October 7, 2021
Here's a link to a video for my new single "Girl with the Blue Transistor": https://youtu.be/O6T70zB6Ie4
My new single "Girl with the Blue Transistor" is a song about a young girl from South Philadelphia whose life was transformed by the ubiquitous, newly-portable radio that served as a musical lifeline for the teens and tweens of the early Sixties. Even though "the Boss Jocks said no girls", Helen Leicht never gave up on her childhood dream of being a DJ. “Never quite the same once the music kissed her”, she went on to become a trusted tastemaker and beloved broadcasting legend on Philadelphia's storied FM landscape. Artist-writer John Flynn credits Leicht with being one of the first to play his music on the radio. He and producer Harvey transcend Flynn's folk and Americana roots to indulge their mutual love of music from the period in order to create a jangly, joyful power-pop canvas.
“Girl with the Blue Transistor” comes out officially on October 8th. You can stream or purchase the track at all the usual digital providers. Due to the fair shake they give artists, my current favorite is Bandcamp:
Speaking of Helen, I will be running for "Team Helen" on Sunday October 17th at WXPN's Musicians On Call 5K. You can sign up to support this great cause here:
I had a great time as we remembered the amazing Phil Ochs during last week's Greenwich Village Folk Festival. The show included a whole bunch of great artists including Holly Near, Christine Lavin, Rod MacDonald, Tom Paxton and Reggie Harris. Former music critic for New York Post, Ira Mayer, posted a nice reaction on FB mentioning what a treat it was to be introduced to "... John Flynn in particular". You can stream the show here:
Don't forget to check out my B.A.D. (Busk At Dusk) which streams every Friday at 7PM. These shows are always on my Facebook "Band" Page Follow me there (https://www.facebook.com/singwriter) for weekly reminders. We also stream on YouTube. Here's a link for this week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2anypNxbWk
My new CD is back in stock and for sale on our Merch Page.
My Musical Lairs concert in Villanova was just rescheduled (again) for January 22, 2022. Perhaps the third time will be the charm.
Take care of each other.
Sometimes you just have to work a little bit to get things pointed back in the right direction...
reminder that this week's B.A.D. (Busk
At Dusk) will stream on Friday
September 10th at 7PM. Hoping you'll
tune in through my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/singwriter)
or on YouTube at:
Thanks to all the interest in the new CD, Wild Beat the Wings, we are temporarily out of stock. A new shipment is on order. In the meantime, the album remains available digitally at:
On October 2nd I'll be performing outdoors at the Delmarva Folk Festival. https://www.delfolk.org/folkfest-2020 (And yes, that's the right link...)
October 3rd I'll be joining Holly Near, Greg Greenway, Colleen Kattau, Reggie Harris, Tom Paxton, Zach Stevenson, Emma's Revolution, Sonia (disappear fear) and Martyn Joseph (from Wales), Sonny Ochs, Christine Lavin and Ron Olesko online to remember the great Phil Ochs.
Here are links to view (greenwichvillagefolkfestival.org)
or to listen (http://folkmusicnotebook.com)
Take care of
August 30, 2021
After my annual concert I had requests for elbow bumps from some
of the kids of Camp Dreamcatcher, a Therapeutic summer camp for
kids whose lives have been affected by HIV/AIDS. You can see the
smile right through my mask.
I had a wonderful time playing and helping to host this year's Philadelphia Folk Festival. And true to form the day after fest found me back at Camp Dreamcatcher for my annual concert. During the performance we were of course socially distanced, but very much heart to heart. I've been playing at Camp ever since it began 25 years ago. Many of the amazing young volunteer counselors are former camp attendees themselves and have therefore known my songs since they were little kids.
It always feels like coming home when I get to Dreamcatcher. After my show last week, I was talking to Camp founder, Patty Hillkirk, about my first appearance there. Even though a lot had been learned about AIDS in 1996, I admit to being a bit anxious as I stood with my guitar at the front of that raucous mess hall on that muggy, rainy night. That slowly changed however as, during the show, a frail looking little girl sporting cornrows and one of the brightest smiles I had ever seen was signing something to me as I sang. Her tiny hands were so expressive, and I was of course curious to know what she was saying. After the show I went down and introduced myself. Through her counselor she told me her name was Danielle. She then asked me to kneel down, which I did, and she threw her arms around my neck and imparted one of the best hugs I've ever received. I asked her counselor what Danielle had been saying to me for the entire hour I'd been singing. She's been saying "I love you', he told me. Sometimes you don't know something inside you was broken until the moment it gets fixed. I've been going back to Camp Dreamcatcher for repairs ever since.
They tell me Danielle never actually "heard" me sing or play that night a quarter of a century ago. AIDS had claimed her hearing. Of course, I can't say one way or the other, but she certainly felt the music and maybe that's more important. I do know that she would "feel" it again some years later.
When Danielle was a teenager a series of devastating strokes almost took her life. She was hospitalized and the word we got was that she was completely non-responsive. Still, when Patty Hillkirk and I went to visit her, something inside told me to take my guitar. When I arrived at the hospital, I was assured by the staff that I was wasting my time. I opened my guitar case anyway and sat close enough to Danielle to be able to lay her slender arm across the face of my Martin as I strummed it softly and sang for her. It didn’t take long, and I still get goosebumps thinking about it. Her eyes never opened but as I played, Danielle began to smile. Her smile quickly became a soft chuckle. Finally, she began to laugh out loud. The harder I strummed the guitar, the louder Danielle laughed. As I continued to play and sing, Patty yelled for the docs and nurses. The hospital staff came running in. They were at a loss to explain what was happening. The damage done by the stroke was supposed to be permanent. This shouldn't be happening they assured us, and it probably didn't mean what we thought it meant. All I knew was that I was involved in the communication of joy (and maybe that's always part miracle!) I finished my little concert and kissed Danielle's forehead telling her that I loved her. The next day, we received word that Danielle was sitting up, awake, and communicative. She’s doing well to this day.
The new CD Wild Beat the Wings has been getting some great response. It is currently in the Top Ten of current folk releases on Kansas Public Radio, and Folk Music Notebook's Ron Olesko calls the album "Powerful... an extraordinary album from one of the folk music community's most beloved performers". I got to sit down (on zoom) with Ron for an extensive conversation about the album last week. Here's a link to that interview: https://soundcloud.com/wfdu-ron-olesko/john-flynn-on-traditions-82921?fbclid=IwAR3qZs0NyNTqkJXGGKGTProAY-ZQURjAmKeFcWM7s5Q6_ItKXDYlHDFm3HQ
Wild Beat the Wings is available for purchase here on our merch page,
or for download at this link: https://johnflynn1.bandcamp.com//releases
I'll be resuming my Friday night Busk At Dusk performances on September 3rd at 7PM. Hoping you'll tune in through my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/singwriter)
or on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6HMY_pA77c
I'm scheduled to do an outdoor show here in Wilmington, DE this coming Thursday evening, September 2nd, at Bellevue State Park (https://www.destateparks.com/Concerts/Bellevue). This is a make-up date from an earlier show that was rained out. Fingers crossed.
Hoping our paths will cross again soon.
August 18, 2021
"The first time I touched the tiller was like the first time I picked up a guitar. I had no idea what I was doing but I knew I didn't want to let go." -JF
Due to last week's understandable decision to move to an entirely digital venue, I won’t be hosting the Philadelphia Folk Festival as previously announced. I am, however, delighted to have been asked to perform a one hour set on the PFF virtual Martin Stage this weekend. Hope you’ll look in and continue to support this increasingly global yet authentically Philadelphian musical experience.
Tickets are available here:
My new CD Wild Beat the Wings debuted at #20 on the Folk Charts this month.
The album is available for purchase here on our merch page,
or for download at this link: https://johnflynn1.bandcamp.com//releases
My thanks to the Philadelphia Phillies for again hosting New Beginnings-Next Step at Citizens Bank Park a couple weeks ago. Our returning citizens and their guests had a great time rooting the Phils on to a dramatic come-from-behind walk-off win, and the ballclub even let me sing in the seventh inning stretch. This continues a stretch of appearances (Vet Stadium, CBP) for my favorite team that goes back over a quarter of a century, although this was my first time performing on ukulele.
My version of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" was even credited with lifting the mood of the crowd by NBC Philadelphia sportswriter Jim Salisbury –
In other news, I've decided to resume my
weekly B.A.D. (Busk At Dusk) shows
starting Friday, September 3rd at 7PM.
You can email song requests to me
through this page. Check here or on my
Facebook or YouTube pages for
I really appreciate the emails I've received from folks inquiring about me coming back to do shows in their area. As you've probably surmised, I've never been good at the gig booking part of this job. If we can find a way to string together a few appearances in your region of the country, I'm in.
Thanks for your continued support of my work. I hope our paths will cross again soon.
July 1, 2021
Big News: John will be hosting the 2021 Philadelphia Folk Festival
I hope this note finds you well. A lot has happened since I last wrote. Here's a quick update–
My new CD Wild Beat the Wings will be released this week and is currently available for purchase here on our merch page, or for download at this link: https://johnflynn1.bandcamp.com//releases
You can check out the new video to the album's first single "Circle of Love" here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSemsrA25bw
I'll be celebrating the release of Wild Beat the Wings here in Wilmington by kicking off the Bellevue State Park's Summer Concert Series at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday July 8th. (https://destateparks.com/Concerts/Bellevue). It will be the park's first concert since 2019, and my first time on front of a live audience since my concert at the Sussex Correctional Institution in March of 2020.
I'm honored to have been chosen to host this year's Philadelphia Folk Festival, filling a role that was long played by my dear old friend, festival founder Gene Shay. This will be an emotional event for me on a lot of levels. I'm really looking forward to this chance to listen to (and play) some music as I reconnect face to face with a lot of old friends. To paraphrase the great Jerry Lee Louis, there'll be a whole lot of huggin' going on...
Speaking of friends, thanks to all of you who supported my online shows last year. The Friday B.A.D. (Busk At Dusk) series not only brought in some much appreciated weekly bread during a time when all my live shows vanished, but it kept me in reasonably good performing shape, as well as in touch with what turned into a great little online community. We went through a lot together last year; a deadly pandemic, an existential election, an insurrection... Somehow it helped just having some friends drop by on Friday nights and say hi. Although I'll be taking the summer off from these online shows (with the exception of some zoom concerts which you can read about on my schedule page: https://www.johnflynn.net/shows.html) I plan to resume them in some form come September. More to come on this...
As I was getting ready to write to you today my cell phone rang. It was a guy I'd worked with in prison a decade ago. I had been able to help him get a housekeeping job at a local hospital when he got out, and he quickly became one of their most beloved employees. He worked there a couple years before addiction got the better of him and, after some stints in rehab, he lost his job and relocated to Florida where he continued alternating between recovery and relapse.
He’s now living in Texas and has been clean for four years. He’s attending an online college and has a 4.0 GPA. He’s been working at a cash register at a Dollar Store for several years. (I remember when he applied for this position. We had a long talk on the phone one night where he confessed to me that he had great misgivings about it since it entailed counting money with people staring at him.) He was just made assistant manager of his store! He was so proud and it filled me with joy to hear it in his voice.
He gave our little non-profit New Beginnings-Next Step much of the credit for his success and thanked all of our volunteers for never letting him give up on himself. NBNS has taken some hard hits recently. The streets - as well as the pandemic - have taken a great deal from us. It’s important to remember that- no matter what any given page reveals- there are often many more chapters to be written in a life’s story. Yeah. I think I needed that.
I've included some information about the new album below. I hope to see you soon.
JOHN FLYNN- WILD BEAT THE WINGS
John Flynn’s thirteenth solo album, Wild Beat the Wings, is some of his strongest and most adventurous work in an award-winning career spanning four decades. The new album features Flynn’s trademark heart and lyrical artistry juxtaposed against a background of bolder production and harmonic choices as the life-long marathon runner belies his 64 years by arguably singing better and stronger than ever.
Like so much new music these days,
Wild Beat the Wings is the byproduct
of months of the found, focused time
imposed by the COVID restrictions,
which Flynn addresses in the
country-rock offering “Space
Station”. Even the cover art for
Wild Beat the Wings can be traced to
Flynn’s enforced status as a
homebody as he rediscovered his
drawing pad and inked the stark but
lovely cover image of his wife Beth
rescuing a mourning dove on their
Northern Delaware back porch. The
title song of the album recounts the
story of the dove’s escape from a
swooping raptor by crashing through
a screened- porch door. Disoriented
and terrified, the trembling bird
failed to relocate the open door and
required tender human hands to help
it return to the sky. The song is a
metaphor for all loving
relationships as it pertains to the
need to create paths to greater
freedom. Unsurprisingly to anyone
familiar with Flynn's canon,
restorative justice themes are
explored on Wild Beat the Wings as
he follows up his 2020 BLM hip-hop
single “How Many Bodies”. “Circle of
Love” challenges those of all
political and cultural stripes to
enter into relationship (“It’s the circle of love... may it grow ever wide until no one is standing outside”) . “An American Cage” mourns this country’s callous disregard of the ideals nobly expressed in the Emma Lazarus poem enshrined on the Statue of Liberty. “Stranger in a Strange Land” is an elegiac reflection on the toxic polarization so deeply dividing our country.
Flynn's writing has always mined the light as well as the shadow and Wild Beat the Wings includes some lighthearted offerings in “Stayin’ Young (Is Sure Gettin’ Old)” about the unending and futile attempt to stave off the inevitable, “The Song of My Becoming”, a quasi-Buddhist meditation on unitive consciousness written for Flynn’s first grandchild, and “Everybody Needs a Friend”, the true story of an elephant who was rescued by singer Cher from a desolate and solitary existence in a Pakistani zoo. Flynn’s roots as a former Nashville staff writer are evident in "The Eyes of Marie".
The album extols young passion in the love song “It Don’t Get No Better (Than This)”, even as Flynn admits the error of the song’s foundational assumption (“But I was wrong... love grows old... love grows strong”). Wild Beat the Wings heads for the barn with the rollicking anthem “Folk Me”, which reveals a tongue-in-cheek Flynn at his rambunctious best as he celebrates his love for his chosen musical genre (“Just need to let something earnest get under my epidermis”).
Continuing his successful musical partnership with Harvey as producer and “house band” (Harvey provides all the instrumentation other than Flynn’s acoustic guitars and harmonica), Wild Beat the Wings is recently preceded by a 2020 album of cover tunes called Take Cover that the two friends put out under the band named Hondo Jenkins (an alias Flynn once played bars under). Take Cover required Flynn – a self-professed technical Luddite – to learn the basics of rudimentary home recording while challenging him to develop previously unsuspected vocal chops. (Contravening the old saw “do not attempt this at home” Flynn found summiting, for example, Brian Wilson’s high harmonies to be easier in the privacy of one’s domicile – think singing in the shower but with ProTools!) In fact, unlike most preceding albums, Flynn provides a lion's share of background vocals on this record). The unpretentious joy of the Take Cover project is continued on Wild Beat the Wings with an audacious interpretation of the John Lennon/Beatle’s classic “And Your Bird Can Sing”.
In recent years Flynn has split his time between music and New Beginnings-Next Step, a non-profit he created in order to help incarcerated and returning citizens avoid recidivism in the State of Delaware. This work garnered him the prestigious Phil Ochs Award as well as a Champion of Justice/ Humanitarian Award from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (former recipients include Stevie Wonder, Julian Bond and Sister Helen Prejean).
Far from diluting his musical game, Flynn's years of re-entry work with those whom our society deems the most disposable has only sharpened his considerable tools, and Wild Beat the Wings is evidence of this honing. It is beautiful, meaningful work by a master craftsman who has lived up to his gift and stayed true to his calling.
April 27, 2021
Birds of the air nesting in your hair is a sign you must be right with the world."
- Br. David Schlatter, Franciscan Friar
Spending time outdoors has always
been an important part of my life.
It seems to have a beneficial effect
on me physically, mentally and
spiritually. As you know I'm a
life-long runner, but I have serious
doubts that I'd have stayed with it
this long if it didn't get me out
under the sky for an hour each day.
(I'm not a big treadmill fan.)
Although each season has its own charms, this spring has been especially welcome here in Northern Delaware and I've taken my daily meditations out beneath the trees in my backyard whenever possible. There the birds and squirrels (along with occasional foxes and deer) keep me company as they await my daily refilling of the birdfeeder that I bought for Beth as an anniversary present last summer.
That's where I surreptitiously grabbed the above photos. I had been sitting for about twenty minutes when I heard something moving at my shoulder. I slid my phone out of the pocket in my jeans, opened the camera app, and found our lovely little sister sitting quietly on the back of my chair. She seemed to be studying me with great intensity. I guess I passed muster because moments later she surprised me by alighting on me and gently beginning to explore my mane as a possible nesting site. I must say I've seldom felt quite so honored, although I suppose it could simply be an indication that I need haircut.
In other news, I, along with all of my New Beginnings volunteers, have received our second vaccinations and are awaiting clearance to return to our work in the prisons. The Commissioner of Corrections informs me that this is imminent. I look forward to reconnecting with so many men who've endured an incredibly difficult and dangerous year inside the walls and taking up again the important work of helping them prepare for real and lasting freedom upon release.
Thank you for supporting my weekly online shows, The Friday B.A.D. (Busk At Dusk) over the past eight months. Your donations have played a role in insuring that NB-NS remains ready to jump back into the fray in the fight against recidivism here in Delaware. I never imagined I'd have so much support for these shows or envisioned my little series lasting this long. I've also enjoyed the opportunity to share some of the music that shaped my own writing. Songs by Kris Kristofferson, George Harrison, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, John Prine, Bob Dylan and so many others have made these weekly concerts a joy for me (as well as an occasional adventure!)
Speaking of the online shows, this week's B.A.D. (April 30) will not be seen due to a family obligation. We will resume our "regularly scheduled programming" next week and plan to continue through the month of May, or until the new album is released. I and am deeply grateful to all those who have contributed to make it possible for me to keep performing during these difficult times. See you on May 7th.
In the meantime, mask up, vax up,
pray up, and keep your heart open.
February 9, 2021
This week’s B.A.D. (Busk At Dusk) links for Friday February 12, 2021:
On Facebook –
On YouTube –
Next week, along with Friday night’s BAD show, I’ll also be appearing with Faith Nolan and Crys Matthews on the Peoples’ Voice Café, Justice and Civil Rights - Livestream Concert:
I hope to see you soon. Mask up. Vax up if you can. And keep your heart open.
December 10, 20202
This week’s B.A.D. (Busk At Dusk) links
for Friday December 11th:
John’s Facebook “Band Page”:
Check out this short documentary by filmmaker Peter Safran of John’s 2019 benefit concert for New Beginnings-Next Step: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIC-PAPq9I8&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR2j5d65zChesJH2ISBKVwDPOAyFjkhIocZRc-
Hoping this note finds you safe and in good health. We’ve had a bit of a close encounter with “the vid” here as a family member became feverish and tested positive last week. (If I seem distracted during last Friday night’s show, now you know why.) Fortunately, our patient seems to be recovering just fine as we wait out our mandatory quarantine. Although I’m grateful that we’ve so far been spared some of the truly dire aspects of this illness, it has become clear to me in a whole new way that we are all truly in this together. And if any good can come of this awful year, perhaps it will be a deeper solidarity born of this increasingly inescapable realization.
I know that times may seem especially bleak right now. Our nation is stalked, not only plague and hunger, but by an almost living enmity. Not since the Civil War have we been so widely driven by anything approaching this level of contempt for each other. I pray that what is being willfully unleashed by the faithless and cowardly men who are trying to tear this country apart right now will not manifest itself in violence. But I admit that prayers alone may be no match for the relentless and unparalleled intensity of the disinformation and hate mongering we’re now witnessing each day–especially given the prevalence of mental instability and despair in this country. Perhaps that’s where the message of Christmas comes in?
My friend, Pastor Brian Joyce, wrote to me asking if I would record a version of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” for his congregation’s Christmas service. Brian explained that the song’s origins–of which I was unaware– made it a special favorite of his.
I must confess that I never paid much attention to this particular carol. I only knew the Bing Crosby-era versions, and had little attachment to them beyond their genial conjuring of some sentimental childhood memories. (I do have a strong fondness for Ralph the Dog’s rendering in an old Muppet’s holiday special.) I’ve since learned that the song’s words were written by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas day in 1863 as he contemplated the incongruity of the season’s message of peace in the midst of a time in which our land knew so much bitterness and blood. None of the versions I’d ever heard of the song included Longfellow’s fourth and fifth stanzas:
Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
The final section of the song becomes so much more powerful when preceded by these verses. Surely we can now even more immediately identify with the author’s anguish in verse six:
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
Hate does indeed seem strong these days. And it only invites and encourages that which feeds it. Which is why the message of this song’s final verse has taken such a hold on me this season:
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."
The days will soon begin to grow longer again. As they do, let our hope be renewed. May this season mark a new “re-turning” from the current darkness of our path.
May love guide us,
John's weekly online concert from his
home in Northern Delaware. All those
inspired to make a contribution can do
so online at
paypal.me/singwriter, or by check
mailed to John at PO Box 8273,
Wilmington, DE 19803. John will donate
ten percent of what he receives from
this series to fighting recidivism
through his non-profit, New
Beginnings-Next Step, Inc.
This week’s B.A.D. (Busk At Dusk) links for Friday November 27th:
John’s Facebook “Band Page”:
As I write on this Thanksgiving Eve, I’m humbled by the many blessings in my life. Not the least of these is the constantly growing circle of my extended– and extending– family.
These new ties of kinship aren’t being
discovered through one of those genetic
testing services (which only told me
what I already knew – that I’m about 80%
Irish). Rather, they are revealed in
relationships made sacred by the gift of
trust constantly bestowed upon me in my
work with the systemically marginalized;
those whom our society often regards as
disposable. In these relationships each
small offering of my time or presence is
rewarded disproportionately with
gratitude, tenderness, and – for me– a
real sense of a deeper belonging. As
Father Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries
wrote to me recently, “In the end… we
all have the same last name… Love”.
During this holiday of plenty, may we continue to work and pray for truer understandings of these extended family ties, especially with the estimated fifty million of our brothers and sisters in this country who are having difficulty securing enough food right now.
There’s never been more work to do. So many walls to tear down. So many bridges to build. It’s truly ‘all hands on deck’ time. So, whatever you bring with you, whether it’s a strong back or a calm voice, a big checkbook or a small prayer, know that you are welcome and very much needed at the family table.
I’m truly grateful to all of you for all the support you’ve given me in my work this year. I hope you have a happy, healthy and safe Thanksgiving.
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:
Facebook 'Band Page'¯:
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!
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 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:
At Musical Lairs
in Villanova, PA on Saturday February 23rd:
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/
I hope to see you soon!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM NEW BEGINNINGS-NEXT STEP!
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!
October 30, 2018
On stage with my producer Harvey at the CD release concert at the Kennett Flash... Thanks to everyone who came out!
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
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:
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:
And in Sterling, VA at Focus on Sunday, November 3rd:
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.
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
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:
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!
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: email@example.com
Sunday, October 28th, Plainfield, NJ, Evergreen House Concerts, https://www.facebook.com/events/856312944527910/
Saturday, November 3rd, Sterling, VA, Focus
phone: (301) 461-3600
Thanks for your continuing support of my work. Hope to see you very soon!
Great time performing with my buddy, Josh White Jr., at Uncle Calvin's
in Dallas last week!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
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...
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:
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:
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:
And in Houston:
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!
"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
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:
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 14th, 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--
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 10th.
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.
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!'
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.
Palm Beach Gardens, FL
House Concert,, (SOLD OUT)
Vero Beach, FL
Indian River House Concerts
Newtown Square, PA
Burlap and Bean
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
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'
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!
they are both fierce and tender. Think Cat Stevens...
with a bit more folk rock and edge.'
Sellersville Theater with Harvey...Thanks to all who came out for our annual holiday benefit for Camp Dreamcatcher!
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.
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!
Flying Stone Music
' with a
' Mary Sue Twohy, SiriusXM
Hope this note finds you all well!
Thursday, November 16th I'll be back in Sykesville MD at Baldwins Station (http://www.baldwinsstation.
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/
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/
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--
Cap Rock, Joshua Tree National Park
Our Board Of Directors is:
Hoffmann & Associates
Former New Beginnings volunteer
Adjunct Professor of Taxation,
Senior Vice President for Mission Integration,
Mercy Healthcare System
Professional Development Coordinator/ Acting Teacher/ Career Consultant,
Voice Box LLC.
New Beginnings and Next Step volunteer
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!