.John Gorka in the Netherlands October 25, 2008 (photo: Jos van Vliet)

A column/concert review in "NRC Handelsblad"
This is a national Dutch newspaper, October 27, 2008

"Love is our cross to bear..."

Frits Abrahams
'Love is our Cross to bear...'

What does anyone want to get out of a particular gig? For me, it's for those few moments of emotion. Without them a gig can be good, but not really unforgettable. Swallowing, even a little bit, is definitely part of it. The artist doesn't have to be famous to touch

  that nerve with his public. It helps if your name is Pavarotti, but it can also be a name far less known by many, like John Gorka for instance. Gorka is an American folk singer following in the footsteps of Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, the early Bob Dylan, Loudon Wainwright III, Townes Van Zandt. He's around fifty now, and with his guitar in hand he travels from club to club. His peers rate him one of the best singer-songwriters of his generation.
My youngest daughter suggested going to see him play in the village hall of Lage Vuursche near Baarn last Friday evening. A fun co-incidence resulted in him playing the Netherlands again for the first time in
  14 years. Two Dutch guys, friends and Gorka fans, had reached the joint age of 110 and decided Gorka was the ideal performer for their party. They traveled to Philadelphia, spoke with the surprised artist after a gig there and persuaded him to come to Holland. Several other small gigs were organised in Bakkeveen in Friesland, in Lage Vuursche and Venlo. We were added to a waiting list but my daughter persevered and got the tickets. A small triumph for me as well, because when I bought my first Gorka cd, I Know back in 1987, she was just 12 years old. She and her sister were devoured by a different kind of music at that age (Bananarama!) yet some snippets of beautiful Gorka songs such as I Saw A     Stranger With Your Hair and Love Is Our Cross To Bear must have reached them even then. A fact they kept well hidden from me at the time, and rightly so, because obviously as a child, you're supposed to assume your father's favorite music is rather absurd. More than twenty years later, half way through the gig in Lage Vuursche my daughter says to me: "He will do Love Is Our Cross To Bear, won't he?". And even if I do say so myself, on that point you didn't do too badly then as a parent. And of course Gorka did Love Is Our Cross To Bear. He is a refined performer and knows how to reach out to his public. He is the only artist (that I know of) who from the start will say: "I have no set list, just give me your   requests." A really kind and modest man, was how one of his Dutch hosts described him. He hadn't been back to Europe because he has a family with young children. Maybe that's the snag with Gorka. Unlike many of his colleagues he hasn't done booze or drugs. Which is great for his baritone, but bad for his legend. He can only live on through his songs, not his life story. But some of his songs are strong enough to achieve just that. For the first time in my life I heard him do a live version of Let Them In, a masterful anti-war song: Let them in, Peter/ They are very tired/ Give them couches where the angels sleep/ And light those fires. And yes, that's why you go to that kind of gig.