“A masterful weaver of songs whose deep, resonant voice rivals the best of his genre…”

Spirit of Change Magazine

“Beneath the friendly charisma is the heart of a purist gently leading us from the songs of our lives to the timeless traditional songs he knows so well…”


Globe Magazine

Explore The Ancient Ballads

Songs passed through time...

Recordings, History & Resources...

American Folksongs & Ballads


Recordings, History & Resources...


Songs of the Sea & Fo'castle

Recordings, History & Resources...

The American Folk Experience

The American Folk Experience collects, curates and shares the most enduring songs of our musical heritage—songs that John Fitzsimmons has spent the better part of the last forty years performing in pubs,  and schools, on concert-stages and street-corners, and at camps, festivals and celebrations of all kinds. Every performance, workshop and presentation is a celebration and exploration of the timeless songs and stories that have shaped and formed the musical history of America.

Festivals & Celebrations —Coffeehouses —School Assemblies — Library Presentations —Songwriting Workshops —Artist in Residence — House Concerts —Pub Singing — Irish & Celtic Performances — Campfires —Senior Centers —Voiceovers & Recording




& Recordings

     I have often wished that I could point to some longstanding musical lineage in my life, so that I could view myself as a “traditional source” for traditional music; instead, I am just a guy who loves traditional folk music—and I am still not quite sure why. Sometimes I laugh with my crowds (and often lack of crowds) that folk music is the quickest way for a non-musician to pretend he or she is a musician—but in my heart and soul I know there is something much deeper and more complex going on that has steeped itself into a strong tea infused with my own being.

Folk music has connected me—and still connects me—with people, times, communities and cultures far off the beaten path of the everyday roads I travel each day. By learning and performing these old folksongs, I feel like I am doing my part to etch upon the yardstick of time a living and dynamic memory of our most primal and guttural—and often the most common— responses to life.  But I know there is more…

Away from the energy and allure of the stage, I still hum, sing  and chant these old folksongs and ballads as meditations, prayers and incantations to the day or night—lonely, votive offerings to mysteries deeper than myself, or, perhaps, too deep within myself to be measured, weighed and sold in words.  My “faith” in folk music is not unlike my faith in God—I don’t need to be convinced of anything: God brings me spring; folk music brings me ballads, and that is all the proof I need.

I am indebted to the many friends who share my love of traditional songs and to the many scholars whose works are too many to include here. I am also incredibly grateful to the collector’s curators and collators of Wikipedia, Mudcat.org, MainlyNorfolk.info, and TheContemplator.com for their wise, thorough and informative contributions to the study of folk music. 

I share this scholarly research on my site with humility, thanks, and gratitude. Please cite sources accordingly with your own research. If you have any research or sites you would like to share on this site, please contact me.


John Fitzsimmons

“When the eyes rest on the soul…that’s Fitzy…”

Lenny Megliola

WEEI Radio

A Late Night Metacognition

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after ~Henry David Thoreau           When you need something done, find a busy person to help you get it done. My mother loved repeating that to me all the way to her dying day,...
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There’s a little blonde boy in a superman cape
Racing around the back yard;
Sayin’, “Daddy don’t you know I can fly to the moon;
I’m gonna bring you back some stars.
And after that I’m gonna save the world”
Cause I’m superman today.”
I scoop that boy right into my arms,
And this is what I say:

You don’t need a cape to be a hero
You’ve got all the special powers that you need
Your smile’s enough to save the world from evil
And you’ll always be superman to me

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The Most Unoriginal Teacher

Yes, that's me. I am a fraudster, thief, and plagiarizer of the worst magnitude. I copy the very styles of classic poets; I steal from Noble Laureate novelists, and I copy words from every and any source I can. And even worse, I steal from myself. If you even dare to...
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The day sometimes slip away from me, a huge pine half-bucked in the backyard, the kids old tree fort cut into slabs, a ton of coal waiting to be moved in a train of buckets to the bin. Sipping cold water on the back deck, sharpening the dulled teeth of a worn...
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Dealing with Ether

Trying to only see what is in front of me my eyes are continually drawn away from this page and the work left to be done— my labored words etched and scratched away like fleeting mosaics in dry sand. I need a windowless cell to work the alchemy that shapes the...
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Another Wednesday

        It is a good night for meatballs. The same meal we have cooked every Wednesday night for thirteen years and counting. Tonight is a beautiful and warm night of vacation week, so more than likely we will have a big crowd joining us—but we never know who. The...
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Make Something out of Something

It's hard to make chicken salad out of chicken manure      Dirty hands are a good sign, so hopefully, you got some mental mud on your hands and created some content to work with today.  To a starving man, any food is good food--unless it...
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Ghetto of Your Eye

A Veteran's Day Remembrance I wrote this song back in the winter of 1989 in the dining car of a steam driven train, somewhere along the Trans-Siberian railway, after meeting a group of Russian soldiers fresh from battle in Afghanistan—that poor country that has been a...
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Eighteen Years

At midnight I hear the cuckoo clock chiming from it’s perch in a cluttered kitchen locked in cadence with the tower bell gonging this old mill town at midnight to a deeper sleep, like a call to prayer reminding me that this new day, starting in the dark of a hallowed...
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The Nagging Thing

Not many more nights like this, warm enough to sit outside on the back porch. The kids and Denise long asleep. Usually, during the school year, this is my "time" to catch up on schoolwork--grading, posting the assignments for the week and playing the general catchup...
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The Inn

Every Thursday, for some thirty years, I have been spending this same time each week wrapping up the loose ends of the day before heading down to the inn to play to whomever and whatever shows up. Tonight looks like a fun night: Maroghini will be with me for his last...
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In the unfolding chores

The day sometimes slip away from me, a huge pine half-bucked in the backyard, the kids old tree fort cut into slabs, a ton of coal waiting to be moved in a train of buckets to the bin. Sipping cold water on the back deck I hear Emma rustling for soccer cleats and...
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The Late and Lazy Teacher

I guess this is a good thing. I showed up five minutes late for class, and my classroom was empty. I walked the hallways of the school and could not find any of them. I sheepishly asked the assistant headmaster if he "happened to see a class of wandering boys?"No, he...
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Out of the Forge: April 6, 2017

Some nights I feel like I am singing in a mall. Tonight--in a fun way--it felt a bit like I walked into the Natick mall at Christmas time and pulled out my guitar in front of the Apple store and started to play, but like every night down at the inn it evolved into a...
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Out of the Forge: March 30, 2017

Every Thursday Night at The Colonial Inn On the Green, in Concord, Massachusetts This is my first attempt at trying to record a night at the inn, so please forgive my engineering errors as a producer. I simply used the Bose Tonematch into Garageband and called it good...
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In Reply To Einstein

*God casts the die, not the dice. ~Alfred Einstein I am cold down the neck, turtling my head to showers of ice that fall dancing and skidding on skins of crusted snow. I hold my breath when I step, inflating hopes of a weightlessness, and so be undetected
to the play...
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Just closed the lid, so to speak, on what seems to be weeks of school-related paperwork. I am excited to go to my classes tomorrow with only those classes on my mind--not the letters home to parents, the secondary school recs, the grades and comments to homeroom...
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The Teacher’s Couch

It’s not just a couch; it’s a sofa, too ~Fitz           I remember my first year teaching at Fenn—and it was really my first stint as a true worker with responsibilities outside of what I already had in my wheelhouse—and on this day, some twenty something years ago, I...
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Weekend Custody

Jesse calls up this morning—
“You can come downstairs now;
You see the grapefruit bowl?
Well, I fixed it all;
I fixed everything for you.”

Everything’s for you…

“Let me help you make the coffee,
Momma says you drink it too.
I can’t reach the stove,
But I can pour it, though—
What’s it like living alone?”

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I loved the rain last night. Last week, in a bow to reality, I reclaimed my gardens and made them into yard. Four of my kids got poison ivy in the process and I (and more "they") got an extra ten feet of width to add to the soccer field--for really that is about the...
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The Blathering of Teachers

To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities  as you do at conclusions. ~Benjamin Franklin             Maybe we are born more to ignore than to listen. I understand too well how easy it is to ignore the blatherings of teachers. I was a master of it once myself, so why...
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Doing What Needs To Be Done

The rain falls;The grass grows:Nothing is done.Nothing is left undone~Buddha        Sometimes you just do what you got to do, and that never changes from the first time you take out the trash as a kid until the time in life where you are taking care of little chores...
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The Value of a Classic

“Classic' - a book which people praise and don't read.” ~Mark Twain A note to my 8th grade class:      All of you are supposedly reading a classic book, but what Twain says is true: few of us go thirsty to the well and willingly read the greatest works of literature...
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The Queer Folk

True to my words of earlier this week, I finished this song last night, and at the time, I liked it--but in the clear light of day, too much of it seems forced, especially the rhymes. But that is part of the process. I think I am almost there. Let me get my saw and...
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Hallows Lake

Foreward Thanks for taking a look at this "work in progress. It originally started out as an experimental one-man play. Maybe it still will be. Later I thought of making it into a novel, but it's hard to see it happening as there is (intentionally) no real plot, and...
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The Shapes of Stories

While I have always been a storyteller of sorts, I am not much of a writer of stories--but I have always been intrigued by the relative simplicity at the core design level of most books and movies. A lot of it is tied to my love for Joseph Campbell's work on the...
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What a Picture Tells

"Zou Ma Guan Hua" You can't ride a horse and smell the flowers ~Chinese Proverb Sometimes I love just browsing through old folders of pictures of my kids when they were just kids in every sense of the word. Just seeing the pictures is a visceral experience for me as I...
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It’s been too long feeling sorry for myself.
It’s been too long with my life up on the shelf.
Sometimes wish that I was Shane—
shoot Jack Palance, and disappear again;
don’t have no one
don’t want no one
don’t miss no one:
living lonely with a saddle and a gun.

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Another Day…

I've been somewhat lax about posting in here of late, but I have been giving myself a bit of a break from writing. In fact, I spent the last month or so just living--and that has been just fine with me. I set a simple goal for myself this summer to get in shape. PJ...
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Paris: 11/13/15

It is a sad day for humanity. Another sad day on top of many others happening every day--many in places we hear about only obliquley and sometimes not at all. Paris is that much closer to home for most of us here and in Europe, but freedom and tolerance has to...
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These trees have driven so many friends batty, wedged in unstable crotches, embracing hollow, heart-rotted limbs, reaching tentatively, maddened with indecision. From a distance your gestures are very lobsterlike— waving a last embattled claw, as if dueling some...
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China Journal: Part Two

II The grass grows. The rain falls Nothing is done. Nothing is left undone ~Buddha   A day can be perfect. I have to believe this. Today was. Is. Is was a day in china. The sun breaking through today after yesterday’s typhoon. Lazy walk to the coffee shop....
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The End Is the Beginning

For the past twenty years this night has always been a bittersweet moment. I have never been hobbled by boredom or a lack of "things I love to do," so whatever supposed free time I have is rewarding in whatever I choose to do. The flip side is that I am teacher, and I...
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Once Burned. Twice Shy.

Just because no one understands you,  it doesn’t mean you are an artist ~Bumper Sticker        I sometimes wonder why when you give a group of teenagers a video camera, the first impulse is to shoot something stupid. It’s as if there is some jackass switch...
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On Writing with Rubrics

The only way out is through... Damn! Another long post... For better and worse--and through thick and thin--I keep piling on rubric after rubric to help guide the content, flow, and direction of my students' writing pieces.  The greater irony is that I never set out...
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The Litter in Concord

I have been following a Facebook thread about the movement in my beloved hometown of Concord to ban plastic water bottles, plastic bags and styrofoam cups. I am trying to discern whether or not my initial responses are pure and true and not simply reactionary and...
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Yesterday did not become a poem

Nothing became something else; No thoughts filled my head With wonder or wisdom. Listless sky. Jumbled frames. Fleeting images: Chattering squirrels, Distant rumbling Of rush hour traffic. Today I am more determined, But all that is left Is the promise Of...
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Finally, the tall green pines standing sentinel around this cold and black New Hampshire pond are framed in a sky of blue. After a month of steady rains, foggy nights, and misty days, I am reborn into a newly created world—a world that finally answered my prayers: no...
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Redefining Literacy

 My life is the poem I could have writ, But I could not both live and utter it ~Henry David Thoreau    The common man goes to an orchard to taste the fruit. The rich man man learns how to plant his own orchard. The poet, however,  grows an even better fruit and gives...
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Moby Dick: Chapters 42-51

A literary reflection to my students... The lowering for whales, the appearance of Fedallah's crew, the vivid descriptions of the first chase in a sudden and unrelenting gale, the fatalistic joy of resigning oneself to fate, the awesome poetic intensity of Melville's...
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Contact John Fitzsimmons...and thanks!

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