Photo - Norm Hacking

Race Track Hack:
"Remembering Racetrack Hack"
guest column by Heino Molls



past gig links

When Cats Go Wrong













Taxi News, December 2007, p.15
© Heino Molls 2007

Song writer, singer, poet and TaxiNews columnist Norm Hacking passed away Sunday night, Novermber 25, 2007. He was 57 years old.

Norm was born, raised, and lived as Torontonian as you could be.

From his roots in the east end of the city, through his adolescence in Scarborough, to his many years in folk clubs throughout the city, Norm represented everything that was good about Toronto. Norm was caring, tender, romantic and to top it all off, he was a rascal.

Norm had all the attributes of an extraordinary poet, writer, singer and songwriter and he brought them all to the tables of many a folk joint, nightclub and entertainment bar in town. Norm's music is played to this day all over Canada, America and in fact, the world. He always played down his own exceptional talent for writing prose and songs but never hesitated to promote others. His encouragement emboldened many lesser talents to venture out on stage to play a song or two. For Norm it was no big deal. For those he encouraged he created a lifetime of memories and dreams come true.

Norm was an English major graduate of the University of Toronto. He played hockey throughout his adolescence and early adulthood. At one point he skated with his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs and was able to meet and share the ice with many of his heroes such as Johnny Bower and Billy Smith. Both of them were goalies like he was. Norm was a passionate Leaf fan all his life.

Norm released a number of albums and CD's. One of them was even nominated for a Juno. A review of his album, "Stubborn Ghost" in the Toronto Star declared that his songs were "the best music ever put on vinyl". Norm played many music festivals all over the country including the famous Mariposa Folk Festival during its heyday in the seventies. Norm played every part of Canada including the Yukon Territory.

Norm was raised by a single Mom, "Kathy O", whom he adored and honoured in some of his songs. When she passed away last year, Norm wrote of his loss and shared his grief with readers of his column in Taxinews, the people he had grown to love almost like family.

Norm's column was entitled "Racetrack Hack", a nod of his ever present hat to one of his other loves; the track. As an east ender from way back Norm often frequented the old Greenwood Racetrack and was a pretty good handicapper. He parlayed his skill at handicapping into winnings of many thousands of dollars on more than one occasion and each time he did, he shared all his money with many others, often giving it all away before the end of the day. Norm's generosity embraced all things; all his money, all his possessions and all his emotions.

For almost 15 years Norm's Taxinews columns featured anecdotes, humorous musings, and several enduring characters that he made up and wrote about. Norm had a great affinity for Toronto's taxi drivers. While he traveled the city from one end to the other playing in clubs, Norm never learned to drive a car. He just felt comfortable in cabs and traveled everywhere in taxis. Taxi drivers were Norm's kind of people, late night workers, hard working people and as Norm often said, "Some of the most thoughtful and profound people you will ever meet". Over the years he got to know many of Toronto's cabbies, especially those working the very late night shifts. A lot of drivers and dispatchers were close to him. So writing the column was a natural for him. It was like writing a letter to his friends.

Norm's songs and stories often featured his beloved cats. In fact Norm gained a reputation on CBC radio as "that cat guy" because his cat songs in particular were often played. One song in particular, about two of his cats, "Syd" and "The Flea" generated frequent requests from listeners who wanted to hear it again and again. "Syd and the Flea" is one of the featured songs on a CD Norm put out a few years ago with Kirk Elliott called, "Orange Cats Make The Very Best Friends". To this day, "Syd and The Flea" remains a frequently played song on CBC radio and a lot of CD players across the city. One of his songs, "When Cats Go Wrong" was made into a best selling children's book published by Raincoast Books, the same folks that publish the Harry Potter series.

Norm leaves one son, his beloved Ben, behind. Ben is doing his best to work through his grief and is organizing an informal memorial/wake to remember Norm on Thursday, December 6th at the Renaissance Restaurant at 1938 Danforth Ave. (just West of Woodbine). The casual event will get under way at 4:30 pm. A few words will be said about Norm at 5:15. Then there will be an open stage for anyone who wishes to come up and play a few songs or otherwise remember Norm. The phone number of the Renaissance is 416-422-1441 if you need more information. All cabbies, poets, songwriters, authors, writers, readers, fans and friends will be welcome. Please check the web site for more info.

Webmaster's Notes:  This guest column by Norm Hacking's long-time friend Heino Molls was written for the TaxiNews December 2007 issue shortly after Norm passed away at his Toronto home on November 25, 2007. It is posted here by permission of the author and TaxiNews.

Additional tribute articles from TaxiNews are on this site:
Shirley Gibson: "Norm will be one Stubborn Ghost" (Jan 2008)
Mike Beggs: "The big man's music was the real deal" (Jan 2008)
Peter McSherry: "Norm Hacking was one of a kind" (Jan 2008)

See the list of Norm's on-line lyrics, poetry and prose, including a selection of the Taxi News columns he wrote monthly starting in February 1992.

Taxi News website is Taxi News is a monthly publication with news and commentary on Toronto's taxi industry and is available by subscription or free at distribution points.


Added to Norm's website Decenber 22, 2007
Notes updated with added links January 26, 2008