If the Beth Dee Bob had not been swallowed by the sea, Michael Troy and I may not have met in Cape May. Four powerful lines from one song, used in the preface of Douglas Campbell’s book, The Sea’s Bitter Harvest, introduced me to Michael. Singer Songwriter Michael Troy recorded a song titled Four Boats Down, a powerful, Edmund Fitzgerald-ish tale of the week in 1999 when four commercial clam boats sank in a short period of time.
Michael passed away this past Sunday after a long battle with cancer. A little more than a month prior to his death, about 200 of Michael’s friends gathered in Fall River, Massachusetts to honor the man and perform his music. It was declared Michael Troy Day by the local government.
I learned of Michael’s death on his Facebook page, like we learn of so many things these days. His profile has become a gathering place for his friends and fans to honor and mourn him.
By Irish standards, Michael may have been a Bard, had he been born earlier. He was often described more like Arlo Guthrie than Bob Dylan. When he played in Cape May, I would resist the urge to yell “shut up and listen.” Michael would explain to me that singer songwriter conferences were more about networking than performing. I still got frustrated.
“Michael may well be the best songwriter I ever heard,” said Russ Smith, who runs the Paskamansett Concert Series in Dartmouth and formerly booked music at Sandywoods Music in Tiverton.
“He really was a poet,” Smith said. “He could convey emotions and tell beautiful stories, but he knew when a song was finished. He knew what to leave out.”
Like many of our Cape May singer songwriters, who are carpenters, teachers and realtors, Michael Troy was a mill worker and a commercial fisherman. He worked hard all his life and raised four daughters, all of whom play music.
When the open microphone community gathers on Sunday nights at the Mad Batter, part of me wants them all to be famous. I want songs like M.Q. Murphy’s “Driver Has No Money” to be movie soundtracks and for performers to get their big break. I don’t know if that ever happens, so I enjoy what they offer and live in the moment of the music.
For a couple of fleeting weekends I had the opportunity to get to know him, and enjoy the music of Singer Songwriter Michael Troy. To his friends and fans he was a legend. Perhaps that is big break enough. You can get to know and sample Michael’s music here.