Saturday, May 24, 2008

Article about Texas musician Sam Baker

Texas singer seeks to understand a tragedy

By NAOMI KOPPEL, The Associated Press
2008-05-23 12:23:16.0

KILKENNY, Ireland -

"Forget his face? Of course I don't," Sam Baker sings, of a young German boy who died along with his parents on a train in Peru in 1986. The three had been sitting on facing seats and the bomb that killed them was in the luggage rack above their heads, set by Shining Path guerrillas.

The man in the fourth seat was Baker.

The song probes the psychological legacy for Baker, who had been talking to the boy before the bomb went off. Its title, "Broken Fingers," reveals part of the physical legacy - three twisted, unusable fingers that forced him to relearn to play the guitar left-handed.

That he survived at all is remarkable: The explosion severed the main artery and vein in his left thigh and he almost bled to death. He suffered brain damage, kidney failure, gangrene and severe hearing loss, and went through years of surgery.

Perhaps the most extraordinary part of Baker's story: He is making a name for himself as one of the most original new singer-songwriters in contemporary folk music.

Before the bombing, the native of Itasca, Texas, had been a whitewater river guide who enjoyed traveling, walking and climbing. That all ended in a moment. "Every day for a long time was like being in some kind of fog. There was a reasonable amount of pain and a lack of clarity and a whole lot of pain meds, and because my hands were bandaged I couldn't really feel anything, couldn't walk and couldn't really hear much. There was a sense of isolation," said Baker, 54, in an interview in a hotel in Kilkenny, where he was appearing at a music festival.

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