DISCOVERING JACKSON C. FRANK IN “MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE”
If you went to see Sean Durkin‘s haunting debut Martha Marcy May Marlene over the weekend you’re probably still digesting Durkin’s dark story, the exhausting performance by Elizabeth Olsen and the beautiful cinematography from the film’s DP Jody Lee Lipes.
But tucked away in all this is a soothing song delivered by John Hawkes titled “Marcy’s Song.” Playing Patrick, the manipulative leader of the “community,” he wins over Martha with an acoustic guitar and a song from a little-known ’60s folk singer.
Jackson C. Frank only released one album in his career, but his life is ripe for a biopic filled with strange behavior in recording studios, bouts with paranoid schizophrenia and an unfortunate encounter with a pellet gun. But 12 years after his death, Frank’s music is finding an audience.
When interviewing Durkin and Olsen for our Fall issue I asked how Durkin came across “Marcy’s Song.” (This portion did not make the final edit of the story.)
The song that John sings in the movie is beautiful but very haunting. How did you find it?
Durkin: I had a scene in the script, I just wrote “Patrick plays a song that wins over Martha,” it was very simple. But I didn’t know what the song was. So a month before shooting I was just searching songs under “Martha,” “Marcy May” or “Marlene” at my computer at home. I have a long playlist of names that matches the title of the movie. So the one I absolutely fell in love with was the Jackson Frank song, “Marlene” and it’s the song in the end credits. So I bought the album and the song before it is called “Marcy’s Song” and I couldn’t believe it. Songs back to back on an album recorded in the ’60s! I loved “Marcy’s Song” and John was really into that part of the script and we gave him the cords and the lyrics and he sort of spent a couple of weeks playing it. I don’t think I listened to it until the night before shooting. It’s John’s own rendition, it’s different from the actual recording. It’s one of my favorite parts of the movie.
Here’s Hawkes performing the song:
See for yourself.