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Mark Spoelstra

The advent of DYLAN in the early 60s had spurred many acts to create/recreate their own accessible version of the bard, none more so than MARK SPOELSTRA, incidentally a good friend of Bob.
Born June 30, 1940, Kansas City, Missouri, Mark was brought up in California as a Quaker, although it would be in the coffeehouses and clubs of Greenwich Village, NY that the promising folk-blues singer would emerge. 1963 saw a couple of LPs on Folkways Records, the studio set SONGS OF MARK SPOELSTRA WITH TWELVE-STRING GUITAR {*5} and the live MARK SPOELSTRA RECORDED AT CLUB 47 INC. {*6}. Saturated by traditional and cover songs (the highlights were `Corrina Blues’ – aka `Corrina, Corrina’, WOODY GUTHRIE’s `Slip Knot’ and MANCE LIPSCOMB’s `Sugar Babe’), the former LP was on a par with his many contributions to the well-known “Broadside” rag.
Mark’s next two sets, FIVE & TWENTY QUESTIONS (1965) {*7} and STATE OF MIND (1966) {*7} – both for Elektra Records – were a different kettle of fish, showcasing as they did a dozen original SPOELSTRA compositions on each. As a profound conscientious objector, Mark had a plethora of subject matter at his philosophical disposal, poverty and social injustice being his main gripes in songs like `Ballad Of 12th Street’, `On The Road Again’, `Won’t Allow Mankind To Rest’ and the title track (all from the first said LP). `State Of Mind’, meanwhile, delivered his President Johnson vitriol on the country’s involvement in Vietnam (Mark’s own draft years – 1963-65 – were spent on a type of community service due to his religious beliefs and upbringing); songs such as `Sacred Life’, `Too Late’ and `Guns Of Our Cities’ depicted the mood of these troubled times.
The songwriter maintained a low-key profile and viewpoint on further sets MARK SPOELSTRA (1969) {*4} for Columbia, and THIS HOUSE (1971) {*5} for Fantasy Records, although the most interesting fact about the latter was its session player list: Steve Miller (guitar), Stu Cook (guitar), Duck Dunn (bass) and Doug Clifford (drums); the former set’s `Meadow Mountain Top’ and `Song Of Sad Bottles’ were both featured in the 1973 movie Electra Glide In Blue, which cameo’d members of CHICAGO. With commercial success eluding Mark to a certain degree, he continued to issue the odd record or two (SOMEHOW, I ALWAYS KNEW (1976) {*4} and COMIN’ BACK TO TOWN (1979) {*4}), although it’d be in religion (and his subsequent internship at the Penninsula Bible Church) that his life vocation would take hold. Sadly, having had a resurgence with the “comeback” set in 2001, OUT OF MY HANDS {*7}, Mark was to die of pancreatic cancer on February 25, 2007 in Pioneer, California.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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