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Folk singer Tom Paxton keeps the tradition alive at Birchmere

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Entertainment,Music,Marie Gullard

For nearly a half-century, Tom Paxton has been at the center of the songwriting and folk music community in America. Today, at 75 years old, his only real issue with the whole business is being referred to as a "legendary" folk artist.

"I don't pay any attention to that," said Paxton, who will celebrate his birthday at the center of a rousing new tour stopping at the Birchmere on Saturday night. "That kind of relativism has no place in folk music, you know? No pecking order -- none of the nonsense of the music business. [Folk music] is something, I think, that's a little more precious to me than a competition. I like appreciation [and] I love it when people love the songs, but I don't like to make a big deal out of myself," he said.

In other words, the folk community is a sincere bunch of "might-for-right" observers of the human condition, each respecting the work of all its members.

Paxton's early career took off as part of the Greenwich Village, N.Y., caf? and coffee-house scene in the early 1960s. Among a bevy of troubadours, bringing to light issues of injustice and tolerance, war and peace, and family and friends, Paxton slipped into that world like a comfortable old sweater. His roommate in the early days was Peter Stookey, of Peter, Paul and Mary.

Onstage
'Tom Paxton: 75th Birthday Celebration'
Where: The Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Info: $35; 703-549-7500; birchmere.com

Since that time, Paxton has gone on to write and record hundreds of songs, some of which include "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Ramblin' Boy" and "Bottle of Wine." He has toured internationally and, in addition to his many Grammy Award nominations, has earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

At the Birchmere, a venue he has played almost every year since the 1980s, he celebrates his diamond anniversary of life, with special guests Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer, Robin Bullock and more. His plans are to continue there, and on tour, as long as he is able to work.

"I want audiences to know that folk music ... transcends generations," he noted, a bit nostalgically. "Some of this music has been around for a couple hundred years and will last a couple hundred years more. What we do is try to add to that tradition."

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