The Legendary Jack Johnson, Sea-borne Denizen

Jack Johnson, Sea-borne denizen

by Philip Scott Wikel (originally published in Blue Edge Magazine)

Preface: 13 years ago I was honored to have the opportunity to interview this phenomenal musician. (August 2004)

If you take all the colors of all of the cultures whose borders touch the sea, then filter them through the hometown and surf-stoked sensibility of a lightly salted acoustic guitar, you’ll begin to gain an impression of the resplendent, sea-borne denizen that is Jack Johnson; surfer, film-maker, musician. His music might be labeled something like salty acoustic alchemy. From the subtle beat of steel-drum calypso on his song “Flake” to the childhood reveries of “Mud Football,” Jack pulls you into a seamless blending of eclectic sounds and experiences from his travels around the world, stirred, not shaken. He writes songs about living, loving, learning, and letting go; as he says, “You just go with the flow, you don’t stop.”

On September 13th at Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura, California Jack, along with Jackson Browne, the country-rock duo Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen, and blues artist Keb’ Mo’ took to the stage in front of a capacity crowd of 3300 to support the Ventura Hillsides Conservancy and to raise funds for, and create awareness of, their efforts to preserve open space. “Venturans have demonstrated at the ballot box that we want our hillsides preserved,” says Brooke Ashworth, the Conservancy President, “the Conservancy provides a vehicle to implement this goal in a way that deals with property owners fairly and equitably.”

Phil Sedillos, a Chirikawa Apache, shared that he’s “proud of Ventura’s reaction to saving the hillside. It’s nice to see Jackson Browne come out here in support of this.” Next to him is Rosalyn Schuerman with “Dennis Kucinich for President” says “I just called my daughter to let her know I now know who Jack Johnson is.” And Rob Woods, an employee of Patagonia, chimes in with “We’re here showing our love for this place and that we don’t have to build. Check it out, we got the espresso to get us through the long day and some Ben and Jerry’s to wash it down. This is a cool scene.”

When Jack takes the stage, his countenance, his clothing, his music, and finally his lyrics scream, or perhaps, whisper, simplicity. And in a time when all things are hard to define, he seems to have done the homework for us. When the male/female struggle for togetherness has no clear rhyme or ritual. When roles have been greyed to the point of blindness, he offers, “If you would only listen/you’d realize what you’re missin’/yo