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God bless Joe Biden and Kamala Harris!

   

How Many Bodies

'tip jar' available at: paypal.me/singwriter

A little program note:


  I'll be taking a break from my B.A.D. shows. On Friday November 6th, I'll be streaming live from the stage at the Sellersville Theater's as part of their new series called Soundbooth Sessions. (https://theater.st94.com/) I'm really looking forward to this show. Not only do we artists have to find a way to keep going through these difficult times, but the venues we've relied upon to support us all these years do as well. Plus, it will be good to stand on a stage again even if it's in an empty theater. (Of course, I didn't always draw that well in Sellersville, so I've had some experience at this!) Anyway, come hell, highwater, or both next week, whether it is for existential solace or ecstatic celebration, I hope you'll join me. I'll resume my weekly Busk At Dusk shows on November 13th.

With Harvey at the Sellersville Theater, where John will return November 6th

B.A.D. (Busk At Dusk) links for Friday October 30th:

On YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gliOlA6DMc

or

John's Facebook 'Band Page':
https://www.facebook.com/197531470267589/posts/3540870849266951/


10/29/20

Hi all,

Just a reminder to tune in to my B.A.D (Busk At Dusk) livestream show at 7PM on Friday October 30th. I've got admit I had some real reservations about taking this weekly gig on; number one being the unforgiving little counter at the bottom of the Facebook videos that show you how many people are watching. I've been very grateful that so many folks have loylally supported this series and have regularly reached out to let me know how much they've appreciated a chance for us to all get together each week.

One amazing note I just received at my PO Box this week said'

'You're BAD concerts have been such a wonderful replacement for a live concert face to face, You bring such joy'“ songs that amuse me, make me think, tear at my heart, impel me to go out into the world and do good. We love you, John. Keep it up.'

I mean, what more could any singwriter ever need or want?
See you online!

Much love,
John
 


 
October 1, 2020

Hi Friends,

In my continued'“apparently successful'“ attempt to show as much or more income in recent years as the President of the United States, this is just a reminder about this week's B.A.D. (Busk At Dusk) Show. This week's request, 'Querencia', will be performed for Bud Manning, and I'll be including a cover of a long-time favorite, Eric Andersen's 'Thirsty Boots', as well. A new request will be drawn each week.

You can find me on Friday night at 7PM EDT on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY27wosWHjiq89WV5P0Y03Q?view_as=subscriber

Or Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/singwriter/videos/348644556420421/
The Facebook link may look like it doesn't work right up until the concert begins. I'm assured it DOES. It's a 'bug' they've claimed to be working on for the past couple weeks.

If you're enjoying my little weekly show, please help me grow the audience and consider inviting a friend or two to check it out. (It will never be easier to drag someone to a 'coffeehouse' then it is right now!) As always, everyone's welcome and there is no charge for viewing whatsoever. But, like any good busker, I'll have my 'tip jar' available at: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/singwriter. If you're not into paypal. Good old-fashioned checks will also be gratefully cashed. Just mail to me at PO Box 8273, Wilmington, DE 19803.

Ten percent of the take will be donated to New Beginnings-Next Step, Inc.

I've recently been asked by the Chief of the Bureau of Prisons here in Delaware to prepare to go back inside and resume work with our offender groups. This will not affect our B.A.D. scheduling in the near future, but it may mean an alteration down the road as Friday afternoons were being considered for our New Beginnings group at SCI down in Georgetown, DE (two hours south of my home' so, really, just around the block for a folk slinger!)

Stay tuned, and please let me know if you have any preferences if we need to consider different nights for the show.

Hope to see you soon. May you and yours stay safe and well.


Much love,
John

September 15, 2020


Just out' Cover photo by the great Jim Grahamm


Hi Friends,

What kind of a world do we live in where folk singers are becoming are on your screens more than your local weather forecasters?

Just a quick note to remind you that I'll be doing another online show this Friday evening at 7PM (EDT). I've decided to call this little weekly concert series 'John Flynn's Busk At Dusk (B.A.D)' because that's kind of how I'm thinking of these shows. Just imagine that at the end of a long hard week you find me strumming some tunes out front of your abode, just camped out there on of your digital sidewalk, with some neighbors gathering round.

We had a great time last week. It turned out to be fun seeing all the comments stream in during the show, like a little party' reconnecting with old friends, singing old favorites and trying out some new stuff. I've received lots of song requests which I'm still going through. I'm planning to pick one or two for this week, and then put the rest in an old top hat. Each Friday I'll draw out a new request during the show (which will give me seven whole days to relearn it!) If you have anything you'd like to hear, just email it to me or send it as a comment during the show.

If you missed last week's inaugural B.A.D., you can find it here:

https://www.facebook.com/singwriter/videos/644330343155027/UzpfSTY3MDUyNjk3NDoxMDE1NzMyMjYzNDAyMTk3NQ/'fref=search&__tn__=,d,P-R&eid=ARA4AMvry1-FXiX1Mxvl2P-snQ7QhN5PGVfwXAdwarFjiROYqam-1GnhisVRVf2Zvg-eStcM8hwUpVDc

Several people told me they don't much like using Facebook, so from now on I'll also be streaming all my shows simultaneously on YouTube. You can find the concerts at these links:

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/singwriter/live/

YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY27wosWHjiq89WV5P0Y03Q'view_as=subscriber

Like I said last week, this show is free. Everyone's invited and there is no charge for viewing. But, like any good busker, I'll have my guitar case open on the sidewalk next to me to catch any spare pocket change or crumpled bills. So, if you'd like to stop by the 'digital tip jar' just google me at: http://paypal.me/singwriter Ten percent of the proceeds will be donated to New Beginnings-Next Step.

In other doings, I'm attaching a link to a video of a new song that I plan to release as a single next week. 'How Many Bodies' was a completely unguarded response to what we've all been witnessing and (in my case) remaining silent about for far too long. My thanks to my musical partner Harvey for the amazing production and video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch'v=KSl_D_KFMiw&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR0OxIf8H05zUZmTUjB7Z9hBviGvjlm9l0asuUGhA7lyHvH0Z-9KRivw_bc

Finally, I've been asked to participate in an observance of this year's United Nations International Day of Peace. The program will be virtual ' starting at 3pm EDT on Sunday September 20. To reserve your free ticket, go to IDPBoston2020.Eventbrite.com or you can livestream it on the Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries Facebook page. Please visit www.idpboston.org for more information.

Hope to see you soon. Stay safe.




 

One of my first streaming concerts for my friends at Focus Music' Even cats dig me!
 

Hi Folks,

Due to some persistent friends, fans' and, yes, persistent bills, I've decided to take the plunge into the new and exciting world of live streaming concerts. (You have no idea how big a step this is for a guy who can barely do more than send emails on a computer.) I'll be 'attempting' my first weekly foray into this arena this coming Friday night, September 11, at 7PM EDT. You can watch all the fun here:
https://www.facebook.com/watch/'v=644330343155027&extid=MFSLmcMhJbSMiM5C

Friday night's show will feature songs of hope, including my old song, "I Will Not Fear" as we again mark this special date in our collective history. There will be no admission price asked or expected for streaming the show, however, donations will be gratefully accepted through PayPal (pay to john@johnflynn.net) or by mailed check (John Flynn, P.O. Box 8273, Wilmington, DE 19803).

Along with a few special songs I'll pick out for you each week, I will also plan to work up a request or two, so if you have something of mine ' or even someone else's- that you'd like to hear, send me an email and I'll see what I can do.

By the way, I really mean it when I say no admission price is needed. A friend wrote to me recently that she wouldn't be attending these shows because 'since the virus came along' things had become very difficult for her money-wise. I told her what I'll tell you all ' you're already on the guest list. Us 'singwriter' types have had to deal with the economic challenges of this period same as lots of other folks. Mostly, however, I just need to start singing to some friends again on a regular basis. So, if you're a little squeezed right now, don't feel lonesome. Tune in to the show Friday and we'll ride this out together for a little while.

I'll be donating a small portion of the proceeds from these Friday night shows each week to New Beginnings-Next Step. It won't be a lot, but your donations to NBNS at my concerts accounted for a hefty percentage of our fundraising, and I haven't been able to do any live shows for going on six months' so every little bit help can help.

Speaking of NBNS, the International Leadership Association recently asked me to write an article about the confluence of my music and my work with incarcerated and returning citizens. The article I submitted was called 'The Song I Didn't Play'. It's about a concert I did last year at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution, and they liked it so much that the ILA is including it in their 2021 publication, A Grassroots Leadership & Arts for Social Change Primer for Educators, Organizers, Activists & Rabble-Rousers. If you're interested, you can read my article here:

https://intersections.ilamembers.org/member-benefit-access/interface/grassroots-leadership/the-song-i-didnt-play-john-flynn929

I hope I'll see hope online Friday evening, and in person real soon!

Much love,

John


August 10, 2020

 
Performing the national anthem for the Philadelphia Phillies outside Citizens Bank Park. (This was soundcheck, I of course removed my paint-stained bandanna for the recording.)

And then, here I am listening for it in the stands'



Hi Friends,

I sure hope this note finds you all safe and well!

This will be a short one because things are kind of crazy around here today. A lightning strike brought a large tree down on the side of our house and garage causing an ongoing parade of calls and visits from (among others) the fire department, the gas company, the HVAC guy, tree removal guys, etc. Still, we're all fine and I'm grateful that my favorite old tree seemed to go out of its way not to do more damage. Not sure I'll be too sorry to see the back of the year 2020 however'

 
I'll be performing all three days of the 2020 virtual Philadelphia Folk Festival. Like everything else these days this great old festival is fighting for its survival so you're support of this event could make a real difference. Here's a link: https://folkfest.org/
 

 

 
My new band, Hondo Jenkins, has just released an album of (mostly) cover tunes that speak to the times we're in. I formed the band in lockdown with my longtime pal and producer Harvey (https://harveythehandyman.com/bio). The album was recorded in our respective bunkers with Harvey patiently coaching me (someone who is often challenged by the technical complexity of email) through the use of Pro Tools like in one of those old movies where the guy at the mic in the control tower tries to tell a civilian how to land the airplane. I believe the project is a shining example of what a singing 'social worker' and a Philadelphia AOR radio legend turned handyman can accomplish if they really put their minds to it (and are not allowed to leave their homes for weeks at a time.)

 
The name Hondo Jenkins is one that I once occasionally employed in situations where I was contractually prevented from performing under my own name. (Fathers of four can become very creative when there are bills to be paid.)

 
TAKE COVER includes reinterpretations of iconic songs that speak to these unsettling days. Existential distress is addressed in The Beatle's 'Help' and Tom Petty's 'Free Fallin''. For lockdown fever we have The Animals' 'We Gotta Get Out of this Place", The Bee Gees' "New York Mining Disaster 1941' and Brian Wilson's 'In My Room' (with vocals featuring - I assure you - the highest notes I've ever sung before!) For social distancing we included The Left Bank's 'Walk Away Renee'. And Covid testing is addressed by Mickey Newberry's classic, "I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Conditon Was In)'.

 
George Harrison's 'All Things Must Pass' and U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' speak to some of the "big picture' questions posed by such uncertain times. And we remember those whom we've lost recently with versions of Bill Withers' anthemic 'Lean On Me', John Prine's 'That's the Way the World Goes Round', and ' for our old buddy Gene Shay ' Mike Nesmith's 'Papa Gene's Blues'. (I noticed that my good friend Rich Warren at Midnight Special has been playing an advance copy of this track recently. Thanks, Rich!)

 
The inclusion of Steven Still's 'For What It's Worth' will certainly need no explanation. And to round out the collection, we've included Petty's 'Wildfowers', Eric Kaz's (via Bonnie Rait) 'River of Tears", and one of my recent compostions, "Space Station', about the new normal of 'five o'clock briefings from mission control" and putting "on your space suit when you go outdoors'. (I'll be performing this one in a couple weeks at this year's virtual Philadelphia Folk Festival.)

 
I handle the lead singing chores on TAKE COVER, about which Grammy winning producer Frank Liddell (Lee Ann Womack, Miranda Lambert) writes' Flynn is 'so good at interpreting and making songs his own, as well as taking great songs and painting them in a new light.'

 
TAKE COVER is available on all major commercial streaming platforms.

 
When I was a kid, performing songs I loved on my guitar always seemed to get me through tough times, especially when I'd get sent to my room (which is kind of how this has all felt at times.) This album was kind of a return to that for me. We had a great deal of fun recording these songs and I truly hope you'll enjoy them.

 
I'm also enclosing a link to a video of my newest composition, 'The Very Stable genius Song (Donald's Remarkable Achievement) which was inspired by the recent feats of intellectual derring-do performed by our country's nominal current president while being interviewed on Fox News:
https://youtu.be/GJJGFJCBUF0

Our work in new Beginnings-Next Step is proceeding as best it can. The good news is that St. Francis Hospital will be allowing to resume our face-to-face (or at least mask-to-mask) meetings next week. Our volunteers and returning citizens are all ecstatic about this. It's been too long since we saw each other on anything but a computer screen.

 
I was recently glad to hear from a man I'd worked with in prison for the last couple years. He had just been released and called our easy-to-remember phone number ' (877) I GOT OUT ' and told me he was starting work in a couple days but had nothing to wear. Thanks to your support, I could head right out and purchase work boots and new clothing for him, which, along with his new NBNS backpack, T-shirt, bus pass and Shop Rite gift card, I dropped off at the half-way house where he's now staying. He told me he never knew anyone in the world actually cared before. Of course, he's just at the beginning of a long and difficult journey. But at least he's making a good start and that can mean all the difference.

 
Stay well. Looking forward to seeing you all down the road somewhere.

Much love,
John

 


 

March 17, 2020


March 11, 2020
Probably the last show for a while'
Sussex Correctional Institution, Georgetown, DE


Hi Friends,

So quite a bit has happened since I last checked in. I pray you guys are all well and taking care of yourselves. As for me, life's going on pretty much the same with a few minor adjustments here and there. Of course, any shows I've written to you of have been postponed.

Our Next Step returning citizens support group meetings are on hiatus since we didn't want to risk either the health of our volunteers (who are even older than me), or that of our economically vulnerable members who can ill-afford any wage loss due to prolonged illness. We are reaching out to the guys by phone each week and making our weekly bus passes and grocery store gift cards available through the mail. As things evolve, we will certainly try to help when we can 'and as we can 'with the resources you've kindly made available to me through your donations at my concerts and PayPal offerings at NewBeginnings-NextStep.org. (Please don't see this as a solicitation right now. I know many have been adversely affected by the economic implications of the virus. Just know that I'm grateful for your support!) As far as the prisons, although they have been closed to all visitors in Delaware, they have remained open to New Beginnings, and I will continue to run groups for as long as I'm permitted inside.

Offenders are incredibly worried about Coivd-19; some because they're trapped in a problematic (in the best of times) healthcare situation, some because they're seriously immune-compromised, many because their loved ones are among the most vulnerable, and a few because they bear the weight of the nascent stages of spiritual awakening to the point that they fear being deprived of the chance to go home and try to make amends to those whose lives they have wounded. (This last fear seems to be the worst and was shared with tears last week by one of the toughest looking men I've ever seen.)

I know this social distancing stuff 'and what looks to me like an impending and inevitable national lockdown 'has a lot of folks freaked out, especially those who live alone. A long time ago the good sisters taught us about 'the mystical body of Christ' and what they called 'the communion of saints'. My Buddhist friends use different language but talk about the same kind of thing. Quantum physics now tells us this real and vital interrelationship of all things goes beyond mere space and time, beyond religious dogma, and certainly beyond temporary shelter-in-place policies. We are ALL connected. No one is alone. Not really. Feel me'

When I got home from prison the other day, I wrote to New Beginnings founder, Brother David Schlatter OFM, and asked him to point me to something in scripture I could take back into my guys. Brother David sent me a couple things which I'll copy below. People read the bible in different ways and at many levels. Some literal. Some symbolic. I don't wish to get into a hermeneutical discussion here. I simply offer these ancient and inspired words in the hope that taking them into the silence of your heart and mediating on them brings some comfort in these trying days:

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shade of the Almighty,
Say to the LORD, 'My refuge and fortress,
my God in whom I trust.'
He will rescue you from the fowler's snare,
from the destroying plague,
He will shelter you with his pinions,
and under his wings you may take refuge;
his faithfulness is a protecting shield.
You shall not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness,
nor the plague that ravages at noon.
Though a thousand fall at your side
ten thousand at your right hand,
near you it shall not come.
You need simply watch;
the punishment of the wicked you will see.
Because you have the LORD for your refuge
and have made the Most High your stronghold,
No evil shall befall you,
no affliction come near your tent.
For he commands his angels with regard to you,
to guard you wherever you go.
With their hands they shall support you,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You can tread upon the asp and the viper,
trample the lion and the dragon.
-Psalm 91
and...

But now, thus says the LORD,
who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name: you are mine.
When you pass through waters, I will be with you;
through rivers, you shall not be swept away.
When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned,
nor will flames consume you.
For I, the LORD, am your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your savior...
- Isaiah 43:1-3.

I hope to see you soon.

Peace.

And much love,
John

 

 

May 16, 2020


After a while in lock-down, my own grandkids were asking, 'Who is this old man''


Hi Friends,

I hope this note finds you well. We're all hanging on for all we're worth out here in little old Delaware.

First the news: I'll be doing a digital concert for the Philadelphia Folk Song Society on Sunday afternoon, May 17th '
https://folksongsociety.wufoo.com/forms/pfs-presents-john-flynn-517-at-3pm-edt/

My concert will be live on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/233186384616328/

New Beginnings-Next Step is forging ahead as best we can. Although we still haven't been able to get them up and running inside the prisons, our returning citizen zoom meetings seem to be of some value to our members in their re-entry journeys. Recently my board of directors charged me with asking our guys is they'd be willing to speak on the record about the value of our groups and the men have been very generous in their willingness to do so. Here's a link to a very short clip from a recent meeting in which my friend Nick does just this: https://www.facebook.com/john.flynn.771/videos/10223002645473802/

Knowing and working with men like Nick is an honor. They often carry burdens that would have buried me many times over, and yet they keep going and keep striving for a better way. I think if there's any credit for their success it remains entirely with them, so I'm not always sure how much help we really are. What I do know is they continually renew my hope and spirit. Thank you for your ongoing support of this work.

I can't remember a time since my teens when I've turned to my guitar for as much solace as I have in the past couple months. (Perhaps my love of music began as a way of rebelling against being sent to my room as a kid' And, in a way, isn't that what we've all experienced to some degree recently') Since I didn't have a lot of original material ready to finish my current record, my producer Harvey and I have been working on an album of cover tunes which we'll be releasing soon under the name Hondo Jenkins. We've had a blast and got some great takes on songs by Tom Petty, U2, John Prine, George Harrison, The Animals, The Four Tops, The Monkees, The Bee Gees'. We even give Kenny Rogers and the First Edition a go with a revamped version of the again famous (thanks to The Big Lebowski) 'Just Dropped In (To See What Condition my Condition Was In)'.

The cover story for the new band goes like this: Hondo Jenkins is the recently formed duo of Ellsworth Hondo and Vance Parnell Jenkins; childhood friends  who grew up on the road, traveling across the country as their respective parents sought ever-elusive stardom while touring with the vaunted 'Up With People' road show. 

Their ecstatic  musical pairing is the fruit of a (dubious) midlife attempt to overcome the bitterness and soul-crushing cynicism that their parents bequeathed them as they endeavor to fill interminable hours presented by the current Corona virus lockdown. 

Hondo Jenkins spans the Mason-Dixon Line both musically and geographically. 
Ellsworth recently left a position as the assistant manager of a popular Fishtown, PA bowling alley due to his long-held suspicion that the music business could provide a more accommodating lifestyle than that heretofore conferred by professionally sanitized rented footwear. 

Until March of 2020, Vance P. was the head salesclerk at a music store in Smyrna, Delaware. Upon the store's unceremonious shuttering under the designation 'non-essential business',  Vance took it upon himself  to 'borrow' some moderately expensive recording equipment for the duration of the work stoppage. 

File swapping and musical hi-jinx ensued. The scamps are currently hard at work completing their soon to be released shelter-in-place album called, Take Cover.

The real story is:
Like many of us these days, John Flynn and Harvey have too much time on their hands. Hondo Jenkins is a name that John occasionally used to play regional cover bars when he was contractually prohibited from appearing under his own name. With the exception of the Flynn-penned 'Space Station', Take Cover is a collection of cover tunes that John and Harvey are having a lot of fun putting together as Harvey patiently coaches John (a true techy-Luddite) through the intricacies of remote recording on Pro Tools like one of those movies where the guy in the control tower talks a civilian through the steps of landing a aircraft. ('Pull back! Pull back! You're coming in too hot!') On some level the songs all seem to speak to our shared moment. 

Here's a peek at a rough mix by this new folk-rock super group. I picked this particular song to honor my old friend, legendary folk DJ, Gene Shay, who we lost recently to COVID-19:

https://soundcloud.com/john-flynn-39/papa-genes-blues

Speaking of Gene, his passing hit our local music community very hard. He had always believed in me and seemed determined to use any device at his disposal to get me more exposure. Somehow he continues to accomplish this even now, as CBS News's lovely tribute to him featured footage of the two of us working together. First time I was ever on network TV! I mean out of hundreds (thousands') of hours of video of this guy on stage, they picked him working with me' I don't know how, but I know he had something to do with it. I'll sure miss him.


I was honored to have been asked to write something about Gene's passing for the Philadelphia Folk Song Society, which I'll post below.

Hope to see you online tomorrow and in person real soon. Please take care of yourselves and stay well.

Much love,

John

This One Stings (Some Thoughts on the Loss of Gene Shay)

by John Flynn

I've lost friends before. We all have. So why did the death of my old buddy Gene Shay from complications brought on by COVID-19 hit me so hard' Why did this sting a little deeper' Why was this pain sharp enough to cause that involuntary gasp during these interminable, mind-numbing weeks of collective national breath-holding' Maybe it was our shared history. Gene and I had been down a long road together.

So many shows. So many festivals, and conventions. I guess many of us in the folk community share that sense of deep time connection with him. Gene was a locus, a trans-generational touchstone. Listening to Ian Zolitor's moving tribute to Gene on the Folk Show, the Sunday night following his death, made that abundantly clear. Hearing Tom Rush's guitar doing 'Mole's Moan' during the intro brought that clenched feeling back to your throat all over again because you knew Gene's friendly voice wouldn't be breaking in at any moment to welcome us all around the crackling tribal campfire of a radio program that we've all warmed our hearts by for so many decades. So, yeah, history was part of it.

But more than that, Gene was like family. My kids had grown up around him. When they were little they'd crowd around the radio in our dining room to hear him occasionally play one of my songs. The whole family had once spent a day mugging for his film crew at the Philadelphia Zoo for a commercial he was producing for the local tourism board. Sean and Sarah had even done his radio show at WXPN a couple times with me. Yep, Gene was like family. But even that didn't quite explain what I was feeling. Maybe there was a selfish aspect'

Gene always believed in me. Indeed, I remember thinking after the premature report of Gene's passing (Arlo texted me that he had laughed when he'd found out that Gene had actually outlived his own obituary. I texted back that only Gene could pull it off...) that after my grandmother died, I had a sense that there would never be another person in this world who thought quite so highly of me. When it came to my music, Gene was that person for me.

When I was just starting out, Gene had given me my first radio exposure by inviting me on his show. (That is, if you don't count playing into a telephone receiver on Don Cannon's morning show on WIBG when I was in high school!) In those years the experience was always a bit daunting. I loved performing live' a staple on Gene's programs' but I must admit that I always felt kind of vulnerable at the end of the song' just as that final guitar chord faded to silence. There'd always be this moment of wondering. Would Gene like the song' And if so, what adjectives of praise might ensue from that authoritative and storied voice' What quotable gems for your press kit might you catch as they spilled forth into a microphone that might shape the perceptions of the entire folk community' But praise wasn't really what Gene was about. I realized years later that he wouldn't have had you on the show in the first place if you weren't any good. That was already understood. So, mostly Gene's response to your composition would be something along the lines of, 'Ehh' new song, huh''

Oh, the excruciating agony of a public damning by faint chronology! Yes, it was new! C'mon dude! Throw the kid a bone here! Did you like it' But nothing ever came back then except' the best possible thing. 'Let's hear another', he'd say.

I always wondered about this reaction. That is until I first heard a replay of Gene interviewing Joni Mitchell in which Joni plays the (then) three-day-old masterpiece, 'Clouds' for the first time ' live on the radio. You hear that last exquisite guitar chord decay and you sit, stunned by the craft, the beauty, the sheer brilliance! And then Gene responds (I kid you not!), 'Ehh' new song, huh'' WOW! Gene treated us all as equals! No big stars, no local schlubs, just songwriters.

His egalitarian approach to the artist would become even more evident later on. In the mid-90s, Gene paid me the honor of asking me to do a series of songwriting workshops with him throughout the tri-state area. This was a big deal for me as I was only beginning to become known for my own stuff. Having been judged too much of a 'folkie' for Nashville, I'd built my living' and a good-sized following' on the Philly and Jersey shore cover bar circuit.

Gene led the workshops and would open them by speaking knowledgeably about what made a good song. He would then use my material to illustrate his points, asking me to perform live and then questioning me about the choices I had made in a particular construction, lyric or melody. (I never admitted to either him or the audience that I felt like anything I'd done right was purely accidental.) I must confess that I learned a lot about the craft of songwriting' and even about my own songs' from doing these workshops with him. I was, and remain to this day, a rather intuitive writer and Gene helped me understand some things in new ways. He was a great teacher.
At the end of our workshops Gene would encourage the audience' who generally came armed with guitars, banjos or some other 'implements of distraction'' to share their latest compositions. As you might expect, the songs they regaled us with were of varying quality. Some were pretty good. Others were clearly written by folks just starting out. Some were' well' bad. Back then, my mind would almost always hear these new songs from a critical perspective. I remember Arlo's great story about Steve Goodman bribing him with a beer to get him to listen to 'City of New Orleans'. According to the story, AG had initially declined Steve's request to listen, saying, 'Songs' I hate songs!' That always made me laugh and there were more than a few moments back in those days where I'm embarrassed to admit that I related to the sentiment.

Not that I would necessarily share my negative reactions. But my first instinct was generally to notice what was 'wrong' with what I was hearing. My thoughts would automatically race to how the song could be improved. It was a problem-solving mentality. Gene's response, however, was always completely different. It was a celebration mentality. It always began with delight.
The first thing Gene would notice and respond to about your song in these settings was what was good about it. He'd point out what you had done well. The songs originality, evocation, enthusiasm, or even the spirit behind the attempt were of just as much interest to Gene as the final execution of the piece. And he was genuinely excited that you had decided to join the family of artists and composers that kept our music community alive. This wasn't to say that Gene wouldn't give you constructive criticism. After he had bestowed some of the biggest smiles I had ever seen on the faces of our fledgling writers, Gene would gently lead the composers into a discussion about how to improve their work. His suggestions were always valid and right on the money.

Gene's approach to songs mirrored his approach to everything. He could say 'no' if he had to, but his instinct was to begin with 'yes'. It's a lesson I still try draw upon. Not that Gene didn't also have a very funny as hell edge. Once, when I thanked Gene at a folk music convention for asking me to run a high-profile workshop called 'Secrets of the Emerging Artist', he said, 'John, no one's been emerging longer than you.'

Sometime after the songwriting workshop period, Gene signed me to my first recording contract on Sliced Bread Records, a label he and his friend Carl Apter had started. That's when I first encountered Gene's indefatigable sense of optimism. It was back in the late 90s. Gene was tasked with lining up the producer for my project. I was excited about his suggestion that we use Ben Wisch, who had received a Grammy for his work on Marc Cohn's recent album. Gene told me that Ben was up for producing me, providing he and I hit it off personally, and he advised me to drive up to New York City and hang out with Ben. The next night I was standing with my guitar case in the lobby of Red House Music.

Ben was clearly at a loss to see me and explained uncomfortably that he had actually declined Gene's offer to produce my record. After some really awkward silence, I asked him why he'd said no. Ben responded that, though he liked my singing, he didn't feel the material on the demo cassette Gene had sent him was strong enough. A couple hours later I had played Ben a batch of new songs and he had signed on as my new producer. When I called Gene at home the next day, he explained that that was exactly what he had envisioned happening. He said he had known I was better live than on my demos, and that if Ben got to know me and hear my stuff in person, he'd change his mind. Gene also knew me well enough to strongly suspect that if I'd had a chance to stew on Ben's initial rejection, I would have never gone along with the plan. Gene was definitely an optimist. Plus, I remember thinking, that was some serious Jedi-level mind stuff going on there. 'This is not the droid whose recording project you declined''

Throughout my career Gene was probably my biggest, most consistent supporter. Sometimes I think he even believed in me more than I did. So, yeah. That would account for some of the sadness I was experiencing. But there was more to it. There was just a plain old sense of loss.

There was the loss of all that voluminous knowledge and (to me anyway) old school savoir-faire. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was never in Gene's company that I didn't learn something. And not only was his grasp of music and culture encyclopedic, it was always conveyed in a way that could make even a sometimes incurious and often self-involved student like me want to know more. Kris Kristofferson once joked that no one could hold you completely spellbound' on a topic on which you had no interest whatsoever' like Ramblin' Jack Elliott. (This is true. I once listened fascinated as Jack talked about his new sleeping bag for forty-five minutes!) Well, just imagine Jack's preternatural ability as a raconteur rolled into a guy who held forth on subjects you really cared about! Plus, I honestly don't think I ever knew anyone as sophisticated as Gene who had managed to so completely avoid the joyless tinge of cynicism. It's what made being around him so much fun.
But beyond all of this, beyond the sense of kin and kindred, beyond the generous career cheerleader and Sherpa, and beyond the bottomless font of musical and cultural erudition, my world had lost something even more precious. It had lost a source of sweetness.

Gene almost always exuded a simple and effortless cheerfulness; a natural good-heartedness. And that dependable source of agenda less affability was now gone. When my mind searches to find archetypes to compare, a few imprecise examples flash unbidden: Fred Rogers, ET, the Dalai Lama, Winnie-the-Pooh. None of these are exactly right of course. Gene was far hipper than these iconic figures (although the image of Pooh wearing Dennis Rodman style wrap-around sunglasses did bring a smile to my face.) Still, my friend Gene shared with them that same simple quality of unpretentious kindness. I'll miss that the most.

So, for these and many other reasons, this one stings, and will go on stinging for a while. But scribbling out these thoughts today helped me realize that the sadness isn't near as big as the gratitude I feel for the chance to have called Gene a friend. And it is certainly nowhere near as deep as the affection for him that remains and will abide. So, we'll continue to remember our friend Gene Shay in our ways. We'll make and love music. We'll look out for and take care of each other. We'll hold each other in our hearts until we can once again hold each other in our arms. We'll laugh at (or in spite of) awful jokes. And we'll raise glasses to our absent friend.

I'll end with some lyrics from the song 'Standing Ovation' which I wrote for Gene's 80th birthday:
You stood with me in the driving rain
In the howling wind and the hurricane
And your soul was kind and your heart was true
And you stood with me now I stand with you

You stood with me when few others did
Back when I was not much more than a kid
You showed me faith I had never known
And I knew that I'd never stand alone

When my hammer rang on that hard cement
You showed me what standing for something meant
When I'd hear your voice on the laughing wind
I would smile knowing I had a friend

Who stood with me when the battles raged
When the lines were drawn from another age
And our songs would try to say something true
You stood with me
Now I stand with you

As your hammer rings on this hard cement
When they ask where standing for something went
I will hear your voice laughing on the wind
And I will smile knowing I have a friend

I'll stand with you in the driving rain
In the howling wind and the hurricane
For your soul is kind and your heart is true
And you stood with me
Now I stand for you

' 2015 Flying Stone Music


 

March 17, 2020


March 11, 2020
Probably the last show for a while'
Sussex Correctional Institution, Georgetown, DE


Hi Friends,

So quite a bit has happened since I last checked in. I pray you guys are all well and taking care of yourselves. As for me, life's going on pretty much the same with a few minor adjustments here and there. Of course, any shows I've written to you of have been postponed.

Our Next Step returning citizens support group meetings are on hiatus since we didn't want to risk either the health of our volunteers (who are even older than me), or that of our economically vulnerable members who can ill-afford any wage loss due to prolonged illness. We are reaching out to the guys by phone each week and making our weekly bus passes and grocery store gift cards available through the mail. As things evolve, we will certainly try to help when we can 'and as we can 'with the resources you've kindly made available to me through your donations at my concerts and PayPal offerings at NewBeginnings-NextStep.org. (Please don't see this as a solicitation right now. I know many have been adversely affected by the economic implications of the virus. Just know that I'm grateful for your support!) As far as the prisons, although they have been closed to all visitors in Delaware, they have remained open to New Beginnings, and I will continue to run groups for as long as I'm permitted inside.

Offenders are incredibly worried about Coivd-19; some because they're trapped in a problematic (in the best of times) healthcare situation, some because they're seriously immune-compromised, many because their loved ones are among the most vulnerable, and a few because they bear the weight of the nascent stages of spiritual awakening to the point that they fear being deprived of the chance to go home and try to make amends to those whose lives they have wounded. (This last fear seems to be the worst and was shared with tears last week by one of the toughest looking men I've ever seen.)

I know this social distancing stuff 'and what looks to me like an impending and inevitable national lockdown 'has a lot of folks freaked out, especially those who live alone. A long time ago the good sisters taught us about 'the mystical body of Christ' and what they called 'the communion of saints'. My Buddhist friends use different language but talk about the same kind of thing. Quantum physics now tells us this real and vital interrelationship of all things goes beyond mere space and time, beyond religious dogma, and certainly beyond temporary shelter-in-place policies. We are ALL connected. No one is alone. Not really. Feel me'

When I got home from prison the other day, I wrote to New Beginnings founder, Brother David Schlatter OFM, and asked him to point me to something in scripture I could take back into my guys. Brother David sent me a couple things which I'll copy below. People read the bible in different ways and at many levels. Some literal. Some symbolic. I don't wish to get into a hermeneutical discussion here. I simply offer these ancient and inspired words in the hope that taking them into the silence of your heart and mediating on them brings some comfort in these trying days:

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High,
who abide in the shade of the Almighty,
Say to the LORD, 'My refuge and fortress,
my God in whom I trust.'
He will rescue you from the fowler's snare,
from the destroying plague,
He will shelter you with his pinions,
and under his wings you may take refuge;
his faithfulness is a protecting shield.
You shall not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day,
Nor the pestilence that roams in darkness,
nor the plague that ravages at noon.
Though a thousand fall at your side
ten thousand at your right hand,
near you it shall not come.
You need simply watch;
the punishment of the wicked you will see.
Because you have the LORD for your refuge
and have made the Most High your stronghold,
No evil shall befall you,
no affliction come near your tent.
For he commands his angels with regard to you,
to guard you wherever you go.
With their hands they shall support you,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You can tread upon the asp and the viper,
trample the lion and the dragon.
-Psalm 91
and...

But now, thus says the LORD,
who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name: you are mine.
When you pass through waters, I will be with you;
through rivers, you shall not be swept away.
When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned,
nor will flames consume you.
For I, the LORD, am your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your savior...
- Isaiah 43:1-3.


I hope to see you soon.

Peace.

And much love,
John


1/16/20


My kids joined me on stage to help with vocals at our
Camp Dreamcatcher benefit concert

Hi Friends,
We had a great time raising money for Camp Dreamcatcher at The Kennett Flash last month. Thanks to all who came out to support this annual event, especially my kids and my special guests Harvey, Ken Ulansey and surprise guest, the amazing Phyllis Chapell. This is always a special show and I hope that, if you're in the area, you'll plan to make it part of your holiday plans next year.

Some big news! I recently met with my state's new Commissioner of Corrections, Claire DeMatteis and the Chief of the Bureau of Prisons, Shane Troxler. They have approved my request to begin to introduce New Beginnings into Delaware's remaining two level-five prisons. (Up until now we've been confined to correctional and work-release facilities in Northern Delaware only.) They have also expressed a willingness to allow me to use some of my formerly incarcerated guys as group facilitators in the new prisons. This has long been a dream of mine and has met with resistance from the DOC for years. I believe it will allow our little program to grow beyond my limited time, experience, and abilities. Although I've been visiting prisons for fifteen years and gotten to know and care for hundreds of inmates and returning citizens, I remain clear on the fact that I still have no real idea what it's like to be incarcerated or understand at a gut level the lethal sense of hopelessness with which so many of our members have had to live. (As I put it to the Commissioner, which AA meeting would you rather attend 'the one being led by folks in recovery, or the one being run by a bunch of well-meaning people who've never had a drink') I think this new development could eventually change the power and scope of NBNS in profound ways!

In a few weeks I'll be meeting with the warden of the Sussex Correctional Institution to schedule a concert at his prison which will allow me to introduce myself ' and our New Beginnings program- to the inmates down in Georgetown. This will likely mean an even greater investment of my time in NBNS, but I honestly feel it's where I'm called to put my energy these days as we try grow this program up to a place where it no longer relies so heavily on me and our small, God-sent core of dedicated volunteers.

The new downstate prison groups will eventually present even greater financial challenges for us as well, since at some point, we'll begin to face the prospect of providing weekly Next Step meetings and transitional assistance for the men who are released from these facilities. I know I just have to trust that the answers will become evident as I go. As my friend NBNS volunteer and board member Sandy Stefanowicz is fond of saying, 'Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.' I'll check in from time to time and let you know how the pinion construction is going.

I get to restring my guitar next week for a show at a new venue in Havertown, PA. On Friday, January 24th, I'll be performing at the Kelly Center (https://kellycenter.ticketleap.com/john-flynn-012420/). On Saturday, February 1st, I head north for a show in Bridgewater, MA (http://www.offthecommon.org/). And the following day, I get to visit my dear friend Sonny Ochs in Middlburg, NY where I'll do a concert at the public library at 4PM. For info call (518) 827-4953. Then on February 9th I'll be returning to Bel Air, MD (https://liriodendron.com/category/music-at-the-mansion/).

Hope to see you soon. Thanks for always having my back.

Peace,

John


11/27/19


Biggest crowd ever for this year's annual
New Beginnings - Next Step Thanksgiving feast!


Hi Friends,

I'm typing quick as we just got a surprise visit from the grandkids! More reasons to be thankful as we head into my favorite holiday.

I had a great time out in the Midwest last month. Just missed the snow and didn't (I don't think) show too much rust for spending more time in prisons than on stages this past year. One of the best parts of the trip for me was trying out a new song. The wonderful audience reaction inspired me to record 'The Circle of Love' and we just finished vocals last night. I plan to release the track as a digital single for the new year.

Lyrics included below.

My gratitude seems to increase as the years go by, in no small part due to the extraordinary people I've been blessed to get to know through my work. I'm including a little story that illustrates my point. This tale has a happy ending as the individual in question is doing well in a shelter that our NBNS board member was able to get him admitted to. More than this however, the extraordinary kindness of our returning citizen members in opening up their very crowded house to a homeless stranger on the strength of his association with NBNS is something I won't soon forget. (And this was not the only time our guys have stepped up this way.) It fills me with awe how the folks with the least in this world are often the ones willing to give the most.

Here's what happened '

He called me late Wednesday night to say that the prison had discharged him six months early without so much as a dollar in his pocket or a place to lay his head. He told me he knew of a couch he could stay on for the evening but he was going to take me up on my promise that no New Beginnings member would have to sleep on the street when they came out of prison. I told him I would meet up with him the next day and help him come up with a plan.

When we met, he looked like hell frozen over. It was 30 degrees and he'd been outside all night. Apparently the 'friend' he'd planned to stay with had other people crashing there as well. When these folks began drinking and smoking crack, he knew that his recovery- let alone his probation- was in real jeopardy, so he left and walked the streets of Wilmington in the bitter cold. (I later asked him why he didn't call me and he said, 'John, you have a family and I didn't want to bother you in the middle of the night.' These are the kind of men in work with.)

Little did he know that I hadn't slept very well anyway, as I was tossing and turning trying to think of place for him to stay. Now that the weather is turning colder, the shelters are full. Our go-to shelter last year, the RVRC, has been closed for months, and we learned just last week that the YMCA was not taking in any more men.

I took him out for some food and used my New Beginnings-Next Step debit card to get him some underwear and socks and a bath towel. He was wearing a coat that he had pulled out of a trashcan during the night-and it smelled like it-so I gave him one of mine that I had tossed in the car just in case. I have been making calls all morning and had not made much progress. But, by end of day, one of the members of my Board of Directors was able to come up with a bed that might become available next week at a shelter she was associated with down in Bear, Delaware.

This man's recovery was on my mind and I didn't want to place him in a motel by himself just now, so I called one of our Next Step members who owns a small house in Wilmington and has several fellow returning citizens as housemates to help with expenses. Our Next Step homeowner agreed with me that putting our brother in a motel might not be the best move for his sobriety. He told me that, although he had no empty rooms or beds, if I could come up with an air mattress, he would make a place on the floor for our homeless brother. My daughter donated the inflatable along with a quilt and some sheets, and I dropped our newest Next Step member off at a warm house where men who have struggled with exactly the type of challenges he's facing now live together, successfully facing life on life's terms. One of them whispered to me that, although the initial offer was for a couple nights, I shouldn't worry because as long as he remained clean, the new guy could stay until he found something else. One of the guys will even drive him to Bear on Monday morning for his intake interview.

I saw our new brother at the Next Step meeting this afternoon, where he spoke of the things he saw as walked alone on the streets his first night home. 'That was MY neighborhood, he said. I walked right through the jungle. Lots of people recognized me and offered me drugs. They called my name from porches and corners. They were high. They were stoned. With snot running down their faces. No coats. Freezing. Living in 'abandominiums'. Dying and not even knowing it.' His eyes filled with tears. 'That's what I always went back to. That's why I've let so many people down so many times. Not this time', he said. 'Not this time.'

Not this time, indeed!

No one can make it alone in this world. I'm so thankful to be part of a small but growing family that is willing to be the difference between healing or breaking; standing or falling.

In other news'

Just a reminder that I'm doing my annual benefit concert for Camp Dreamcatcher in on December 13th. We're in Dreamcatcher's backyard this year as the show moves to Kennett Square, PA. You can save a bit by buying these tickets early. Please come out and support this special show:



Here's the new lyric:



The Circle of Love by John Flynn

CHORUS:
Ain't no love without freedom
Ain't no freedom without justice
Ain't no justice without mercy
Ain't no mercy without love

Fat man talking about bootstraps
While he's hitting out of sand traps
Thin man scrounging round for food scraps
While the car he's sleeping in's
Leaking oil from its valve seals
As the banker's doing cartwheels
And the DA's scoring plea deals
As the choir sings Amen! chorus

Politicians flash incisors
As the cops pull down their visors
And we're sadder but no wiser
As the world we're watching burn
Will growing harder just to live in
And to find a damn to give in
'Til we wake up to what we've been
Taking much too long to learn chorus

BRIDGE
It's the circle of love, may it grow ever wide
Until no one is standing outside

There won't be no either or then
We'll say both and maybe more when
What was lost has been restored when
What is torn has been made whole
I can feel it every day in
My old bones and my archaic
Deoxyribonucleic
Yeah, I know it in my soul chorus

' 2019 Flying Stone Music



I hope you're Thanksgiving is filled with the warmth of love.

Peace,

John


 


11/1/19


The best part of my job as Executive Director of New Beginnings-Next Step is welcoming home men I've worked with while they were in prison and watching them set sail into their new lives. These two are ready for whatever the voyage holds.
Welcome home, Mike and Alphonso!

Hi Friends,
 

I've been so blessed in my life -- with family, friends, and work I care about -- that I didn't know I could feel more grateful. But the deep community I've stumbled into helping create simply by continuing to show up for a volunteer gig I had no business doing (and no apparent aptitude for) has changed my life in profound ways.

The lesson that keeps coming home again and again is one that Greg Boyle at Homeboy Industries imparted to me some years ago when I wrote to him seeking advice about helping one of my returning citizens who seemed to be slipping back into old patterns and placing his freedom in jeopardy. Father G, as the homies refer to him, assured me that I'm not here to fix or save anyone. I'm just here to be the tender glance of God. And that by creating the context for the expression of that tenderness'by continuing to show up and stand with the marginalized- THEY would fix and save ME.

I'm not sure I'm either fixed or saved. But I know for sure that I continue to get more than I give. Let me provide a couple examples of the kind of psychic/spiritual remuneration I've been receiving recently' First, a letter that was forwarded to me by the warden's secretary from a currently incarcerated New Beginnings member --

September 9, 2019

After attending several months of group settings in the New Beginnings group, I can without reservations state that the overall impact of the program is one of healing. On numerous occasions I have witnessed men confronting their own past behaviors and the behaviors of others and eventually arriving at a place of peace.

Truth, compassion and understanding are the hallmarks of the program and more importantly the volunteers who show up without fail. The volunteers never seem to judge program participants but do provide frank and thoughtful feedback.

One of the most amazing aspects of the program is how gradually every participant lowers their 'protective wall' and allows themselves to be vulnerable. Opening up to what amounts to a room full of strangers is not an easy exercise, but because care and concern are espoused by the staff members from day 1, every participant I've known has eventually gotten 'gut level' honest and shared true feelings. On many occasions there is not a dry eye in the room. Please understand that the tears are not only part of the process as the staff and participants lift up and support everyone in the room.

In this concrete and steel fortress of destroyed and interrupted lives, New Beginnings is an oasis of peace. Every time I leave to return to my housing unit I am uplifted and inspired.

Looking at what New Beginnings and Next Step actually accomplishes is more impactful than what is seen at first glance. While the group meetings refresh and inspire those of us who participate, the tangible benefits are even greater. Many of us take what we experience and learn in our group sessions and transmit it to other inmates and our family members. I call this the spider web effect. Twice weekly, we absorb positive thoughts and emotionally charged support and it carries us through the entire week.

Respectfully,
Eric Harris
Howard R. Young Correctional Institution


Pretty amazing, right' And no sooner had I caught my breath for Eric's beautiful letter, a second wave of gratitude knocked me off my feet.

A few days ago I went to the NBNS post office box and picked up the mail. Among the envelopes waiting for me were two that had been sent from the state prison containing $75 in checks drawn on the account of an incarcerated man named Michael who's been attending New Beginnings groups for about a year. Michael has very little money, and, if and when he can get a prison job, he earns approximately 30 cents an hour with which he can pay for phone calls and his commissary ' which I won't say is expensive, but, trust me, the same economic principle that allows vendors to charge $10 for a hotdog at major league baseball game is not altogether absent in prisons. I was absolutely stunned to see these checks.

Before depositing them in the bank, I contacted the prison since there are strict rules against any kind of extra-curricular relationships between prison volunteers and offenders. No contact ' visits, mail, etc.- is permitted whatsoever, and any transgression could result in the loss of your security clearance. In effect, ending my ability to do what I've been doing for the last fifteen years, and possibly ending the ability of our other volunteers to continue as well.

The checks were not addressed to me, I explained to the volunteer coordinator when she picked up the phone. They were written and mailed to my non-profit, which is a 501 C3 and recognized as a legitimate charity by the IRS. She too was amazed at my story and told me that there were no rules covering my situation since it had never occurred before. I told her that I believed it was important for my organization to accept this generous gift, and that to decline it could possibly be seen as a slight by our incarcerated benefactor. Part of what we do is try to help men come to see how good they actually are. How can we then go and deny the expression of that goodness'

I deposited the checks and thanked Michael in group yesterday. He explained that, when he can, he tries to send some money to those less fortunate. He mentioned St. Jude's Hospital as a charity he also supports when he can. He told me that weekly bus passes and grocery assistance we give to returning citizens could mean the difference between their success and their failure when they finally leave prison, and that he believed in what we trying to do. Then he sheepishly added, 'Besides, I might need you guys to help me when I get out'.

My sincere thanks to Michael and Eric, and all who support my work, music and otherwise.

Speaking of music, I'll be heading to the Midwest next week for a few shows:

On Friday, November 8th I'll be in Ferdinand, Indiana-- https://www.facebook.com/events/412897796060964/

And I'll be doing house concerts in Chicago on Saturday and Sunday. Email
rebekahlevin1@gmail.com for reservation information.

Hope to see you soon!


Peace,
John
 


 

9/30/19



That's me sitting behind Emmylou Harris and Kris Kristofferson a few years ago at the tribute to Emmylou in DC. Watching Ken Burns Country Music documentary this week has left me feeling deeply blessed by the folks I've met and the places I've been. (Kind of like the Forrest Gump of folk music). Of course, the bulk of these opportunities came from Kris, whose faith in me and my music was almost as stubborn as my own. It got me through some tough times and was the kind of validation I'd never known. I'll never be able to repay him.


Hi Friends,

Some very special shows this weekend!

This Friday night, October 4th, I hope my Delco, Pennsylvania peeps will come out and support my annual concert to raise money for my non-profit, New Beginnings-Next Step. Several of our returning citizens will speak about what this work has meant to their journeys both during and after prison. This year our guys will say thanks to Ridley High School for allowing us to use their auditorium for the event by visiting with the students a few days early for some workshops dealing with a wide gamut of topics including the dangers of toxic culture, peer pressure, addiction, and the power of early choices. I'm very excited about this chance for our guys to work with some young people. I'll let you know how it goes!


Then this Saturday night, October 5th, I'll be doing a multi-artist event in Ewing, NJ as part of the Concerts Across America to End Gun Violence series. Hoping my Garden State fans will come out and support this important show.


Work in the prisons and with our returning citizens has been going well and, recently, it seems we're welcoming a new member of the NB-NS family home every few weeks.

One of the special groups we've been asked to work with over the past year is composed of men who've been providing information to the state concerning the prison riot, hostage taking, and murder of a correctional officer in Smyrna a couple years back. I never mentioned this particular group before because these men are potentially under threat for their cooperation and therefore are being held in administrative segregation. Any thought of confidentiality regarding their location vanished as their residence was made public by some recent high-profile newspaper articles. (See several front-page stories in the Delaware papers last week.)

New Beginnings was originally intended to be a group to help folks transition from incarceration to freedom, but, when the warden asked me to take on this new group, it quickly became clear to me that some of these men might never even leave prison. As I often do, I went to my guys, both incarcerated and recently home, for advice. I asked if they believed New Beginnings could provide anything of value for a man facing a long - or even life - sentence. (I've always told then it was 'their' group, so I generally try to approach big decisions only after I understand them from perspectives to which I simply can't presume access.

The guys told me that there are different kinds of freedom. There's the 'walking around, go anywhere, eat at McDonalds anytime you want' kind that you dream of when you're incarcerated. And then there's the inside kind. Freedom in the heart, mind, and spirit. Of the two kinds, they told me, this 'inside freedom' is the more important. The guys believed strongly that New Beginnings was a great vehicle for achieving some measure of this kind of freedom, and in a dark place, any taste of freedom could be a priceless gift. I told the warden 'yes' ' but only if we could meet with the men without correctional officers being present. (One of New Beginnings very few non-negotiable conditions is the ability to meet in privacy.) To my surprise, the warden consented, and I've never regretted the decision for a moment. I've simply never worked with men who were more grateful just to be listened to deeply, and to be seen, not for the worst things they've done, but for the awe-inspiring humility, compassion and courage they possess. Please keep these, and all incarcerated and returning citizens in your prayers.

I'll be playing in Ferdinand, Indiana and Chicago, Illinois next month. Hope to see you soon.

Peace,

John
 


 

Join us for a special benefit concert on October 4th @ 6:50
Ridley High School. For more info click the poster below

 

NEWS: John Honored By Nation's Criminal Defense Bar:
https://www.nacdl.org/newsrelease/John-Flynn-Champion-of-Justice-Humanitarian-Award

John's Re-Entry Work Is Recognized By The State Of Delaware:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php'fbid=10220077544108096&set=a.1162046130541&type=3&theater
 


8/8/19

Hi friends,

I hope this note finds you and your loved ones safe and well in the midst of all this week's heart-break. My friend Kim Harris recently posted a quote from the Talmud which I pass on here in the hopes that it will help you as much as it's helped me:

"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly now, love mercy now, walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.'

These words resonate very strongly in me and remind me of how Gandhi once counseled that although whatever we do may seem insignificant, it is very important that WE do it.'

It may (and probably will) get worse before it gets better, but, if we stand with each other, it WILL get better. How's that old song go' 'Deep in my heart, I do believe''

One of the best things for me to do in times like these is play, so I feel very fortunate to have some gigs coming up.

Thursday evening, August 15th, I'll be doing an outdoor concert at Bellevue State Park.
https://www.delawarescene.com/event/24543/

And on Saturday evening, August 17th, I'll be at the One World Coffeehouse in Columbia, MD.
https://uucolumbia.net/events/coffeehouse-john-flynn/


I was honored to be receive some very generous and very public pats on the back recently (links above); first by The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and, then, by my home state of Delaware. Every NBNS volunteer will back me up when I say that we all feel we get much more than we can ever give in our work with incarcerated and returning citizens. There are truly so many people, without whom, I couldn't do of this; my volunteers, my board, my fans and friends, who donate from the kindness of their hearts to support our work, even the prison staffs have been a part of an important team that seems to be making a real difference.



With Deputy Warden Karl Sturgill and Warden Kolawole Akinbayo after John's recent concert at the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution. Photo by Tycolia Robinson

Most especially, I need to thank my best friend and wife of 35 years, Beth, for being my 'peer support group' through so many ups and downs on this journey.


With Beth at the Franklin Institute after the
National Foundation for Criminal Justice Awards Gala.

In other news, my new single 'An American Cage' has just been released digitally on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify etc. Here's a link to one of the song's two YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch'v=59fnuuQNwgE

I'd really like this song to be heard, so hope you will not only share, but urge others to do the same.

I had a great time singing at the ballpark last week when we got to take a bus load of our returning citizens and their guests to Citizens Bank Park to see the Phillies take on the San Francisco Giants.



New Beginnings-Next Step is in the house!


My thanks to the Phillies for continuing this special tradition with us, as well as for allowing me to sing.



Leading the crowd in 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' during the seventh inning stretch.

My two annual benefit concerts this year are still a ways off, but I figure it's never too early to mark your calendars. On October 4th, I'll be raising money for New Beginnings-Next Step with a concert at Ridley High School, in Folsom, PA, and on December 13th, I'll be doing my annual (23 years') holiday fundraiser for Camp Dreamcatcher. This year we're moving the Dreamcatcher benefit onto their home turf, and will be holding the show at the Kennett Flash in Kennett Square, PA.

Believe it or not, there's more news to tell, but I think I'll leave some for next time.

Stay strong.
Peace,

John

Oh yeah' Ps., New Beginnings-Next Step hats with our official 'broken handcuffs' logo are now for sale. All profits go to support the work of NBNS. Here's a link:
http://newbeginnings-nextstep.org/support.html



May 30, 2019

Hi Friends,

I'm writing on the morning of my 62nd birthday. That plus the fact that I haven't written in a while has provided me with an opportunity to step back and reflect a bit. Mostly at this stage of the game, I guess the main thing I feel is gratitude.

I've been so lucky to earn a living doing things I care about, and so blessed to have four great kids and a woman I'm crazy about by my side. And now, on top of everything else, grandkids are starting to arrive. Honestly, if I'd known how much fun being a grandpop was, I'd have gotten older sooner!




with 'the kid' at Pop-pop's house

I continue having fun making new friends and hanging with old ones.

 

with Kris K. on the bus

I enjoyed catching up with my buddy Kris Kristofferson recently. Kris is touring with Merle Haggard's old band, The Strangers, and continues to inspire me as I contemplate continuing to strive in the pursuit of a creative and honest life.

A few weeks back I (almost) passed an old timer named Ronnie Wong at the 21-mile mark of the Delaware Marathon.

with Ronnie W. at the finish line

I had seen this little guy up ahead of me all morning but had been unable to close the gap. I had run a pretty conservative (for once) race so I'd have a little gas in the tank during the final miles for a change. At the 20-mile mark I decided to pick up the pace a bit. When I finally reeled the old fella in, I gasped, 'I'm glad I'm not the only crazy old timer out here today!' The elderly runner cheerfully informed me that his name was Ronnie Wong, his age was 72, and that he was famous for having completed over 300 marathons. (This gave him ten years and at least 270 marathons on me!)

I quickly discovered that Ronnie is supernaturally affable and a natural and gifted raconteur. Since I had no PR (personal record) on the line, I decided to throttle back and spend a few miles letting him regale me with stories from a lifetime of running. Actually, I don't think anyone passed us during these miles since the conversation took our minds off our mutual and growing fatigue, and we actually began to pick up the pace slightly.

The stories were interspersed with sage advice and hard-earned wisdom of the road. At one point, Ronnie asked me where I was looking. 'Looking'' I asked. 'What do you mean' 'With your eyes', he replied, 'Where are you looking with your eyes' 'Down the road', I said. 'Big mistake', he chided. 'Look down at the road right in front of you. The marathon is a game of the mind. You get discouraged thinking how far you have left to run. But you can always take a few more steps, so just concentrate on the next few yards or so. The rest will take care of itself.' Great advice, huh' I've begun to use it in my prison work.

When the headwind picked up, Ronnie ducked in behind me and began to draft, explaining that at 115 pounds he was likely to get blown away. "Damn," I exclaimed, "I've got 45 pounds on you! No wonder I'm so much more tired". He laughed and said, "You should run more! You wouldn't be so fat ANY more!" That's when I decided to leave him in my dust. (But he drafted behind me all the way to the finish line.)


Work in the prisons and with our returning citizens continues to go well. We are all instructed to love our neighbors. And of course, this doesn't mean just the folks who think and look like we do (which can be something akin to admiring our own reflections in a mirror). But how do we love the OTHER' The immigrant, the marginalized' The people who are different and may even challenge our assumptions about our world' Is this kind of love of neighbor just something you do with your mind' A feeling that you cultivate in your heart' I think we are, for our own sakes, called to let it be more than this. I am increasingly aware that New Beginnings-Next Step actually provides me with a context for this 'more'. It allows me to be IN relationship with incredibly courageous, diverse, and inspiring men and women whom I would never otherwise have known. To come to see as brothers and sisters, folks who've led lives and endured things I'm not sure I personally would have had the strength to survive. These folks change, and perhaps in a very real sense, SAVE my life.

I spent a good deal of time with one of them last week.

A devout Muslim brother of ours who has spent most of his adult life in prison for a series of very serious crimes that began at a young age when, with his father locked up, his grandmother rescued him from foster care and explained to him that his biological mother didn't want him. Most of this man's life has been driven by the pain of that revelation. Indeed, he's only now beginning to struggle to let go of the rage and self-hatred caused by his inability to understand or deal with the foundational wound it inflicted. He spoke last night of what I've come to know as the 'hour of the wolf'. That time between 3 and 5 AM when our minds and spirits are prey to our darkest fears and deepest doubts. It is during this time each night, he told us, when he slides from his bunk to his knees and 'tears fall on my prayer rug'. He looked me straight in the eye and asked me to help him. I probably said many things in the final
minutes of group. About how honored I was by his trust, about how proud I was of his courage, about my strong belief that real freedom lay on the difficult path of self-discovery and vulnerability he had undertaken. And about my personal understanding of a God called by many names, who suffers WITH us in a kind of radical solidarity. I'm honestly not sure if any of it helped, but I do know that everything I said essentially boiled down to me telling him that I loved him. I'm spending today in prayer for our brother. If you have a moment today, please say one as well. For all the wounded ones.

I'm heading to Chicago for a live concert on WFMT FM's Folk Stage at 8PM Saturday, June 1st. I'll also be doing a house concert in Oak Park, IL on June 2nd. I believe these shows are sold out but you can email me through my web page to be placed on a waiting list in case there are any cancellations.

I'm looking forward to getting up north next month when I return to the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, MA (June 14) and the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY (June 15). Other than that, I've got an easy performance schedule this summer. I was honored to be asked to perform for the Foundation for Criminal Justice's annual fundraiser in Philadelphia on August 2nd. And I'll be in Columbia, MD at the One World Coffeehouse on August 17th.

I'm not sure what this next lap around the sun will bring, but I'm very glad to be given the chance and grateful to have your support and friendship on the journey.

Peace,

John
 


2/15/19

WHAT FREEDOM LOOKS LIKE



Hi Friends,

Someone recently asked another successful returning citizen why he kept coming to our weekly New Beginnings-Next Step meetings after four years out of prison. His response was to ask, 'Why would you not go home to your mom's for Sunday dinner''

What a perfect answer! I couldn't have put it better myself! That sense of family, of community, is probably the most important part of what we try to provide with NB-NS. Forming trust relationships that allow us the freedom to be ourselves and risk being truly vulnerable. And I've come to understand that this vulnerability is the first step on the road to the healing we all need in order to grow and evolve in productive and creative ways.


WITH THE LEGENDARY DICK KNISS AT A HOUSE CONCERT IN HIS HOME

Speaking of creative vulnerability, my old friend Dick Kniss once told me it was a big responsibility being in John Denver's band because John would try out material on you and gauge your initial response when deciding whether or not to share the new song with the rest of the world. Anything less than an extremely enthusiastic response could effectively doom a composition to oblivion. This always endeared John Denver to me. For
though he was one of the most successful recording artists in the world, he still struggled with the same doubts and insecurities we all do when it comes to artistic and self expression. I can completely identify with that sense of vulnerability, especially during the final stage of the creative process. It also illustrates how important it is to trust the first ears (and hearts) you share your song with. That's why I'm debuting a new one (lyrics below) next Thursday night, March 21st, at Baldwin's Station in Sykesville, MD. I started writing 'The Song of my Becoming' for my year-old granddaughter Taylor, but it kind of ended up being for me as well.

I love trying out new stuff on audiences and have come to really trust those experiences and the feedback I get. So if next week's crowd likes 'The Song of my Becoming', the rest of you will probably get a chance to hear it sometime down the road. To be part of the "jury" call (410) 795-1041 for tickets.

I'm looking forward to getting back to the Michigan in early April when I'll
be in Hudson and Ann Arbor. Information on these and other upcoming
shows can be found on my web site at johnflyn.net

Much love,
John

The Song of my Becoming

By John Flynn

I am barrels of monkeys
Bevies of larks
Kindles of kittens and
And gams of sharks and
Every kind of people
Every kind of people

I am pods of dolphins
Gaggles of geese
Prides of lions
And along with these I'm
Every kind of people
Every kind of people

(Chorus)
Like some Buddhist hot dog vendor
This old tune I'm strumming
Makes me one with everything
The universe is humming
The song of my becoming

Convocations of eagles
Charms of magpies
Tentacled rallies
of octopi and
Every kind of people
Every kind of people

I am caravans of camels
Schools of fish
Murders of crows
And along with all this I am
Every kind of people
Every kind of people

(Chorus)
Like some Buddhist hot dog vendor
This old tune I'm strumming
Makes me one with everything
The universe is humming
The song of my becoming

(Bridge)
Rocks and flowers
Wind and water
Galaxies at play
Boundless incarnations live
Inside my DNA

I am quivers of cobras
Parliaments of owls
Zeals of zebras
And wolf packs that howl and I'm
Every kind of people
Every kind of people

I'm unkindnesses of ravens
Gazes of raccoons
Wisdoms of wombats
Asylums of loons yeah and
Every kind of people
Every kind of people
Every kind of people
Every kind of people
In the world

(c) 2019 Flying Stone Music


2/20/19
 
Hi Friends!  
 
Laying aside the snow shovel for a few minutes to let you know that my Thursday, February 21st show at Baldwin's Station in Sykesville, MD is being rescheduled. Watch this page for the new date. 
 
Peace,
John


 

 

2/13/2019


Greg became the first one of my guys to return to prison
through the FRONT door when he visited Gander Hill
as a guest speaker for New Beginnings - Next Step!

 

Hi everybody' 

 

I've run somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty marathons over the years and I can attest to the fact that those 26.2 mile races can seem to be only half over at the twenty mile mark. That's how challenging the final six miles can be. The streets of those races are often filled with spectators who cheer you on and tell you how great you're doing. In the early parts of the race, their support really carries you along. But in the final stages, when the pain and exhaustion set in, when you hit what runners call 'the wall', and the voices of self doubt begin to gnaw at your will and confidence, it isn't the well meaning folks shouting from the sidewalks that get you through. It's the voices of those who run beside you. Those are the voices that carry the most weight. When the man or woman running next to you says 'Don't give up! We can do this!', you tend to believe them because you know they've come down that same long road with you. You know that THEY know how you feel. 

 

This understanding has always informed how I've viewed my role facilitating our New Beginnings support groups in the prisons. For, when it comes down to it, I'm really just a well meaning spectator, braving the elements, handing out some power bars or Gatorade, at times hollering myself hoarse, maybe even playing the Rocky theme on my boom box. And although I know the guys I've worked with over the years, both in prison and afterwards, have truly appreciated what I've tried to do, in the end, it's what they say to each other that really makes the difference. That's where the real heavy lifting occurs! That's when the magic happens!

 

That's why this week was such a special one for us at New Beginnings - Next Step. Greg, the young man pictured above, is someone I met when he was serving a six year sentence in the state prison. His nickname inside was Superman, mainly given to him by inmates who thought he resembled Clark Kent. (He has since abandoned his trademark the plastic frames.) Greg has been out three and a half years now, and in that time he has done amazing things with his life. He started from scratch, having never so much as put together a resume, let alone fill out a W2. He started small by chasing hours with landscape and construction companies, but, a lifelong car nut, he decided to be near his passion and applied for a job detailing automobiles at a large local dealership.  He parlayed that interview into an entry level sales job and a couple years and a lot of hard work later, he is now the manager of that entire dealership! 

 

Greg accompanied me back into Gander Hill yesterday to share his remarkable story, so that other men might begin to hope and plan for their own future success! 

To have one of my guys go back inside with me has long been a dream of mine, for no one can speak to the experiences of an incarcerated or returning citizen like someone who's looked into and wrestled with those particular demons, with those sometimes overpowering moments of fear, shame and despair. Therefore NO ONE can bring more hope!

 

This kind of thing was never permitted before and I'm deeply grateful to Warden Akinbayo for the chance to bring a former prisoner back inside with me. Greg spoke eloquently and powerfully about his decision - made early in his incarceration - not to waste the experience. He vowed not to leave prison the same man he had been when he entered. And he dedicated himself to his own transformation. It was a privilege to accompany him on a small part of that journey.

 

Greg addressed a large and rapt group of our New Beginnings members, as well as - for this special occasion and by invitation from our guys- prison staff including Warden AK himself. 

 

It took an enormous amount of courage for Greg to go back there this week. (Other men have turned me down when I approached them about this.) What he shared touched many and will truly help prepare men for the hard work that lies ahead when they're released. The response to his testimony was tremendous!  He was treated like a rockstar after group was over, with men pressing in to thank him and shake his hand. Lunch afterward at Panera didn't even begin to pay the debt I owe him.

 

I guess you've noticed that most of my posts spend more time talking about my reentry work than my music these days. I suppose this is partly due to the fact that my time is increasingly taken up with my duties for New Beginnings-Next Step. 

The ironic part of this however is that the majority of the funding for the transitional assistance (weekly bus passes and grocery store gift cards, transitional housing assistance, etc.) that we give to our members when they're released from prison comes from the folks who support my music and attend my shows.

 

That's why I'm even more excited than usual to have a few special performances coming up next week. 

 

I'll be in Sykesville, MD on Thursday February 21st at Baldwins Station:

https://uptownconcerts.com/baldwins-station/shows/

 

At Musical Lairs

in Villanova, PA on Saturday February 23rd:

http://www.musicallairs.org


And in Bel Air, MD on Sunday afternoon February 24th:

In April I'll be returning to Hudson and Ann Arbor Michigan. Info on these and other shows can be found on my website at www.johnflynn.net 


As I wrote last time, our NewBeginnings-NextStep.org website now has a link to PayPal through which you can donate directly to our nonprofit. Some of you wrote to me following that news and explained that you are more comfortable sending something through the mail.  If that's the case you can send checks made out to New Beginnings-Next Step. Our mailing address is PO Box 7211, Wilmington, DE 19803. A receipt with our EIN will be furnished. 


We are also now participating in the Amazon Smile program by which you can designate New Beginnings-Next Step Inc as your charity. That way we will receive a a small percentage of each of your Amazon Smile purchases. The link is: 
https://smile.amazon.com/ch/82-2795965


 
Thanks for your continuing support of my work. 
 

I hope to see you soon!

 
Peace,
John

 


12/4/18


HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM NEW BEGINNINGS-NEXT STEP!


 
Hi Friends,
As the year draws quickly to its close I'm filled with a sense of gratitude for the opportunities I continue to receive to both touch and be touched by the lives of so many inspiring and courageous people. As a wise young man I worked with for several years both during and after his incarceration said to me recently, the question we need to ask each other isn't, 'what's wrong with you'' It's 'what happened to you'' He is of course absolutely right. It's our stories that connect us. Our stories that create communion and understanding. I'm so blessed and honored to be continually entrusted with these stories, to carry and share them, both on the dark prison tier and the bright stage. Here's an example of one such story.

In group we often talk about what it means to be free. Not just released from the penitentiary or the often overbearing strictures of probation, but really free in our hearts, minds and spirits. Often this means going inward to the place of that original wound. There and only there can the long process of healing begin to take place. It's often hard and scary work. Recently in our Next Step (after prison) group a man talked of living in such extreme poverty that, as a little boy, the entire school bus would laugh when he got dropped o. in front of his family's shabby house. He spoke of how he felt when the prettiest girl in the third grade laughed at his dirty coat. He traced the choices he made that eventually took him to prison directly back to the burning shame that little boy swore never to feel again. A shame that lay dormant but was rediscovered decades later in a prison cell. He's been out a few years now, is working a good job (saying with a huge smile, 'I have BENEFITS!') rebuilding his life and helping his four kids attend college. I'm so inspired, not only by the resilience he has shown in so successfully moving on in life , but by the incredible courage he has exhibited in going back and wrestling with his own foundational wounded-ness. I'm so proud of the good man he is and always was. And I'm honored to know yet another human being committed to being truly free.

As NB-NS finishes its first year as a registered 501 C3 non-profit, we are confronted with some important choices about how to grow our efforts to reach out to the most vulnerable members of our community. If you'd like to support our work to help the incarcerated and returning citizen discover hope and dignity, please consider making a donation to us via paypal. You can find a link on our homepage at NewBeginnings-NextStep.org.

Now some music news. My new CD, VINTAGE, has been receiving an unprecedented (for me) amount of airplay from Folk DJs across the company. I was their third most played artist in October and 'She Persisted' was actually the number one song for that entire month. Although, like Stevie said, 'the landslide (of new music) brings you down', we've been out over nine weeks and the CD is still hanging in at 12th on their airplay chart. You can find VINTAGE on all major digital distribution services. Or if you'd like to see your favorite neighborhood folksinger receive even more than the .0036 cents that Spotify will generously pay him if you stream all all twelve songs, you can purchase an actual physical CD at www.johnflynn.net.

My producer Harvey recently surprised me with a video of a song we released a few years back. The video includes some great cell phone footage captured by Lisa Kristofferson as Kris and I rehearsed my song 'Malala ' backstage at the Birchmere in Virginia. You can check out 'Malala' here: https://m.youtube.com/watch'reload=9&v=vIhuCxJMY_U

I'll be doing my annual holiday benefit concert for Camp Dreamcatcher, a therapeutic summer camp for kids dealing with AIDS/HIV on Wednesday, December 12th. The show will feature my friends Harvey and Reggie Harris , along with my kids, and will take place again this year at the beautiful Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA. Here's a link for info and tickets- https://www.etix.com/ticket/p/6910467/john-flynn-family-friends-holiday-concert-sellersville-sellersville-theater-1894'language=en&country=US&cobrand=sellersville&searchType=organization&

A wonderful show to put on your radar for the start of 2019 will take place in Silver Spring, MD on January 18th. I'll be part of the third annual UnNaugural Concert, Playing it Forward, Voices for Social Justice. Info here: https://www.unnaugural.org
Hope to see you out there!
Peace,
John
 


October 30, 2018
On stage with my producer Harvey at the CD release concert at the Kennett Flash... Thanks to everyone who came out!

 
 

 
Hi Friends,

 
The heartbreaking news these days seems to be coming in waves, one after another; each one capable of knocking you down before you can fully recover or catch your breath from the last. In these situations, I find it even more important to take time to notice -and thank- the truly good, loving, and courageous people in our world. I'm not talking about the big famous one's either. (Lord knows we have our share of these                   !) I'm referring to the regular folks going about their work and lives quietly, without much notice or reward. The world is held together by folks like these and they're truly all around us. 
 
These are the same people Fred Rogers was talking about when he said 'When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers. You will always find people helping.'
 
Just today in Gander Hill Prison, one of our guys shared that last night he was going through something pretty difficult and 'feeling some kind of way'.  Dealing with anger has been a stumbling block for this young man, and he was out over is skis a bit and in danger of making choices that could have potentially extended his stay with the department of corrections. A corrections officer who had been observing not only the situation, but how hard the young man had been trying to make positive changes in his life, pulled him aside and talked to him, radically deescalating the moment emotionally. The officer spoke to my New Beginnings younger brother for several minutes, helping the young man pull back and get some perspective on the tense situation. He shared with the young man how impressed he'd been with him, and encouraged him not to throw away all he'd worked so hard to achieve in the last couple years by acting out in the heat of a volatile and vulnerable moment. The guard's words helped. A lot. 
 
Corrections officers in my state may well be the most overworked and underpaid public servants we have. I know all the preconceptions about prison guards, and I'd be lying if I said I'd never met some that lived up (or down) to the stereotype. Add to the chronic staffing problems of an already very tough gig the regular mandatory overtime in which shifts are 'frozen' (which essentially means... we know you were scheduled to work until midnight, but it turns out that you have to stay until 8AM...) and you can see that an already stressed workforce has had their jobs made much more difficult. It's against this backdrop - one in which it would be so easy to do no more than the bare minimum the job requires - that the aware and consciously 'human' being truly shines. And I've known many who wear badges. 
 
The officer last night went the extra mile and potentially changed the course of an inmate (and friend of mine's) life.  I know a conversation with an emotional kid seems like a little thing when viewed against the enormity of the events of the day.  But little things -expressions of care and compassion- like this are being done all around us all the time. And in the end, the kind of world we live in may well end up being the sum total of these little things. (Hmmm... I may be plagiarizing Gary Cooper's character in that Frank Capra movie here! Oh well, if you're gonna steal, steal from the best!!!) Anyway, pay attention to them. They're the best PDFs (personal flotation devices) we've got when the waves threaten to take us under. 
 
I'll be at Focus in Sterling, Virginia this Saturday evening, November 3rd -http://www.focusmusic.org/concert-s

 
This year, my annual holiday benefit concert for Camp Dreamcatcher will take place at the Sellersville, Theater on December 12th. My special guests this year will include Reggie Harris, Harvey, and my kids! Here's a link for more info: https://theater.st94.com/events/john-flynn-family-friends-holiday-concert/
Hope you can join us!

 
The new CD has been getting a great reception from folk DJs around the country.  It's available at all major digital outlets (ITunes, Amazon, Spotify etc.) But the actual CDs are only available at my shows or through my website. 
 
See you out there!
 
Peace,
 
John

10/15/18

NEWS: John's new CD VINTAGE
was The Midnight Special's CD of the week!!!



Cell phone pic from the road:
Don Quixote, aluminum statue by
Anna Hyatt Huntington, Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells, Inlet, SC '

Can't put my finger on it but something about this guy seems so familiar! -JF





Hi friends!

I hope this note finds you safe and well, especially my Florida and Georgia pals. Beth and I got to ride out the big blow in Myrtle Beach (Thanks Rob!) and luckily missed most of the bad stuff down there. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who were affected by Hurricane Michael.

A few upcoming shows--

I'm doing a special gig this Saturday, October 20th, called 'Released To ' From ' For' at 7PM at The 1867 Sanctuary, 101 Scotch Road, Ewing NJ. I will be appearing in concert with poets Luis Angel Mercado & Justice from 360 Poetry Night (and other poets). Admission is free (unlike over two million of our fellow citizens!)

Also, just a quick reminder that our CD release concert for VINTAGE will take place this Friday, October 19th at the Kennett Flash in Kennett Square, PA. My good buddy and longtime producer, Harvey (In the Morning) will be backing me up for several songs. Info here:
https://www.kennettflash.org/event/1710359-john-flynn-vintage-album-kennett-square/

My thanks to Helen Leicht and all my friends at WXPN for supporting this show (and playing the album!) Thanks also to the Folk DJs around the country who have given it such a warm response!

I'll be at Evergreen House Concerts in Plainfield, NJ on October 28th:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/john-flynn-at-evergreen-house-tickets-50980819002


And in Sterling, VA at Focus on Sunday, November 3rd:
http://www.focusmusic.org/concert-s


I've been on the road quite a bit these past weeks, so its always good to hear from our guys. I was particularly delighted to see this recent FB post from 'Big Mike' Watkins' (pictured below)

'IT WILL BE 1YR OUT OF PRISON ON THE 29TH FEELS GOOD TOBE A FREE MAN THAT HAS A CAREER AND IS HEALTHY I WOULD LIKE TO GIVE A SHOUT OUT TO MY GROUP NEWBEGINNINGS AND NEXTSTEP THANK YOU YALL FOR BEING IN MY LIFE AND THE STORYS THAT WAS TOLD I HELD ON TO IT IN MY HEART THANKS JOHN , SANDY JULEY FOR HELPING ME GROW AS A PERSON MUCH LOVE KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK HUMBLE AND INTEGRITY AND REMAIN FOCUS AND FREE GOD BLESS TILL WE MEET AGAIN PROSPER IS ALL I KNOW AND THANKS TO ALL FAMILY AND FRIENDS FOR THE POSITIVE FEEDBACK ON BETTERING MY SELF IN LIFE AND MOST OF ALL MY MOTHER DESERIE WATKINS THAT TOOK ME IN HER HOUSE AND SAID SON YOU CAN DO IT IT TAKES ONEDAY AT A TIME BUT ITS NOT GOING TO BE EASY LOVE YOU MOM. R I P HOWIE MY BIG BRO I LOVE YOU THIS IS ALL FOR YOU I KNOW YOU ARE WITH ME I CAN FEEL YOU WALKING EVERY STEP OF THE WAY WITH ME SMILING DOWN SAY BRO GO HARD OR GO HOME MISS YOU BRO. IF I CAN DO IT WITH A FELONY ANYBODY CAN DO IT WITH A FELONY PLEASE DONT LET A CHARGE HENDER YOU IN LIFE WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES JUST DONT FALL BACK IN THE TRAP AND MOST OF ALL PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS NEGITIVITY RUN AWAY FROM IT AND MAY GOD BLESS DO THE RIGHT THINGS BECAUSE ITS THE RIGHT THING TODO. 110%' -MW


Thank you for your continued support of New Beginnings-Next Step and all my musical (and otherwise) windmill tilting! I hope to see you soon.

Peace,

John




NEWS:

John receives the 2018 Phil Ochs Award 'in recognition of his music and activism for social and political justice in the spirit of Phil Ochs'!

John's new CD, VINTAGE, will be released on October 5th. CD Release Concert at The Kennett Flash on Friday, October 19th!



With Sonny Ochs, after receiving this year's Phil Ochs Award
during the annual Power of Song Concert

10/02/18

Hi friends,

Hope this note finds you well!


My deep thanks to the arts and culture organization, A Still Small Voice and Sonny Ochs for the incredible surprise they presented me with after the intermission at my concert last Sunday in Schenectady. Receiving an award with a lifelong hero's name on it, indeed seeing your own name written there as well, is a profoundly humbling experience. I will do my best to live up to it.



The new CD is finally here! In terms of writing, performance I believe it's my best work to date. (Certainly my harmony singing has improved!) The album was produced by my long time studio pal Harvey (aka to Philly old heads like me as Harvey in the Morning) and I think we've really hit our stride with this project. Don't be shy about calling your local radio station and requesting they play a cut. Thanks to Helen Leicht at WXPN, 88.5 FM in Philadelphia for being the first to air the title track. The video for that song is here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch'v=lCmbV_EHwMw&feature=youtu.be

The new album will be available at my shows and website as well as digitally through ITunes, Amazon, Spotify etc. The official release concert will take place at The Kennett Flash on Friday, October 19th- Tickets are going fast!
https://www.kennettflash.org/event/1710359-john-flynn-vintage-album-kennett-square/



Some other upcoming shows include:

Saturday, October 6th, West Chester, PA, Private Event

Sunday, October 7th, Lawrenceville, NJ, WorldWind House Concerts, 5PM, for info or to rsvp email: worldwind.house.concerts@gmail.com

Sunday, October 28th, Plainfield, NJ, Evergreen House Concerts, https://www.facebook.com/events/856312944527910/

Saturday, November 3rd, Sterling, VA, Focus
http://www.focusmusic.org/concert-s
phone: (301) 461-3600

Thanks for your continuing support of my work. Hope to see you very soon!

Peace,

John
 


9/11/18


Great time performing with my buddy, Josh White Jr., at Uncle Calvin's
 in Dallas last week!



Hi friends,

As I type the date, I can't believe it's been 17 years. Let our thoughts today be with those who still struggle with the life changing losses and wounds they sustained on that terrible morning. When the Philadelphia Phillies resumed play a week later they asked me to sing 'God Bless America' at Veterans Stadium during the seventh inning stretch of their game with the Atlanta Braves. The sound- the spirit- of 40,000 people singing along with me under the open sky lifted my heart and gave me the first glimpse of something that could reasonably called healing. It had to do with the sense of courage I felt in the presence of my neighbors that night. I'm not sure this country held on to that spirit in the months and years that followed. But here's a song that moment inspired: https://www.youtube.com/watch'v=g0tSC8x3V9E&feature=youtu.be

I had an amazing time at the Global Homeboy Network out in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago. Close to 400 people, from all over the world, came together to share their ideas and experiences in helping folks reintegrate into society and rebuild their lives after incarceration and gang involvement. I was especially honored to attend the conference with a friend and hero of mine, New Beginnings-Next Step participant and (now) advisor, Quincey Thomas. I met Q when he was serving time in Gander Hill Prison and have been so proud of the successful life he's built since his release three plus years ago.



With the author of 'Tatoos on the Heart', Father Greg Boyle
of Homeboy Industries, and Quincey Thomas

On the flight back from L.A. Quincey reflected on all the wonderful people and organizations we'd encountered at the conference. We were both deeply affected by the hundreds of people from across the planet, all of whom were dedicated to striking some kind of a meaningful blow for restorative justice. Somewhere over Arizona Q said, 'You know, Mr. John (personal note: I will never get this man to call me just plain John! Believe me I've tried!) All those people, Homeboy Industries included, are doing great stuff! But no one is doing what New Beginnings does. (Except for some gospel sharing ministries') no one is really going INTO the prisons where the need is the greatest. New Beginnings-Next Step is really doing something special!' I had to agree with Q and it strengthened my resolve to continue and grow this effort.


Of course the LA trip wasn't all business!

I'm heading to New England this weekend'

I'll be doing a house concert in East Bridgewater, MA on Saturday night, September 15th. Email Jeff at i42golf3@yahoo.com, or call (508) 345-3682 for information.

I'll also be playing the Joe Davies Folk Festival in Middleborough, MA on Sunday afternoon, September 16th. Here's a link: http://www.soulehomestead.com/upcoming-events/joe-davies-folk-festival/

I'm doing a private event in West Chester, PA on September 23rd, and then I'll close out the month in Schenectady, New York doing a concert for my dear friend Sonny Ochs: on September 30th: http://schenectadyhistorical.org/upcoming-events/'mc_id=1174

Final bit of news' my new CD, Vintage, will be out on October 5th! The local release concert will take place in Kennett Square, PA at the Flash later that month.

Hope to see you soon.

Peace,
John


August 19, 2018

John Flynn is as close as we come these days to a live Phil Ochs!
' Vic Heyman, SingOut Magazine



Closing the New Beginnings-Next Step Benefit Concert with some of my guys...



Hi friends,

We had an amazing time and turnout at the NB-NS benefit concert this year! I was so proud of the four returning citizens who got up and spoke about the work we do. I know I surprised a lot of the guys in attendance by inviting them all on stage to close the show, but, as I'm sure anyone who was in the auditorium will attest, it was a moving and powerful experience hearing them sing the spontaneously rewritten third verse of my song 'Benediction' with the words, 'May your days bring you freedom and peace'. (There's some video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch'v=KAUkGo1EqZs&feature=youtu.be

My thanks to NB-NS board member, volunteer facilitator and chief meditation instructor, Sandy Stefanowicz, for helping produce the concert. And a big thanks to my alma mater, Ridley High School for welcoming me home and hosting the event.

The prison work grows and I've been asked to start yet another 'inside' group in a new part of a prison. After I explained that New Beginnings would need to hold to our foundational principle that participation could not be induced or mandated, I met with the offenders on the new tier last week and explained what we are and what we do. I spent about a half hour with the men and told them that if this was to work it had to be THEIR decision and THEIR group. I departed after telling them I would leave it to them to decide whether I show up next Thursday morning at 10AM. I'll let you know how the vote comes out...

This past week I was also allowed to do a concert inside Gander Hill Prison. I joked with members of the audience that I was honored to be there because no one had ever paid so much to see one of my shows before. The reactions of the men to my songs were some of the most powerful I've experienced in going on four decades of sharing my music. My song, 'Just Like Merle Haggard Said (Sing Me Back Home)', contains the lines 'Please sing me back to a place in the sun, where men can be more than the worst things they've done...' At hearing those words, a man in the audience left his seat, turned his back to the stage and disappeared completely from my view. I later learned that he had dropped to his knees and buried his face in his hands for the duration of the song. Sandy Stefanowicz was in attendance and seated nearby. She wrote on Facebook afterwards that, 'One of our guys fell to his knees crying and praying... The next night at our Thursday meeting in the prison, one of the men told John that the words to his songs expressed everything he has ever felt and experienced in prison'.

I'm sure you'll believe me when I write that no award or review from a professional critic could ever mean as much to a performer or songwriter.

Thank you all for your support and prayers as I continue to be uplifted and astonished to encounter brothers and sisters, beautiful children of God, and indeed, our Lord himself, in the faces of strangers who have often endured things I fear I may never have had the strength to survive personally. At least not intact.

I'm increasingly certain that we can all experience these (for me) life changing recognitions if we give ourselves the chance to create a context in which they can occur. As far as I can tell, for a person comfortably ensconced in what our society thinks of as the middle class, this often requires moving dramatically beyond our respective comfort zones. I guess that's often to a place they call the "margins". I doubt I would have had the courage to do this personally unless I was asked. I'll always be grateful for this invitation. At first, I believed that Brother David, the Franciscan friar who stared New Beginnings, had seen something in me that I didn't see in myself. Now I'm coming to understand that everyone in possession of a beating heart ' hence, a heart that can be broken- is not only able to make this journey, but is perhaps duty bound!

I was on a panel with my friend Mary Gauthier at a conference in Kansas City last year and we were addressing this very idea. A man in the audience asked how to begin and Mary said, 'Go TOWARDS what breaks your heart.' Best advice I ever heard.

I had a great time seeing and hearing friends at the Philadelphia Folk Festival this past weekend. The best part was getting to introduce my granddaughter to everybody. There's a wonderful new book called "Smiling Banjo" about the festival which includes amazing photos of folks who've performed there over the years. (There are even two shots of my kids!) In the back of the book is a list of all the performers who've played there and the years they appeared. It blew me away to see that in the past 25 years I've played PFF thirteen times! I'll never be able to thank the Folk Song Society (and head honcho, Andy Braunfeld) enough for all their support has meant to me.



Hanging with Gramps backstage at the Philadelphia Folk Festival

I'll be doing a house concert in Culver City this weekend (Aug 25th). For info send an email to:
JohnFlynnHouseLA@aol.com
I don't get to California that often so I hope if you're a west coaster you'll try and come over and say hi.

The traveling doesn't end with LA. In the next few weeks I'll be in Tulsa:
https://www.facebook.com/events/1984351118283119/'ti=icl

in Dallas:
http://www.unclecalvins.org

And in Houston:
http://www.houstonfolkmusic.org/secsat.html

I know there's a lot going on (and wrong) out there these days. But there are good people everywhere and so many reasons to stay hopeful. Hang on tight and keep the faith!

Peace,
John


"John Flynn isn't the only artist I admire that my kids discovered on their own. But there are similarities between him and the others. Two of the best writers I ever knew - Roger Miller and Shel Silverstein - had, in common with John, fertile imaginations, a Shakespearean love of words, and the ability to see funny things with a child's eyes. Their art, like John Prine's, is a wonderful combination of humor and heart that can move kids and grownups to laughter, tears, or both... The truth is in the details; the gifts are an ear for accurate dialogue, an eye for powerful imagery and anything funny, and a heart open to surprises and the possibilities of moving the emotions. John Flynn is one of a special breed of good-hearted artists whose reaction to the Human Condition finds kind, humorous expression. God bless them.' - Kris Kristofferson

May 25, 2018
Prior to singing the National Anthem at Citizens Bank Park , Philadelphia
photo: Beth Flynn
 

Hi friends

I hope this note finds you well. I'm sorry I haven't written in a while but things have been conspiring to keep me from the keyboard recently.


My summer chore list included a lot of firewood to split and stack


A lot going on'. I finally finished up what will be my next CD, Vintage. I'm anxious for you to hear the songs which include 10 new compositions and two older ones. One of the new songs, Sing Me
on my Way, includes vocals by heroes, friends and loved ones including my kids, my brother Michael, Arlo Guthrie, Kris Kristofferson, Kathy Mattea, Billy Swan, and many others. It is very special to have so many voices from my musical journey brought together in one place. I'll let you know when the CD is to be released, but I'm shooting for sometime this fall. 

Our New Beginnings-Next Step Picnic was a great success!
John talks more about New Beginnings-Next Step here:
https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/offering-new-beginnings-interview-musician-social-activist-john-flynn-lbkr/

My continued thanks to those who support New Beginnings-Next Step, Inc through donations at my shows and in the mail. As Executive Director my time and efforts have been increasingly monopolized by this work but in a very real way I feel it is exactly what I've been doing all along with my music. I know that as a young parent when one of my kids was sick, though I loved all my children equally, my ear was always turned to the cry of that sick child. There were nights where Beth or I slept by that ailing child's door, or held it in our arms. I often feel that the Lord is like a young parent and I feel God most keenly in the presence of those who are asked to suffer greatly, as in the case of our incarcerated brothers and sisters.

Or with returning citizens as they summon the courage to take on the enormous challenges of starting a new life - often without a dollar in their pocket or a possession to their name.

Rather than cost my music, I believe this experience over the past thirteen years has profoundly enriched it. And I will continue to try to share what I learn in my songs and stories.

I'll get to sing some of those songs in Great Barrington, Massachusetts on Saturday, July 14
th, at The Guthrie Center. The 14th is Woody's birthday and it is no small honor to have been selected to appear on this particular evening in this particular place. I will be of course including a few of my favorite Woody songs in the show--

https://guthriecenter.org/troubadour-series/

I will also be performing a show Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania on July 26, and I'll be back in Wilmington, Delaware at Bellevue State Park on August 2.

My annual benefit concert for New Beginnings Next Step will take place at my Alma Mater, Ridley High School in Folsom, Pennsylvania on August 10
th.

Later that month I will be flying out to California for a house concert in Culver City as well as attending the Homeboy Global Network Conference in L.A. Father Greg Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart, calls this conference a 'finishing school for compassion'. I'll be taking one of our NBNS returning citizens along with me on this trip to speak about the work we're doing here in Wilmington, Delaware.


Stay strong,

John




April 10, 2018

"John's songs reach deep and he has a way of touching an audience in ways that few can match. Reviewers often write that Flynn 'follows in the footsteps of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger,' yet John's work for justice and fairness is something he weaves seamlessly into his concerts. He truly inspires his audience. His most recent concert here ranks among our favorites and we look forward to the next time."

'-Russ & Julie
Russ & Julie's House Concerts, Los Angeles, CA

Mike is one of many New Beginnings members making good in the world! He is the manager of a KFC and writes that New Beginnings 'kept me humble and grounded. The next step here! Integrity is number one (in) my rehabilitation!... Thanks for believing in me... no looking back... Love freedom!'




Hi Friends,

I hope this note finds you well! I'm packing for a couple shows in Florida this weekend. I'm looking forward to seeing some old friends and- after a long snowy winter her in the midatlantic- having a chance to get out and run in the warm sunshine. Links and information regarding upcoming shows are below.

The new album is going great! Last night we finished cutting vocals on a song called Sing Me on my Way which features the voices of family, friends and heroes I've worked with throughout my career. Singing on the track are folks like Kris Kristofferson, Arlo Guthrie, Kathy Mattea, and Billy Swan, Jane Kelly Williams, Lizanne Knott, and Ben Wisch. Even my kids and my brother Mike (my first singing partner) join me at the microphone. I can't wait for you to hear it!

The work in prison and with returning citizens continues to teach and amaze me. An example:

Someone in one of our men's prison groups recently complained about a new transgender inmate named Wheeler. (Not using real names here.) Although Wheeler identified as a woman, DOC classifies people solely on the basis of anatomy. Being new to prison, Wheeler was - quite understandably -having a difficult time adjusting. And she wasn't the only one.

'I ain't looking for trouble, but that stuff really freaks me out.' Martinez said with almost practiced disgust. Plus, if you're SEEN with people like that, then other people start wondering about YOU! All I know is he... she... IT... better steer clear of me.'

Before I could say a word, another member of our circle came back at him hard. 'Knock off the bull!' he said. 'Don't use that kind of language here. You're talking about another human being! What about what we talk about in New Beginnings' What about working on your own shit and not judging other people' None of us in here is perfect or has all the answers. If you think you do, maybe this isn't the group for you.'

The room was momentarily filled with a charged tension but the disagreement that ensued was talked out and worked through-as is our way- with measured and respectful words. I saw each man, guided by his brothers in the circle, really attempt to listen to the other. And within minutes a truly amazing discussion evolved. By the time we began our closing meditation ninety minutes later, the group was in general agreement on several points.

One: Though part of Martinez's discomfort grew from simply not knowing what to say (and then covering his embarrassment), people can usually tell what's in your heart. Even a dog knows the difference between being accidentally stepped on and being kicked. So we should just do our best but not worry so much about slipping up and saying the wrong thing occasionally. We're all trying to figure this stuff out at some level. If there's no malice in your intent there will seldom be a real problem in using the wrong words. Especially if you bring to the moment an open heart. So if you don't know how a person prefers to be referred to or addressed, just ask them. (Regarding misgenedering, I've since been challenged on this point, but although I realize context isn't a magic wand, I remain comfortable with my position.)

Two: Prison is a place that, by its very nature, deprives an individual of a large measure of their dignity.

Three: Prison can be, for the toughest, but especially for newcomer, a very lonely and frightening place. (So how much more so for a new transgender individual!)

And finally: Regardless of whether or not you're comfortable with another inmate's sexual preferences or identification, a subversive way to fight for your own (probably) damaged sense of self-worth might be to do what you can to let each and every person you come into contact with (correctional officers included) know that you recognize them as being possessors of basic and inherent dignity as human beings. It may be something as simple as saying hello.

I walked out that evening both marveling at the arc and honesty of the guys' discussion and wondering if anything would come of it.

A week later I found out that Martinez had, a few days later, invited Wheeler to join his afternoon card game. I simply can not express how profound a gesture this was.  Such a simple thing. And yet so very powerful. And what inherent risk it entailed for someone who has struggled with what others might think of him. I told Martinez how proud I was of him and asked if he'd received any blow-back. 'Hell yeah!' he said. 'There are always gonna be haters. Jokers call you 'faggot' and shit! I don't care. I thought about what we talked about and decided that no one gets to tell me who I can and can't hang around with." 
"Besides', he added, 'she's a good dude!'

She's a good dude! Talk about getting to the heart of things!

But the story doesn't end there.

Several weeks later, Wheeler was actually invited to join our New Beginnings group. Although she didn't say much during her first meeting with us, afterwards, before going back to her pod, she said something to one of my volunteers that I will never forget. She said 'Thank you for making eye contact with me.' I don't think I had ever truly considered a world where this simple acknowledgment of your very EXISTENCE was something to take notice of and be grateful for.

If you want to have your faith in the human heart restored, simply stand for a while with the ones whose hearts have been broken.

Peace,
John

Upcoming Appearances:

April 14th,
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
House Concert,, (SOLD OUT)

April 15th
Vero Beach, FL
Indian River House Concerts
 

April 27th
Newtown Square, PA
Burlap and Bean

http://www.burlapandbean.com/events.htm

May 25th
Philadelphia, PA
Citizens Bank Park
John will perform the U.S. and Canadian national anthems prior to Phillies game with the Toronto Blue Jays



 

"John Flynn's songwriting carries a wide open heart 'they are both fierce and tender. Think Cat Stevens... with a bit more folk rock and edge.'

' Mary Sue Twohy, SiriusXM



Andrea and Sylvester, two of the wonderful volunteers who help with our weekly New Beginnings-Next Step Community Clothing Closet

 

February 6, 2018

Hi friends,

I realize that my notes deal more with my prison work than my music these days. Please don't take that as a sign that I'm sticking my guitar case in the closet. Aside from releasing several digital singles in 2017 (These were topical songs which probably comes as a surprise to no one), I've been writing and recording material for an album that I'm planning to bring out by late summer. One track- a new song which I've taken to closing my shows with these days is called Sing Me on my Way and features an entire choir of old friends, including Kris Kristofferson, Arlo Guthrie and Billy Swan. (The list is still growing!) So don't count me out you guys. I've got some more songs in me. I'm gonna keep singing them and will be relying on you to help me spread the word.

I'm excited to be heading to Kansas City next week to perform an official showcase at the International Folk Alliance. The list of showcase artists draws from all over the world and is actually quite impressive. (http://www.folk.org/news/372317/Announcing-2018-Official-Showcase-Artists.htm) I'm proud to be on it.

On the summer horizon, I was recently honored to be booked by the Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, MA to do a show on July 14, 2018 for Woody's birthday celebration! Of all the artists they had at their disposal, I was very touched to have bee selected for this special performance. And yes, you'll be hearing me sing some Woody that night!

In the mean time there's a gig this coming weekend I'm hoping to get a few of you in the DC area out to. On Sunday, February 11th, I'll be in Alexandria VA doing a show with the wonderful Anne Hills at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial'

http://www.focusmusic.org/hills-and-flynn.

Although I haven't been performing as much as I'd like these past few months, I've been kept incredibly busy with my prison and returning citizen work. Yesterday we actually held our second weekly New Beginning's group at Baylor Women's Correctional Institution. This is the sixth group I've taken on (with the help of a great team of volunteers! It's also my first in a women's prison. We have about 20 women in the new group and their appreciation and level of participation has been very moving. (It literally took me years to reach this level of openness and courage with the men's group!) Although I went into this situation knowing that I'd be dealing with some new and different dynamics and issues, my sense that we're not there to solve or fix each other, but simply stand with and listen deeply to one another seems to be being borne out. I'm grateful that I have a terrific group of female volunteers who accompany me into Baylor as the talk is- just as with the men's prison- open and frank. (I think yesterday was the first time I ever blushed in a prison.)

Sex remains such a huge stumbling block for us as a society. My friends Donald and Barbara Olsen, counselors from the Locus of Hope addiction treatment center, recently gave a wonderful workshop on sexual addiction to our Returning Citizen group. They helped us find language and begin to openly address the underlying reasons for which sex and sexuality can be misused and are often so deeply misunderstood. Seeing how our guys responded, both their reticence to speak and their hunger for the information being shared made me more aware of how we so often live as strangers to ourselves, let alone other people.

It also reinforced for me the value of what we do in trying to provide a circle of trust and compassion where we can begin to risk opening up to other human beings.

Someone in one of our men's prison groups recently complained about a new transgender inmate named Wheeler. (Not using real names here.) Although Wheeler identified as a woman, DOC classifies people solely on the basis of anatomy. Being new to prison, Wheeler was- quite understandably-having a difficult time adjusting. And she wasn't the only one.

'I ain't looking for trouble, but that stuff really freaks me out.' Martinez said with almost practiced disdain. Plus, if you're SEEN with people like that, then other people start wondering about YOU! All I know is he... she... IT... better steer clear of me.'

Before I could say a word, another member of our circle came back at him hard. 'Knock off the 'it' crap! Don't use that kind of language here. You're talking about another human being! What about what we talk about in New Beginnings' What about working on your own shit and not judging other people' None of us in here is perfect or has all the answers. If you think you do, maybe this isn't the group for you.'

The room was momentarily filled with a charged tension but the disagreement that ensued was talked out and worked through-as is our way- with measured and respectful words. I saw each man, guided by his brothers in the circle, really attempt to listen to the other. And within minutes a truly amazing discussion evolved. By the time we began our closing meditation ninety minutes later, the group was in general agreement on several points.

One- Though part of Martinez's discomfort grew from simply not knowing what to say (and then covering his embarrassment), people can usually tell what's in your heart. Even a dog knows the difference between being accidentally stepped on and kicked. So we should just do our best but not worry so much about slipping up and saying the wrong thing occasionally. We're all trying to figure this stuff out at some level. If there's no malice in your intent there will seldom be a real problem in using the wrong words. Especially if you express an openness to learning. So if you don't know how a person prefers to be referred to or addressed, just ask them.

Two- Prison is a place that, by its very nature, deprives an individual of a large measure of their dignity.

Three- Prison can be, for the toughest, but especially for newcomer, a very lonely and frightening place. (So how much more so for a new transgender individual!)

And finally- regardless of whether or not you're comfortable with another inmate's sexual preferences or identification- a subversive way to buttress and fight for your own (probably) damaged sense of self worth might be to do what you can to let each and every person you come into contact with (Correctional Officers included) know that you recognize them as being possessors of basic and inherent dignity as human beings. It may be something as simple as saying hello.

I walked out that evening both marveling at the arc and honesty of the guys' discussion and wondering if anything would come of it.

A week later I found out that a few days later Martinez had invited Wheeler to join his afternoon card game.

I simply can not express how profound a gesture this was.

Such a simple thing. And yet so very powerful. And what inherent risk it entailed for someone who has struggled with what others might think of him.

I told Martinez how proud I was of him and asked if he'd received any blowback. 'Hell yeah!' he said. 'There are always gonna be haters. Folks call you 'faggott' and shit! I don't care. I thought about what we talked about and decided that no one gets to tell me who I can and can't hang around with... Besides', he added, 'she's a good dude!'

If you want to have your faith in the human heart restored, simply stand with the ones whose hearts have been broken. It works every time!

Peace,

John

www.johnflynn.net

Follow John on Facebook-
https://www.facebook.com/john.flynn.771

or on Twitter-
@singwriter
 

(c) Flying Stone Music
 

 

'John Flynn's songwriting carries a wide open heart '
they are both fierce and tender.  Think Cat Stevens...
with a bit more folk rock and edge.'  
 

' Mary Sue Twohy, SiriusXM



Sellersville Theater with Harvey...Thanks to all who came out for our annual holiday benefit for Camp Dreamcatcher!

January 3, 2018


Happy New Year Friends!

I went over to the Brandywine YMCA to swim some laps this morning (you can only run so far when its 8 degrees outside) and I noticed a sign on the wall that read 'Be Awesome Today!' It occurred to me that better advice might actually be 'SEE Awesome Today!'

I know lots of stuff sucks in our country these days. (I think I'm safe with this statement no matter which side of the political spectrum you call home!) I've shared quite a few songs documenting my personal takes on much of what transpired in 2017. But despite the disagreeable trolls, bots and seemingly ceaseless fusilade of outrageous, often alarming  tweets and soul-concussing news, I am more and more knocked out by the spirit of the people I see around me each and every day.

As Father Greg Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries and author of 'Tatoos on the Heart' points out, we should stand in awe that the poor and marginalized manage to carry the burdens they do, rather than stand in judgment of how they carry them. This is a lesson brought home again and again in my work with New Beginnings and New Beginning-Next Step.

Just a small illustration. Elliott* (*not real name), a long time member of our Gander Hill Prison group, is being transferred to another facility this week. In his final session with New Beginnings he looked across the circle at a man named Claude* who'd only been attending our meetings for a few months. Claude had come to us with more than the normal share of inmate challenges (and I remember wondering if we'd be able to help him much) but week by week, we'd seen him grow in confidence and self awareness. He was visibly buoyed by the trust and affection he experienced in group, and instead of continuing to be held captive by a long list of anxieties about the future, Claude had begun to 'eat the elephant one bite at a time'', breaking down big, seemingly insurmountable problems into smaller, more manageable portions. Each week, Claude would confide in the group, discussing troubling issues, weighing advice, and ultimately making simple, reasonable decisions. As a result of this Claude was seeing, maybe be for the first time in his life, some things starting to turn around and go his way. He was experiencing what psychologists call agency; the realization that he had the power to affect his own life in positive productive ways.

Elliott addressed Claude saying, 'Brother, before I leave here I want you to know how proud I am of you, and how far I've watched you come in a short time. I know you have many doubts about yourself, but I've been privileged to see you grow so much!' At this point Elliott unstrapped a large rugged black digital watch from his wrist. (Being paid 32 cents an hour, if they're fortunate enough to have jobs, very few inmates can save enough money to purchase watches from the prison commissary.) Elliott presented the watch to Claude and said, 'I want you to have this. You told me once how much you admired it. So please accept it as a gift from me, and every time you look at it, remember how much I believe in you". Claude's eyes brimmed with tears as he struggled to find and give voice to words of the most profound gratitude you can imagine. Other guys in the group saw him losing the fight for composure and said, "It's ok, man... tears are ok.... let 'em come.' They did. (I personally hadn't waited for permission.)

In a place where men have next to nothing, I witnessed one of the most beautiful acts of kindness I've ever seen.

So bring on the nightly news, I can handle it! I saw a hell of a lot of awesome today! 



I'll be in New York this month for a few shows:

Friday, January 12, I'll be at 6 On The Square in Oxford, NY.
http://www.6onthesquare.org/


Saturday, January 13, I'll be with my good friend Reggie Harris at Walkabout Clearwater Coffeehouse in White Plains, NY.

And Sunday, January 14, I'll be doing a 4PM show at the Public Library in Middleburgh, NY. My dear pal Sonny Ochs will be hosting this show.

Stay warm and keep your heart and spirit!

Peace,

John
 

www.johnflynn.net

Follow John on Facebook-
https://www.facebook.com/john.flynn.771

or on Twitter-
@singwriter
 

(c) Flying Stone Music
 

 

'John Flynn's songwriting carries a wide open heart ' they are both fierce and tender.  Think Cat Stevens ' with a bit more folk rock and edge.'  
' Mary Sue Twohy, SiriusXM


New Beginnings-Next Step member Curtis Reed receives a standing ovation after addressing the audience about the program at this year's benefit concert



November, 2017


Hi Friends,

Hope this note finds you all well!

A few upcoming shows I wanted to put on your radar'


Thursday, November 16th I'll be back in Sykesville MD at Baldwins Station (
http://www.baldwinsstation.com/events-calendar/2017/11/16/john-flynn-concert)

And Wednesday December 13th will be my 21st Annual Holiday Benefit Concert for Camp Dreamcatcher, a therapeutic summer camp for kids dealing with HIV/Aids. The show will take place at the Sellersville Theater and will feature friends and special guests Lizanne Knott, Michael Braunfeld, and Harvey (In the Morning). (
https://www.st94.com/event/1583118-john-flynn-sellersville/)

I'll be back in New York for some shows in January and performing an official showcase at the International Folk Alliance Convention in Kansas City in February. Look for info on my web site. (
https://www.johnflynn.net/jfnet/photoback_website/Gigs.html
)

My little west coast tour last month was a blast.  Beth and I had a great time connecting with old friends and ' since more and more of my days have been getting taken up with my guys here in Delaware -- I really enjoyed getting out and doing some back to back shows. (By the third night I wasn't even forgetting the lyrics to my songs!)

Before heading home, Beth and I took a little side trip out to Joshua Tree and got to do some hiking in the desert--



Skull Rock, Joshua Tree National Park



Cap Rock, Joshua Tree National Park
 

In other news'  I'm proud to announce that I have assembled the inaugural Board of Directors for New Beginnings-Next Step, Inc. I'm very grateful that these amazing, talented and caring folks have agreed to have my back as we move forward in growing our work both inside and outside of Delaware's prisons. Stay tuned, 'cause something tells me this is only the beginning!

Our Board Of Directors is:

Frank Hoffmann
Owner,
Hoffmann & Associates
LLC.
Former New Beginnings volunteer

Robert Fox
Adjunct Professor of Taxation, 
Wilmington College
e

Glenn Pfeil
President ,
21st-Century Insurance

Cathy Weaver
Senior Vice President for Mission Integration,
Mercy Healthcare System

Sandy Stefanowicz
Professional Development Coordinator/ Acting Teacher/ Career Consultant,
Voice Box LLC.
New Beginnings and Next Step volunteer

Ashley Biden
Executive Director,
Delaware Center for Justice

I'll keep you updated on all the exciting goings on in the coming months. Thanks for your continued support of my music and my work!

Peace,

John