Kurt Swinghammer

Photo by Lori Cullen

Sometimes the best stories are not the grandiose, but the quiet, intensely personal ones. In “Jack Layton and Grace Appleton,” Kurt Swinghammer sings a touchingly sweet and poignant tribute to Jack Layton, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party — and his mom (Swinghammer’s, that is). These were two people who had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with each other, except that they passed away on the same day and had a profound impact on him. The video for this song features Swinghammer’s 1200 hand-drawn frames, in a lovingly created work of art.

As he explains it:

I turned on the TV one morning to see CBC News anchor Peter Mansbridge with tears in his eyes announcing the death of Jack Layton, the charismatic leader of Canada’s left wing New Democratic Party. It was a sad start to a new day, but then later that afternoon my mom died. These two people were very important to me for entirely different reasons, and as often is the case with significant personal experiences, it inspired me to write.

This was the first musical piece that was developed into a song cycle entitled Another Another, his 13th full-length release, in memory of his mother. At the National Music Centre in Calgary, Alberta, he had access to their collection of synthesizers, and it was there that his album took shape. This track includes the sounds of a rare Clavivox, first invented in 1952. Michael Phillip Wojewoda engineered the recordings on the Rolling Stones Mobile desk.

Kurt Swinghammer is a Toronto-based musician and visual artist who balances his personal projects and his commercial work. The album cover, his own illustration, is a portrait of his mother, Grace, with a quote from Brian Eno’s Another Green World. His mom was a fan of Eno’s ambient masterpiece, “Music For Airports,” and he played it for her during her final days, so this is quite fitting. Previous projects include co-writing and arranging Lori Cullen’s “Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs” and composing the score for an episode of David Suzuki’s “The Nature of Things” television series. He took part in Artists Against Racism, contributing an illustration to their nationwide Canadian billboard campaign.

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