PALESTINE — Having passed my childhood in the mid-1970s, I remember listening to the “oldies” station, wondering what it must have been like to be an eye-witness to the turbulent trends in rock ‘n roll during the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s — from dancing to Bill Haley, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis, losing gifted composers like Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, to the evolution of musical free expression from performers like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin (among many others).
Through the media of sound and words, artists (then and now) courageously play and sing about deeply personal, often tragic life events of which few dare to speak or write; indeed, this “poetry in motion” gives even the most casual listener or reader an opportunity to deeply connect with others and learn from the experience.
Local DJ and author, Tom Everhart, has penned a new collection of poems about life, loss, love and redemption in his latest book, Poetry in Motion, available now through Everhart’s publisher, Night Moves Entertainment. A guitar-playing cardinal rocks the blue front cover as a tribute to Everhart’s son, Donny, also known as “Mr. Cardinal,” an aspiring and gifted rock musician who passed away unexpectedly from a car accident in 2005.
“Donny was an original, writing his own music and lyrics,” said Everhart. “He was a part of many bands over the years…DDT, Buried Alive, Muskhounds, Junk Peddlers, but ‘Mr. Cardinal’ was my favorite.”
Throughout its 52 pages, Poetry in Motion evokes many emotional “highs and lows,” as Everhart whimsically remembers the past folly of youth, meeting his wife, Becky — the love of his life for 53 years, raising a family, experiencing the loss of a beloved child, questioning and believing in God, and growing old with a hint of disbelief and healthy dose of humor.
“I started buying records in 1954 when I was 10 years old, and then started playing records and ‘DJ-ing’ at 13… My first ‘gig’ was playing a dance — all 45s then — at the New Madison American Legion,” recalled Everhart, adding, “I used to drive there in a ’41 Oldsmobile Coupe that belonged to my Grandpa, ‘Pres’ (Preston) Onkst.”
Throughout the book, Everhart weaves the lyrics of popular classic rock tunes to his own life experiences, such as “come on, baby, light my fire…” (p.19), and “give me a ticket for an airplane…” (p. 40), giving a nod to the profound musical encounters that he had while travelling across the country, especially seeing the Doors (among other well-known artists) perform live, and meeting Jim Morrison personally at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, while stationed at Ford Ord as part of the U.S. Army’s 6th Infantry Division in 1966.
“I was a rock fan…period!” said Everhart, recalling the experience. “So many great groups had performed there, so many great tunes. The Doors put on such a stage show…it was something else! The Doors were a loud band before loud bands became popular…Way ahead of themselves, ahead of their time.”
One particular poem in the book, which imagines Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison leading angelic choirs, speaks to Everhart’s love of music and his unwavering belief that those who have passed on will continue to express their love of life in song:
“In the front row is Elvis, Singin ‘How Great Thou Art’ – And Morrison doing a new version of ‘Light My Fire’ – Cause he knows he can’t get any higher – Than singing in the choir – For the Man upstairs.” (p. 32)
Of the many colorful characters make their way onto the pages, Everhart’s four-legged family member, a dachshund named Miss Lilly, holds a special place in the heart of her owner, as he reminisces about driving around town in a golf cart:
“…She likes to show me off to all her friends, I usually return the favor Just to make amends…” (p. 36).
Although retired and living on the outskirts of Palestine, Ohio, Everhart emphasizes the importance of living in the moment and embracing what life has to offer. When given opportunities to experience happiness and fun, Everhart encourages his readers to just go for it. After a long year of COVID lockdowns and cancellations, Everhart’s words give hope for the weeks ahead.
“It’s almost summertime again, Can’t wait to hit the highways once again — So many places to go and so many people to see — Can’t wait to be free — Sit back, buckle up, relax — Let’s go have some crazy fun.” (p.45).
Everhart carries on his love of music as the resident DJ for the “Memory Lane” Senior Dances which are held Monday afternoons, from 1 to 3:30 p.m., at the Greenville VFW Hall (Post 7262), located at 219 N. Ohio Street in Greenville. To pick up a copy of Poetry in Motion, stop by and say “Hello,” or call Tom at 937-547-1905.
Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for Darke County Media. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 937-569-4314.