Legal name: Thomas Richard Paxton
Thomas Richard "Tom" Paxton (born October 31, 1937) is an American folk singer-songwriter who has had a music career spanning more than fifty years. In 2009, Paxton received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. He is noteworthy as a music educator as well as an advocate for folk singers to combine traditional songs with new compositions.
Paxton's songs have been widely covered, including modern standards such as "The Last Thing on My Mind", "Bottle of Wine", "Whose Garden Was This", "The Marvelous Toy", and "Ramblin' Boy". Paxton's songs have been recorded by Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, The Weavers, Judy Collins, Sandy Denny, Joan Baez, Doc Watson, Harry Belafonte, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Seekers, Marianne Faithfull, The Kingston Trio, the Chad Mitchell Trio, John Denver, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, Willie Nelson, Flatt & Scruggs, The Move, The Fireballs, and many others (see covers). He has performed thousands of concerts around the world.
Paxton's songs can be emotionally effective and cover a wide range of topics, from the serious and profound to the lighthearted and comical. "What Did You Learn in School Today?" mocks the way children are often taught nationalism and a subservience to authority. "Jimmy Newman" is the story of a dying soldier and "My Son John" is a moving song about a soldier who comes back home and cannot even begin to describe what he has been through. "Beau John" is a civil rights era song about taking a stand against racial injustice. "A Thousand Years" tells the chilling tale of Neo-Nazi uprising, and "Train for Auschwitz" is about the Holocaust. "On the Road from Srebrenica" is about Bosnian Muslims who were killed in a 1995 massacre in Bosnia and Herzegovina. "The Bravest" is a song about the firefighters who gave their lives while trying to save others on September 11, 2001. Then there are Paxton's "short shelf life songs", which are topical songs about current events and things in the news. They include: "In Florida", about the 2000 election; "Without DeLay", a song about the former congressman; "Bobbitt", about John and Lorena Bobbitt; "Little Bitty Gun", which lampoons Nancy Reagan; "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler", about the federal loan guarantee to Chrysler in 1979 (which was rewritten in 2008 as "I Am Changing My Name to Fannie Mae" about the 700 billion dollar "bailout of the U.S. financial system"); "The Ballad of Spiro Agnew" (mocking the short career of the former-Vice President's resignation), and "Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation" (about the Vietnam War, which became "George W. Told the Nation" in 2007 to lampoon the 2003 invasion of Iraq).