Photo - Norm Hacking

Race Track Hack:
"Norm will be one Stubborn Ghost"
by Shirley Gibson



past gig links

When Cats Go Wrong













Taxi News, January 2008, p. 9,11
© Shirley Gibson (except direct quotes at the end)

Photo - Norm Hacking, Aug 2003, by Shirley GibsonMembers of Norm Hacking's Racetrack Hack family have read occasional references to "my manager Shirley" - yes, that's me. A few years ago, he even included me in his beautiful column about his "angels". Indeed, he inspired many angels throughout his life - much deserved and much needed, and he treasured each, with a special place for his mom, Kathy O. Her death in October 2006 left a huge hole.

Norm’s columns were brutally honest, either directly or poking fun at his sometimes dire situation. Others were shear imagination. So you might wonder how anyone could “manage” Norm. I too pondered that back in 2000 before accepting that big M word. He was definitely his own person with an acclaimed career that was again under the radar. He had worked with experienced managers, and I was a “music biz” neophyte, though a keen fan.

Norm convinced me that “manager” was a shorter title than “person who publicizes gigs and applies to perform at folk festivals” - my scope back then. It always applied only to his music-related activities, but those eventually expanded to webmaster, email correspondent, driver, CD warehouse, photographer, the book....

I first heard and met Norm at a 1989 one-day festival in Toronto’s Kew Gardens and bought his Stubborn Ghost tape.

Many concerts later I helped publicize the 1999 tribute concert that Wayne Marshall of Brantford organized. It was an incredible loving evening, with Norm’s fellow songwriters and fans filling the Tranzac’s Main Hall. Some of that music became part of the One Voice tribute CD Wayne produced. It was an evening that Norm always treasured.

Many of us recalled it during the 8-hour tribute open stage that was part of the memorial this December 6 - a room so totally filled with love that we felt Norm’s influence bringing us together.

Working with Norm brought me a beautiful gift - all the love he generated in his community for decades encompassed me too, and I gained a huge family.

Norm consistently made deep friendships that endured whether they began back at Winston Churchill Collegiate, or this summer, or anywhere between. I’d phone to read an email from someone excited to find him through the web, and he’d remember that person, even from his early open stage or theatre days.

But Norm also struck a chord with those he never met in person. The song “When Cats Go Wrong” hitting the airwaves (especially on Jurgen Gothe’s DiscDrive on CBC radio) sparked a flurry of emailed feline tales, some with photos of kitties who get into mischief. A second grade class wrote letters to the author of the illustrated children’s book version, and he answered individually. Kids love the book, but many copies brought joy to adults.

I always loved Norm’s performances. When I arrived to pick him up, sometimes he’d be weary or apprehensive, not sure he could really do this again, maybe in pain. It took a while to actually leave, even if I was a bit late. Just before going out the door, he always phoned his amazing Kathy O. He’d either doze or chat in the car.

But when we arrived, he came alive with his friends and fans. His commanding presence on stage - the songs, poems and prose (favourite Taxinews columns) - was magical, with that direct connection. The room hushed, discovery written on faces of new fans. Norm loved it.

Norm’s website - - has grown to many pages since it’s birth in 2001. Updates continue: two poems by Linda Stitt, links to Matt MacLeod’s new song, Greg Quill’s Toronto Star article and others. Watch for a 2008 tribute concert with release of Norm’s The Ache CD.

Take time there to explore Norm’s prose, song lyrics and a few song excerpts. Revisit about 20 of Norm’s favourite “Racetrack Hack” columns, and Heino Moll’s beautiful biographic tribute guest column last month.

No computer, or no time to browse? We’ll try to meet Taxinews deadlines for any key news. There’s a toll-free number (1-800-633-8282) to buy Norm’s music CDs from Festival Distribution in Vancouver.

Messages poured in from the musical community when Norm’s passing was announced. So many of us have lost a great friend - you've been generous in condolences to me, and mine go to you also. I’ll end with short bits from a few of the many public list posts:

Joanne Crabtree: “Like his good friend Rick Fielding, Norm was a wordsmith who was also blessed with a sense of humour and a healthy dash of cynicism.”

Linda Saslove: “An amazing human being... He inspired so many of us...”

Jim Marino (Hamilton folk DJ): “...The world can boast about all their great "Folk Artists" but Canada had Norm Hacking!”

David Woodhead: “...he was warmth personified and we could all bask in his glow.”

Mike Regenstreif (Montreal folk DJ / reviewer): “... when I did an interview ... with Clay Eals about his bio of Steve Goodman, most of the songs I played ... were by Steve. The one exception was Norm's "Richer for the Time," a song he wrote about Steve. I think we're also all richer for the time that Norm spent with us.”

Howard Gladstone: “...Norm's a capella version of [Steve Goodman’s] "Penny Evans" touched every heart in Hughs Room that evening...”

John Jackson: “...We ... played our songs well into night many times. He was the very soul of a poet and an inspiration to so many...”

Steve Paul Simms: “... few people in my experience have been able to gather kindred spirits together in the pursuit of musical joy quite so well... He'll be hugely missed.”

Brian Gladstone: “...He was a great man who gave freely of himself, and expanded the artform”

Frank Prather: “... his spirit lives on in song and memory.”

Chris McKhool: “Hearing Norm sing about ‘thunder and lightning’ at Blue Skies when I was 18 years old is one of those magical moments that moved me to be a singer-songwriter.”

Doug McArthur: “I always thought that Norm was one of our best writers... Those who knew him loved him.”

Phil Ball (poet, recorded Norm’s spoken word CD): “...He and I would often share banter, something that allowed me to travel to the silly & frivolous side of my life...”

Lenore: “...a brilliant songwriter who will be missed by all who knew him.”

Steve Fruitman: “...I've never known anyone not liking a Norm Hacking song! ...he will be a stubborn ghost, watching us, being with us, and laughing with us.”

Webmaster's Notes:  This guest column about Norm Hacking was written by Norm's manager, webmaster and friend Shirley Gibson for the TaxiNews January 2008 issue after Norm passed away at his Toronto home on November 25, 2007. Sincere thank you to TaxiNews for the invitation to contribute to the special farewell feature and for permission to post this on Norm's web site. Huge thank you to all those sending beautiful messages - apologies for the severe editing due to space limitations. There were many more messages, those quoted here were posted on a music discussion list. The quotes belong to the contributors cited. Thank you to the "angel" who showed up to help just as I was struggling with editing to fit the word limit. The photo above accompanied the article (photo by Shirley Gibson in 2003; the high-res version is on the press kit page of this site)

Additional tribute articles from TaxiNews are on this site:
Heino Molls: "Remembering Race Track Hack" (Dec 2007)
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 January 27, 2008