Jamie sings John Dale

Song Notes
John Dale
Words and Music by Norm Hacking

For Michael Smith on the third anniversary.

SAIC plein air painting on the river

Michael Smith brought us this song as we were writing our show Hello Dali, about songwriters who paint pictures with their lyrics. His friend Norm Hacking, a Canadian singer/songwriter wrote it, along with another song we cover – This One’s a Dreamer which has Michael’s music, Norm’s words.

John Dale, Jamie O’Reilly with John Erickson, piano

Michael told me about Norm. A very gifted artist, he spent his final chapter in isolation. Not going out.

We staged a scene with my brother Beau singing the lead, and Jenny Magnus as the elusive woman John Dale loved, in our 2000 Victory Gardens show. I have a rehearsal tape of Michael teaching it to Beau. And somewhere on a Canadian radio station shelf is the version Michael sang, honoring Norm.

I sing John Dale on the Legacy CD and it is part of our show In Old Chicago as a story of a person who used to be called “outsider artist,” now referred to as “untrained.” I prefer “instinctual,” should a term – outside of artist, even be necessary.

Jamie O'Reilly and Michael P. Smith
Michael and Jamie 1996
Iwona Biedermann photo

Here are the lyrics. Musical transcription by Lily Floeter.

John Dale
The brush of John Dale sang a song of life worth living
And he’s so lonely, lonely and yet so forgiving
For he had a world of paint and of brushes and bright colors
And on corners, corners he sold this work to others

Then one day she did appear, captured in his eye
Like an answer, answer to the question why
And he would hurry up to catch her
each time she’d pass his corner
So quickly, quickly he scarcely could adorn her

Then one day she stopped to look he hid her picture with another
And pretended, pretended that he did not love her
She moved shortly after and she was married in the spring
Left him waiting, waiting he did not see her again

She grew older and she had children
and she complained that life was stale
Cursed the waste and cursed the boredom,
not remembering John Dale
Who had painted her a smile she never wore in life
Made her beautiful, beautiful and he called this work MY WIFE