Jackson C. Frank’s music and pain were always intertwined. As a boy, a furnace exploded at his school, killing 15 of his classmates and badly burning Frank. As he recovered in the hospital, a teacher brought him an acoustic guitar to keep him occupied. It’s impossible not to hear traces of that hurt echoing in the songs of his 1965 self-titled LP. Produced by his friend Paul Simon in London, where the singer had decamped from New York after receiving a settlement check, the album remains Frank’s sole work – a haunting classic.

The album largely went unnoticed upon its initial Columbia release. Unnoticed, save for the luminaries profoundly inspired by his folk blues: his one-time lady friend Sandy Denny, Nick Drake, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn – all of whom covered “Blues Run the Game.” Following a return to the United States, Frank sadly faded away as depression and illness took hold. He lost an eye on the streets of Queens to some hooligan kids before succumbing to pneumonia and a heart attack at the age of 56. But all the while Frank’s music continued to take root, with artists like Mark Lanegan, Daft Punk, Vincent Gallo, and Laura Marling covering his songs and featuring them in film projects. 

Though he recorded scattered demos in his later years, Frank’s eponymous album remains his definitive statement. The album was reissued early this year by Fire Records’ vinyl subsidiary, Earth Recordings, nearly 50 years after its original release. words/ j woodbury

Jackson C. Frank :: Blues Run The Game

12 Responses to “Jackson C. Frank :: Blues Run The Game”

  1. This song is undeniably heartbreaking, but to me, the best version of all is the one by his one time girlfriend, Sandy Denny. Something about it makes kills me every time.


  2. Very cool to see this is getting another reissue. For those who have never heard it, I envy you.

  3. Anyone know if there’s a difference between this reissue and the one a year or so ago on 4 Men With Beards?

  4. The Sandy Denny cover is really good, I never listened to it before. Thanks Christian!

    Jackson C. Frank’s album is great from start to finish, all the titles are small gems of haunting blues.

  5. want/need

  6. I think the difference is that has the CD included and new artwork. Also it seems to be getting a lot more press and promotion.

  7. a true artist . . . famously, Art Garfunkel served as “tea boy” for the London sessions.

    (4th line from bottom needs fix: “continued to took root” . . . )

  8. I love this song. Laura Marlin’s recent cover is actually my favorite version

  9. Also don’t miss covers by Colin Meloy (of the Decemberists), John Mayer, a kind of shitty one by Counting Crows, Nick Drake, and more, more, more. Youtube has all the ones i mentioned.

  10. Nice to see this, but personally I prefer the original artwork as used in the 4 Men With Beards reissue. Why mess with the original?

  11. thank you for bringing him to my attention. what a tragic life.

  12. […] French language rendering of Jackson C. Frank’s “Blues Run The Game“, courtesy of Graeme Allwright. Frank’s haunting, Paul Simon produced, 1965 debut was […]

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