As a writer, you come to realize there's a very fine line between
the deeply emotional and heartfelt, and that which is self-indulgently
sentimental and maudlin.
I'd talk about things like this for hours, with my friend Lloyd Landa.
Now, I'm staring at this page, scared as hell that the incredible
ache caused by his sudden passing on August 2nd will push my pen across
that line. Lloyd wouldn't like that. And, he deserves much more, for
he himself was a master of recognizing and straddling the fine line
- whether it was the exact tone required by a magazine article, or a
press release, or corporate speech - or the sensitive and delicate essence
of a beautiful song lyric.
Oddly enough, we both detested the world of public relations, and
corporate "spin," while we lived for the privilege of writing and performing
songs. Yet, it was in the business world we first met, over 14 years
ago, when I was Director of Media Relations, and Director of Marketing,
for a Bay St. company.
Lloyd had been hired on for a project, by one of the firm's partners,
as a freelancer. It was inevitable that our musical connection would
draw us together. It was equally inevitable that, once having met, we
would become the very best of friends.
Some people live entire lifetimes trying to find a way to relate to
this world - to get close to their fellow travellers. Some never find
For Lloyd, connection was instantaneous, because he was too busy being
real - being himself - to suggest the threat of a hidden agenda to anyone.
Being himself meant really listening when people told him stories.
It meant you were always met with a smile that would charm, and reassure,
that would lighten up that which inside us all is weary, and sad, and
gray, and frightened.
It meant that soon, that smile was going to lead you towards some
sort of mischief that almost surely would involve bad puns, and outrageous
anecdotes and stories.
The kind of person he was, made him a great writer.
He hung onto his childlike innocence with a fierce wisdom. He knew
that our best defences against becoming numb and embittered were laughter,
and playfulness, and a wide open heart.
His circle of artistic friends grew to be huge. In the early Toronto
years, Lloyd shared adventures and lodgings with a rat pack that included
singer-songwriter Dan Hill, brilliant pianist John Sheard, and children's
entertainer Rob Schneider.
Later, he became an integral part of the Toronto open stage and singer-songwriter
community which included people like myself, Wayne Marshall, Michael
Laderoute, Ron Nigrini, Glen Hornblast, etc.
Lloyd's popularity amongst his peers was nothing new, for even back
home, Lloyd had, from the first, forged lasting musical friendships
in Saskatchewan, with artists such as Joni Mitchell.
He was proud of his friends, and cheered their accomplishments with
And, there was no one he cheered for more than his soul mate and musical
partner Karen Linsley. They lived together, wrote together, and performed
on stage together. The combination of their songwriting talents, Karen's
haunting voice, and Lloyd's world-class virtuosity as, first and foremost,
a brilliant pianist, but also as a deft guitarist, made for a truly
Karen and Lloyd's most recent career successes were in the field of
science fiction songwriting, with the release of an acclaimed CD, "Road
to Roswell." They also placed a song in the final five songs being considered
by the Mars Society, to be chosen as the official Mars "Anthem." The
winning entry will apparently be played when Earthlings first set foot
on our planetary neighbor. That would be the kind of immortality they
so richly deserve.
But, as much as we judge success in this life by money, and awards,
and all the other superficial trappings, Lloyd Landa's success was,
ultimately, of the highest kind - he was a decent loving man who touched
every heart that knew him.
I find myself writing a song now, that will probably take some time
to finish. But I'm pretty sure the last verse will be something like
"Lifers can't quit
Till they cash in their chips
We keep bettin' on
The love of the game
And the dream that we chase
Full of love, full of grace
Deals less with fortune or fame
Than the way that a friend
Speaks your name..."
Webmaster's note: These lyrics are indeed the last verse
of "A Songwriters Song"
that Norm completed in August 2000 (no formal recording)
Lloyd Landa and Karen Lindsley's website is at www.roadtoroswell.com
Updates: Lloyd and Karen's song "The Pioneers
of Mars" did win the Mars Society's Rouget de Lisle contest for
a national anthem commemorating the hoped-for colonization of Mars.
In early 2004, their 1999 recording of the song was featured on a new
Touch the Stars: A Musical Celebration of Space Exploration
and on February 14 2004 was played by the Jet Propulsion Labratory as
part of the wake-up routine for the Mars rover "Opportunity".
Taxi News website is www.taxinews.com
For more of Norm's prose and some song lyrics:
Read Norm's December 19, 1999 Toronto Star feature article,
"Looking for Christmas: A Songwriter's
Read the 1988 Stubborn Ghost
album dedication letter to his young son Ben, with a photo from
the album. (Most of the tracks are included on the reissued CD Skysongs...
A Writer's Collection and six of the songs were recorded by
other artists for One Voice, A Tribute to Norm Hacking, Volume
1, now available.)
See the index of Norm's lyrics, poetry and
prose (including other "Race Track Hack" columns for
Taxi News) on this website.