Jaime Guest No ..............since March 1998
Folk singer gets Titanic results
By Shaun Sutner
Telegram & Gazette Staff December 31, 1997
WESTBORO -Long before Titanic movie fever swept the nation, a folk singer with a Titanic obsession incited his own brand of lunacy with a hit song about the doomed ship. Jamie Brockett, now 52 and living in Ver-mont, became somewhat of a legend with his take on an old Leadbelly song, which he called "The Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic." Brockett grew up in Grafton and Westboro, where he graduated from the old Westboro High School. His mother lives in Northboro. The singer used to play an annual Thanksgiv-ing show at the defunct Old Vienna Kaf-feehaus in Westboro, and he still sings occa-sionally at the Bull Run in Shirley. Brockett tours Europe regularly, playing about 100 dates a year.
RECORDED IN 1969 His rambling 13-minute Titanic opus, recorded in 1969, has the ship's captain, John Smith, smoking a hemp cigarette with the first mate minutes before the ship hits the iceberg. Brockett, a member of the Titanic Histori-cal Association and owner of a large collec-tion of Titanic memorabilia, hastens to say that his telling of the accident has no basis in historical fact. But, Brockett, an avowed marijuana advocate with a 1960s reputation as a quintessential hippie and free spirit, says the song shows how "you should smoke (marijuana) in the privacy of your own house," not on a ship's bow. "The song was sort of a metaphor for the sinking of Western civilization," Brockett said. "I embellished a lot of decadence on the boat. "With the movie coming out, I've been get-ting all sorts of offers to record it again," he said. Gene Petit, program director at radio sta-tion WICN in Worcester and a veteran organ-izer of folk music coffeehouses, remembers Brockett in his 1960s heyday as "a very good storyteller with a great stage presence and some good songs." With his omnipresent hat and long hair, Brockett "was a figure of the times," he said.
"Jaime took a liberal interpretation of the song and expanded it, which is what he was noted for", Petit said. "It was the '60s, and a lot of people had forgotten about the Titanic. His version of it brought it back into the limelight." The song appeared on Brockett's album "Remember the Wind and Rain," on Oracle Records. Brockett said the album, a collector's item now, is hard to find but sold 100,000 copies and achieved gold record status. The song received frequent play on local radio, during an era when folk music had much greater impact than today. In some ways, Brockett was the Central Massachusetts version of Bob Dylan or Donovan, ac-cording to Petit. For Brockett, the song has been a mixed blessing, though mostly good. His constant singing of it over the years probably is responsible for "what people say is the distinctive of and gravely voice I have today" Brockett said. "I stopped doing it for a while. It was like 'Alice's Restaurant' for Arlo (Guthrie)," he said. "But I'm not complaining. A good song takes you a long way, and I probably wouldn't be working today if it wasn't for that song." In the original song, folk-blues giant Leadbelly tells the tale of a champion black boxer of the day, Jack Johnson, who is denied a berth on the Titanic because of his color. In the Brockett version, the song ends with Johnson sitting on a dock when the captain's hat washes ashore. Johnson fishes the cap out of the water and finds the soggy end of a marijuana cigarette in the hat band. Not surprisingly, that sequence of events did not make it into director James Cameron's screen version of Titanic, which is the country's top-grossing movie. Brockett is not overly impressed by the resurgence of interest in the ship and its fatal voyage. "It never went away," he said.
Caption for photo in paper 1979 File photo
Jamie Brockett, formerly of West-boro and Grafton, now 52 and liv-ing in Vermont, became somewhat of a legend with his take on an old Leadbelly song, which he called "The Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic."
Sent in by John Elberfeld