|August 12, 2011|
DANNY BROOKS SOULED OUT -by Greg Quill/ TORONTO STAR
“Music is of the devil,” Danny Brooks was told by his father when the 15-year-old singer decided on a career in Rock n’ Roll. Bill Middlebrook (son Danny reinvented himself in the 1980s by shortening his name) knew very little about the music business. But he had lived on a low road in his early years and had seen plenty around Toronto’s boogie dives in the 1940s and`50s. He’d witnessed the legendary Zaniacs, pre-punk rockabilly revolutionaries, masturbating on stage. That was enough for Middlebrook. He offered his son a choice: Renounce the devil’s music or leave home. Danny packed his bags and soon found himself on Rock n’ Roll’s greasy highway, bound, not for glory, but for his darker self. “My father was an alcoholic and a gangster in Toronto’s west end before he came to the Lord,” Brooks says in the comfortable living room of the farmhouse he shares with his wife, Debbie and daughter in the rolling hills east of Guelph, Ontario.
“My father lost everything before he found his faith,” says Brooks. “Then, for the next 35 years, he spread the word and tended to people who were needy. Around Regent Park and in the Jane-Finch area they called him the Bread Man because he’d distribute day-old loaves from one of the big bakeries. He used to make my brother (now a missionary in Liberia) and sister stand on Coke boxes and recite memorized passages from the scriptures. He was a fixture around Toronto, he used to stand on street corners with a bullhorn spreading the word of Jesus.
After years of struggle in the Rock n’ Roll trenches of Toronto, Nashville and Los Angeles, addiction to alcohol, speed and heroin, as well as a monstrous spiritual and physical breakdown in the mid-1980s and a life-changing rehabilitation at Toronto’s Donwood Institute, Brooks has emerged as a new star in contemporary Gospel music.
“In 30 years in this business,” says Brooks’ bass player, Dennis Pinhorn, “I’ve never met anyone like him. He’s incredibly hard-working and considerate. His songs light a fire. I’m no Christian, but Danny’s an original. He walks the walk”.
“I’m not here to preach to anybody,” insists Brooks, who, since 1991, has played for prison inmates all over the province, telling stories of his spiritual turnaround. “I volunteer,” he explains. “In the Bible, it says: To whom much is given, much is required. Having spent time in jail myself —six months of a 15-month sentence for robbing a gas station and several break-ins —I figure it’s the least I can do. “Besides, I’m doing what I’ve been doing all along, what any songwriter does —putting my own experience into musical form. I’m not crusading. But I’m not hiding, either.
From God, and the ideas and feelings that are important to me. As as songwriter, I’ve learned there’s a great power in music. I can do things with the gifts I’ve been given that may make people’s lives a little better, give them some hope”.