John Gorka Biography

New Jersey, USA. Singer-songwriter Gorka, who possesses a rich and emotive baritone, honed his craft in America’s north-eastern folk scene of the early 80s before recording a succession of acclaimed albums. Influenced by Tom Paxton, Richard Thompson and Tom Waits, amongst others, his musical career began in 1986 when he was attending Moravian College in Bethlehem, with the intention of studying history and philosophy. A small coffee-house folk scene had sprung up at a nearby venue called Godfrey Daniels, and Gorka graduated from open-mic spots to leading a group, the Razzy Dazzy Spasm Band. However, he packed his guitar and took his songs out to the wider world, playing throughout north-east America, then travelling to Texas where he won the Kerrville Folk Festival’s New Folk Award in 1984. His debut album, I Know, was released on Red House Records in 1987, and featured the best of his early songwriting, including ‘Blues Palace’, ‘Downtown Tonight’, and ‘Down In The Milltown’. Afterwards, he would enjoy a more stable relationship with High Street/ Windham Hill Records. The ensuing albums explored a multi-faceted talent, with earnest vocals bedecking Gorka’s dry wit and sharp observations and character sketches.

By the advent of Temporary Road in 1993, the artist found increased exposure, touring with Mary-Chapin Carpenter and Nanci Griffith. Meanwhile, a single drawn from the album, ‘When She Kisses Me’, was voted the CMT Best Independent Video Of The Year. For Out Of The Valley Gorka relocated from Bethlehem to Nashville, teaming up with producer/guitarist John Jennings. Together they recruited an all-star cast to accompany the singer, including Mary-Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, Leo Kottke and Dave Mattacks. Gorka also drew on the rich musical environment that surrounded him in the studio, using a guitar once owned by Buddy Holly, the piano with which Carole King had recorded Tapestry and a mixing board that had been used for sessions with Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison. This time the songs were less personally defined, using a third person mechanism to allow the artist to explore his characters, giving them individual motivation and colour.

Following a final album for High Street, Gorka relocated to Minnesota, married and become a parent. He returned to the Red House label in 1998 to release the acclaimed After Yesterday. Gorka’s creative roll showed no sign of coming to an end on the follow-up The Company You Keep, which included the wry baby boomer sketch ‘People My Age’ and the Republican-baiting ‘Oh Abraham’.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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