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  Real People

Jeanette Clark

Jeanette Clark’s divine appointment with destiny

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost

She hails from San Diego and makes her home in Placitas, but Jeanette Clark’s soul is pure country. Her life story carries all the tragedy and wisdom of a Loretta Lynn song. And watching her relate its highs and lows, her body humming with emotion, is about as close to a revival meeting as you’re going to get in the Sky Mountain subdivision. One might guess that her CD release party in September was no quiet affair.

Like many a performer, Clark grew up poor in a broken home, and took instantly to show business as a way of processing the mayhem around her: divorce, remarriage, and five siblings moved from one military base to another amid the daily grief of the Vietnam War. Inspired by the variety shows of the 1960s—“Laugh-In,” “The Carol Burnett Show,” “Love, American Style,” and especially “Hee-Haw”—Jeanette led her brothers and sisters in a weekly revue at Camp Pendleton for which she wrote the scripts, acted, and sang. The kids told jokes, sold kid-like refreshments, and took heart in seeing worried people laugh.

“I feel this was a gift God gave me,” Clark says, recalling how her friends’ mothers would get word of their soldier’s death and have to pack out of the base in short time. TV shows in those days were entertaining, she recalls, and entertainment gave her an antidote to childhood sorrows.

Songwriting was the young girl’s favorite medium, however, and from the age of fourteen, she wrote continuously over the next four decades to make sense of life. “Some people journal; I write songs. Music is my way of identifying how I feel and trying to get someone else to feel it,” she says. “I’m a (natural) counselor—and you have to be in touch with all the emotions to be a good counselor.”

Clark would have her tour of emotions—starting with the boundless joy of teaching drama and dance to poor kids as program director for the Girls Club of America, one of her first jobs after college. There, in Denver, she met and married a graphic artist from Santa Fe, and the young couple moved to New Mexico to start a family in 1987.

“I fell in love with Santa Fe,” she says with emotion. The city was at its height of fashionability, and the young couple embraced its history, tradition, and culture, performing together at community venues. Jeanette was dancing, acting, modeling, and writing songs, and after their second child was born, her husband convinced her to make a demo tape to take to Nashville.

It was then that the pendulum swung back, knocking Clark into bottomless despair. At the age of thirty-two, her husband was diagnosed with a rare, deadly leukemia that left her widowed a year later. Clark still weeps at the memory of how Santa Fe loved them back: Her husband’s co-workers at the city donated sick leave and vacation time so the family could survive his final year. He died the night before their daughter’s ninth birthday, and was buried on Christmas Eve, 1996. The next day, her children opened gifts from a father they would never see again.

The holidays have not been the same since, Clark admits, but she refuses to mark the time with sorrow. “You can choose to be bitter or better, and we chose to be better,” she says, brightening. “I always say happiness is a hard choice to make, but when you choose happiness, you’re free. If you choose to be angry, it can destroy you. In honor of my late husband, I was going to raise the best kids I could.”

She threw herself into motherhood, vowing to live each day as if it might be the last, and keep her spiritual accounts clean because “you can’t decide when you’re going to be called.” For the next fifteen years, Clark wrote songs to sing only while cleaning the house. Her creativity, which she saw as a gift to be shared, found no outlet because she needed it to heal herself.

Clark married her current husband, John, in 1998—it was their mutual loss that brought them together, she says without elaborating. They built a home in Placitas and watched the children grow. Then, two years ago, her life turned another corner. She wrote a song for her daughter’s twentieth birthday that brought the grown girl to tears. “She said, ‘Mom, I wish you would do something with your music,’” Clark recalls. It was the anniversary of her first husband’s death.

“I didn’t know where to start,” she says. “I said, ‘Stick a fork in me—I’m a little older than I was then.’ But my kids said, ‘Mom, just believe.’”

Clark realized she had lost none of her passion for music—both the country classics she was raised on, and the rock, soul, and pop of her baby-boomer youth. An ember started to glow until she was aflame with the idea of performing again. “It was like being in love. I was really excited even though nothing was happening.” She made some calls, beat the bushes, but nothing came of it. It was then that a series of odd coincidences started happening.

Clark was in the showroom of her husband’s business, JC Blinds, wondering whether she was just kidding herself. “I am telling you—into the showroom comes Candy Jones,” she said, her eyes widening. Jones was running an errand for a movie set the company supplied, and small talk led her to inquire about Clark’s music.

It just so happened that Jones was married to Grammy Award-winning music producer Larry Mitchell, of Santa Fe. This past May, before they even finished recording her ten-track CD “Perfect Dream,” the pair took home a New Mexico Music Award for Best Country Production for the song “Think Twice.”

Jeanette Clark CDFate stepped in again when Clark found herself uncertain how to promote the CD, which she had made independently. Out of the blue, she was invited to appear on Fox News’s Morning Show in San Diego, whose producer happened to hear the CD in her mother’s store back home. Clark was interviewed by LeAnn Rimes before performing the title song on TV.

“I call that a divine appointment—it was nothing contrived,” she says devoutly. “That’s the way God works in my life. It’s to show me God’s love and mercy and grace after going through very trying circumstances my whole life—it’s a gift. I believe it’s to help me do something I can’t do myself.”

Clark believes, too, that her late husband continues to help her, as he had dreamed doing after death. “Greater things happen here because someone is interceding on our behalf,” she says, noting that there is a deeper meaning to the notion of “the perfect dream.”

“Your dreams are connected to your purpose,” she says with conviction. A dream without purpose is an egotistical fancy, but when you understand its purpose, “there are people connected to your gift,” Clark says, who might be in a position to help.

“And we’re not done here until you’ve done that. That’s what we’re here for—to give everything we’re meant to do.”

“Dreams are ageless,” she told the host on Fox News Morning Show. “They don’t expire.” Her love story, transcending death, offers living proof.

Jeanette Clark’s “Perfect Dream” is available at The Merc and at all Hastings stores. Hear samples at www.jeanetteclark.com.

 

     

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