My brain is young, my heart can’t think.
Mal Blum is 23 years old.
Blum sings with a smile, laughing between lines and bantering with the audience during live sets. It reminds me considerably of another NY singer/songwriter at the beginning of her career: Buffalo native Ani DiFranco. Though, I doubt that Blum wants to hear that comparison, I give her two-thumbs-up and hope that makes her happy.
What you get with Mal Blum is voyeuristic, it’s pure and honest. She records songs about her deepest secrets and each and every scorned lover from a lifetime of failed teenage relationships, and we listen as if peeking through her window. In a world that polishes every edge, hiding pain, misfortune, and opportunism behind a mask of beauty, altruism, and patriotism, Blum hides nothing.
Aside from her obvious talent, Blum is a distinguished graduate of the State University of New York, Purchase College, an art school nestled between White Plains and Connecticut on an old farm that is purported to be the one time home of Revolutionary War hero*, Major General* Thomas Thomas.
It is refreshing to hear an artist as open as Blum and I can’t help to wonder where she picked it up. Perhaps she gleaned a bit of this raw truthfulness from SUNY-P’s talisman. A monolith erected above MG Thomas’ grave reads,
“He assisted in laying foundations of those institutions that are intended to perpetuate the Republic”.*
Well, that sure doesn’t help us uncover the key to Blum’s forth-rightfulness – perhaps it was something Thomas Thomas did in his lifetime that she learned about in school.
Lets figure it out. Besides, who wouldn’t want to delve a little deeper into the story of a national hero with the same first and last name? How many times have you read about an Augustus Augustus or a Zordon Zordon?
Most of the information regarding TT the Hero comes from the State University, the Town of Harrison, and blurbs about the City of Purchase (Harrison and Purchase are the same place). According to them, Thomas, a distinguished and decorated member of the army, was captured as his Harrison based property was overrun by the British on November 13th, 1778, yet he deftly managed to escape and flee. Upon his return, he was named the First Supervisor to the Town of Harrison. Pretty good!
Only, I find no records of a Thomas Thomas reaching the highest rank of the Continental Army* or even being an official member. But if he was, why would he be at home in the midst of battle? Only months earlier France had entered the war (backing the rebels) and the British were actively fighting over New York. All Continental troops were actively deployed.
Who is this Major General Thomas Thomas?
In 1906, John James Currier published an in-depth history of Newburyport, MA, that includes ship manifests from the time of the Revolutionary War*. Listed within Currier’s papers is a very curious entry regarding the privateer War-Sloop, Yankee Hero*, commanded by one Thomas Thomas. Perhaps this is our man.
It seems Thomas was part-owner of several privateering ships during the revolutionary war, captaining at least two, and while that shouldn’t preclude him from the title of “hero” there is a considerable difference between profiteer and paragon.
As far as being captured goes, after his days aboard the Yankee Hero, Thomas Thomas went on to pilot the privateer Sloop-of-War, Vengeance, in 1779* and participated in the ill-fated Penobscot Expedition. After which Thomas burned his ship to the ground (to prevent its capture) and subsequently fled into the forest. Capture and escape is a convenient story when someone needs to cover their tracks, and even more convenient if running for office after a successful war.
Oh well, perhaps Mal Blum learned nothing from Thomas Thomas, she’s a musician after all – not a historian. Chalk it up to a quality upbringing.
So, despite this post going a little haywire after being sidetracked by Thomas Thomas, I dare to say:
…and now you know.