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Dana Fuchs has never dealt in nostalgia. For this questing artist, it’s not about the rear-view but the road ahead. The next song. The next session. Tonight’s show and tomorrow’s bus ride. But as Dana sheds her musical skin with her triumphant fourth album Love Lives On, it seems a fitting juncture to rewind the reels and thumb a backstory as compelling as any in rock ‘n’ roll. This life and times doesn’t always make for easy reading. The triumphs are laced by tragedy, ugliness, injustice. But whatever the obstacles, music and love have been the beacons that guide her on.
As one of New York City’s favorite daughters, it’s tempting to imagine that Dana’s career began amidst the subterranean throb in the clubs on the Lower East Side. It’s true: that city was her birthplace and springboard to fame. But to truly grasp her artistic motivations, you’d have to follow the family’s car towards Florida, and rattle along the dirt tracks until you hit Wildwood: a backwoods town, population 2000, where black and white were split along battlelines and distrust simmered in the air. “Back in the ’70s, it was a sorta small, racist town,” remembers Dana, who dropped a social hand-grenade by dating a black friend. “We were a big family from New York, Irish-Catholic, there was no one like us in the area. I tended to gravitate more towards the African-American community. I felt more accepted by them.”
Dana and her five older siblings ran wild in the woods (she remembers herself as a “tomboy with dirt under my nails”). Yet this was no picture-perfect childhood, the family’s mood and rhythm set by her father: a former Marine in daily conflict with his demons. “He was a very tortured soul who had one of the most brutal lives of anyone I’ve ever known,” explains Dana of the patriarch commemorated in Faithful Sinner, one of the songs she wrote for the album. “He was tortured by his father and molested by his mother. His beatings only stopped because his father took his own life. My father found him. With all that pain, he was most certainly a flawed parent. He could also be very angry and scary, especially when he drank. Still, we knew he loved us.”