Some humor, a little context, some music — it’s all vintage Rush.

Truth may be an absolute, but sometimes a song can become more true with time. Maybe that’s why Tom Rush, one of the original singer-songwriters to blaze the trail for the folk renaissance of the 1960s, can still draw an audience of all ages after more than 50 years of performing.

Songs like “The Circle Game” and “No Regrets” struck a chord at the time of their release decades ago, when the Baby Boom generation was trying to make sense of the world. Now the parents of GenXers and Millennials, the Boomers bring much different contexts and perspectives to those lyrics. Now these parents, who once left the nest to the words of “Child’s Song,” are watching their own fledglings fly away. And a new generation is tuning in to an acoustic sound with poignant messages.

“The audience is still there, God bless ’em,” said Rush from his current home in Vermont. “But I’m seeing more of the younger faces now. The acoustic scene is getting more popular with the kids.”

Rush will perform Saturday evening at Kents Hill School as part of the ongoing Aleigh Mills Concert Series. The series supports a scholarship in memory of Aleigh Mills of the class of 2006, who died tragically in 2007.

“The audience comes, of course, to hear what they know,” Rush said. “I try to guess what they want as best I can and scratch that itch. But I’ll have some stuff they never heard before. Fortunately, my audience is receptive to that.”

A Harvard University major in English, Rush learned early in his career that people relate to stories. Rush has a knack for telling whimsical and witty stories in Oscar Wilde fashion that lingers because of a universal observation or experience that gently settles after the laughter.

“I like to put songs in a context,” Rush said. “I tell why I like it, why I think it’s an important song. I’ve actually been getting requests for the stories now. While some people are yelling out for this song or that, some people are calling out for me to tell a particular story. I find that outstanding.”

When it comes to songwriting, Rush stumbled onto the craft haphazardly and timidly. He began performing traditional music of the Southern blues and the Appalachian folk tunes. He cobbled together lyrics from these songs that survived and mutated in the oral tradition without copyright restrictions and performed them as his own.

Rush doesn’t like to call himself a folk singer. He doesn’t like labels, and he doesn’t like regularity or rules of any kind, really. He unabashedly admits that he tries to avoid hard work and professes that most of his creativity happens when he’s not paying attention.

Once when he was browsing a record store near Harvard, he saw that his first album, “Tom Rush At The Unicorn,” which was self released in 1962 when that sort thing wasn’t done, stuffed in the blues section. Rush let the store clerk know that he wasn’t really a blues singer, so the clerk filed the LP under folk. Rush let the clerk know that he wasn’t really a folk singer, either. Rush’s album was then relegated to live among the miscellaneous records.

As for writing songs, Rush still does that, but not with any regularity or method. And he’s got a few new ones that recently popped into his head that he’ll try out at Saturday’s concert.

“I should work harder at writing songs,” Rush said. “I was just talking two nights ago with a fellow who’s written a ton of hit songs. He goes to his office every morning at 10. The songs come to me very often when I’m half asleep. The muse has a very bad sense of timing.”

Rush, who spoke in the midst of packing boxes and moving, noted that his work continues to remain as scattered as it’s always been. He has started writing a children’s novel while at the same time trying to write an autobiography that keeps morphing into a how-to manual for future musicians. He still sports his walrus mustache, which was the result of trying to establish an image during his musically schizophrenic beginnings.

When it comes to performing, Rush still loves the live sensation but finds the traveling more onerous. He is selective about his tour dates and goes solo more these days.

“The problem with bands is that they want to get paid every week,” Rush said. “And I don’t want to work every week.”

But Rush always gives his audience what they come to hear. Some stories, some humor, some music, a lot of life — and a lot of truth that comes full circle and with no regrets.


When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 17
Where: Bodman Performing Arts Center, Kents Hill School, near Readfield
Tickets: General admission $37; VIP $52. Online at or call 207-685-1635.

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