their songs were better than anything I heard on radio or saw on TV,” he says. “It was more like art and less like commerce.”

By the 1980s, Gorka was writing his own songs that mixed elements of folk, blues and country. The same audience that was embracing artists such as Christine Lavin, Nanci Griffith, Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin discovered Gorka. “I was in Massachusetts, and people were coming to see me, because they had heard me on the radio,” he said.

On his 1991 album, “Jack’s Crows,” Gorka paid tribute to his home state with the song “I’m from New Jersey.” The witty lyrics pay wry but warm tribute to malls, the Turnpike, big hair and the mob.

“I always knew there was something different about being from New Jersey,” says Gorka. The most direct inspiration was Richard Ford’s novel “The Sportswriter,” which was also set in New Jersey.

Gorka typically performs solo acoustic shows, such as he will do in Morristown. But his records also feature tasteful use of other instruments, such as electric guitar, keyboards, fiddle, mandolin and a rhythm section.

“The main things for me are the vocal and the guitar,” he says. “First I concentrate on getting a good performance, and then I add things as appropriate.”

Earlier this year, Gorka released “The Bright Side of Down,” his first album of new material since “So Dark You See” in 2009. He acknowledges that both albums feature among his most personal songwriting.

Gorka explains that the “Bright/Dark” imagery in the titles is not a coincidence. “I do think of them as bookends,” he says. “It’s funny how the title (of the most recent CD) came about,” Gorka says.

While visiting a friend in New Hampshire during the cold weather, Gorka expressed gratitude for having a down-filled winter coat. “My friend said, ‘That’s the bright side of down,’ ” Gorka says.

“I knew that that had to be the title of the CD I was working on.” Although “The Bright Side of Down” was only released a few months ago, Gorka says he has already been thinking about a new album.

“I’ll start working on it after I forget how much work it is to do a record,” he laughs. Gorka says he is heartened by the fact that his concerts — and those of his fellow singer-songwriters — still attract listeners. He feels a new generation of performers is emerging.

“There are young people coming up who are so good at an early age,” he says. “That gives me hope that my favorite type of music will survive.”

WHER.E.... ... .....JOHN GORKA

... .... .. ...WHEN:.8 p.m. Friday, June 6
... ... ..
.. WHERE: Morristown Unitarian Fellowship,
WHERE... ... ...:...21 Normandy Heights Road,
WHER.E.... ... .... Morristown
...TICKETS: $8 admission,
TICKETS...........: plus a free-will offering
TICKET...........S: after the performance

INFORMATION:.. 973-335-9489 or


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