Sara Hickman entertains Harmony House crowd
By Allen Rich
July 28, 2008
The audience at Harmony House learned three things from Sara Hickman Friday evening. We learned what it’s like when nervous censors rewrite your song 10 minutes before your national TV debut (with the late, great Johnny Carson, no less), we learned that we are each other’s angels (that one we suspected) and we learned that if men will just ask, the woman in their life will confess what she always wanted but was afraid to ask for (a kayak?…I didn’t even have that on the list!).
Sara Hickman said she felt right at home in Fannin County Friday night. As a matter of fact, the Austin-based performer said the warm intimate setting at Harmony House took her back to the days when she visited her hard-of-hearing spinster great-aunts in Alabama. The ladies had eyeglasses that looked thick as the bottom of a Coke bottle and the house was equipped with a big black telephone that had a powerful rumble when it rang, after which one of the great-aunts would scream, “I’ll get it!” loud enough for all the neighbors to hear.
As a little girl studying the lines on their faces, Sara remembers wondering if they’d laughed enough; she wondered if they’d loved enough. She wondered what a child would eventually think one day at the sight of her own face as they laid her to rest. Then Hickman set it all to music with a song about “trying so hard to remember what we grow up to forget.”
The tears in her eyes were proof she has succeeded only too well.
With intricate backing harmonies from fellow Austinite Kristin deWitt, Hickman mixed several original tunes with a classic Phil Ochs song and even one Rolling Stones tune.
“Mick Jagger is still hot,” Hickman said with a grin. “I’d run my fingers through his wrinkles anytime.”
It doesn’t seem fair that someone this much fun to hear sing can be even more fun to listen to when she talks, but Hickman’s story about her ill-fated TV debut with Carson was a jewel. First, a make-up lady with a thick German accent found out the singer was from Texas and exclaimed, “We give you big hair!” Hickman protested, but the lady shrugged her off. Soon Sara had a Texas-sized hairdo, bright red cheeks and even brighter red lipstick. The show’s producers had selected the song, Sara had already practiced it with the band, but 10 minutes before the performance a member of the crew said the censor wouldn’t allow the slightly risqué lyrics. Again Hickman protested to no avail. Revised lyrics were offered, but Sara decided to try another song. She went on to make her first appearance on national TV playing a song the band had never heard and with one of Hickman’s friends yelling out chord changes to the musicians. The ending was the most difficult part since the band had no idea when the song actually ended and, in fact, an enthusiastic drummer continued playing, so everybody felt obliged to join back in for a few more bars. Hickman said just as she was really getting mad that her TV debut had become a comedy of errors, the audience began cheering wildly and she could hear Carson over at his desk singing her song. Carson waved for Hickman to come sit down in the guest’s chair. Hickman strolled over and sat down, all the time waving to the crowd that was applauding and waving back. Then she turned to Carson and shrieked–up close, Hickman could tell that same make-up lady had given Johnny bright red cheeks and dark mascara.
That big smile of Sara’s charmed Carson on two occasions; she once toured with Dan Fogelberg and Hickman even sang a duet with the one and only George Burns. But Friday night, Sara Hickman was entertaining a lucky crowd in rural Fannin County, far from the rush and bright lights of the city, thanks to the vision of Scott Lipsett and Faye Weddell, creators of Harmony House.
Hickman was born in North Carolina, grew up in Houston, received her B.A. in Fine Arts from UNT in 1986 and has 14 albums to her credit, including award-winning children’s albums.
Her last CD, Motherlode, featured contributions by Shawn Colvin, Kelly Willis, Adrian Belew and Jimmy La Fave, just to name a few.
Sara still finds time to lend her support to Safe Place, Habitat For Humanity, Race for the Cure, SPCA, House the Homeless and countless other organizations. An album Hickman managed to produce herself, Newborn, has allowed her to donate over $50,000 to Hill Country Youth Ranch, a special place that helps abused and neglected children.
There is something very special about the land in our own Red River valley. There is something very special about what Harmony House Concerts have come to mean to fans of original, inventive musicians. There is something hidden deep inside most of us that runs very near the surface of Sara Hickman. All of that added up to a spectacular performance July 25.
They say that Sara likes to leave an artistic chalk doodle on your sidewalk when she stops by. There are no sidewalks in northern Fannin County, but she managed to leave a mark to remember her by, just the same.