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by Phil Thomas
The Pension Plan
Tom Lewis Brought to Book
I
f you are familiar with the songs of Tom Lewis it may
come as a surprise to know that Tom claims that he
is still in denial of the fact that he is a songwriter at
all. He says that he ‘puts songs together’ and cannot
recall an occasion when he sat down with a pen and
paper with the intention to write a song. He fi rmly
believes that the best of his songs are born fully formed.
Songs often come to him while driving and his wife,
Lyn, is often ordered to ‘write this down, quick’ and he
is then required to sing the song over and over again
on the journey so as to burn the melody into his mind
for future use. It is a partnership approach that seems
to work well. Neither has much ability to read or write
music in the theoretical sense, yet October 2008 sees the
publication of ‘Worth The Singin’ [sic] – The Tom Lewis
Songbook’, known in the Lewis household as ‘The Pension
Plan’ because it coincides with Tom’s sixty-fi fth year.
Compared to some songwriters Tom is not
prolifi c. The new songbook contains forty-one
songs and one poem which is, to date, the
total Lewis canon. This does not trouble him
and he quotes Kenneth Grahame, author
of Wind in the Willows, who only ever
wrote one book of note, who said “I am
a spring…not a pump” when pressured
by his publishers to produce another
book. Three songs written over
an eighteen month period is not
uncommon. Neither is a similar
period with no songs at all. He
feels no need to fi ll up all his
performances with his own songs
when there are ‘…so many other
good songs out there from the
tradition…and from other writers
and I want to sing as many as
possible’.
Songs such as Marchin’ Inland
and The Last Shanty are the
bedrock of a reputation for
thundering good chorus songs.
However, he doesn’t set out to
write chorus songs, preferring to
wait until a song or the subject
matter tells him it needs a chorus.
Clearly the song drives the
writing process rather than Tom
Lewis.
In his early days Tom exclusively
sang unaccompanied but over
the years he has acquired a
melodeon and an ancient Gibson
ukulele which travel everywhere
with him. I asked how that came
about. It’s a long and funny story.
The Living Tradition - Page 2
Issue80.indd 28 14/7/08 14:50:19
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