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A Home Where Love Lived
A Medford Lakes log cabin embodies the spirit of the ’60s
By Sally Friedman

Photography by David Michael Howarth

When it came to house hunting, musician David Fox had a very long list of requirements. He resolved to be scientific and steadfast, knowing he might not be lucky enough to get all the “must haves.” After all, this was a quest for uniqueness; a location near water, a stone fireplace, a cathedral ceiling, skylight and definitely, absolutely, great charm.

And then came a day when he and his significant other, his beloved Diane Smith, walked into a half-log sided, framed cottage in Medford Lakes that seemed straight out of a dream.

“We can’t be too enthusiastic,” Fox told Diane.

True to form, she cried out in delight – and within earshot of the real estate agent – “Where do we sign? Where do we put the money down?” So much for the blasé reaction.

That home, nestled in trees in a storybook setting, brought great joy to Fox and then great sorrow. It was where he and Smith made their home, and where some of his most meaningful songs were composed and recorded. But it is also haunted by the memories of his lost love, the often-exuberant Smith.

Truth be told, the property offers built-in advantages for processing loss. Along with its cozy rooms, innate warmth and wonderful feeling of simplicity, there’s a sense that peace lives in this protected area in the Pine Barrens. It’s a place where colors and textures are understated, and nature is a permanent guest. There is also the music and spirit of the 1960s that informs everything, but that comes later.

Back to nature first. An outdoor porch sets the tone – as if begging to be an extension of the life inside, but serving as a tranquil place to sit and take it all in.

Step inside the cozy entry, and the log cabin seems to unfold. The blend of traditional log, multiple windows and the huge expanse of wood provides an open feeling wrapped around defined spaces. The beautiful simplicity makes you realize simple doesn’t have to mean dull.

Case in point: Oriental rugs connect living-room and dining spaces that seem embraced by the window-lined kitchen. Outside those windows, the outdoor patio is surrounded by lush trees.

While visitors may have a hard time prying themselves from these natural elements, it is necessary to switch gears for what’s ahead.

One of the hallmarks of this Jersey-born musician is his passion for doing it all: creating, composing, playing multiple instruments, singing and performing for live audiences. Back in the day, Fox opened for some of the most iconic ’60s performers, including Janis Joplin, David Bromberg, Brewer & Shipley and Blood Rock. So, it’s perhaps not surprising that the small cabin houses a full-scale music studio.

That would be Fox’s beloved “home within a home.” Like the rest of the house, the studio is cozy and warm. As he explains, it’s filled with technology of a more vintage variety. It’s there where he creates, polishes and perfects songs, losing himself in the recording of original compositions. Within arms-reach, there are drums, keyboards and numerous guitars, some artfully hanging on the wall and others parked by the sound-mixing console.

And then there are the Beatles.

Sure, some fans have Fab Four memorabilia that carries them back to the turbulent ’60s, serving as a springboard to memories both personal and societal. For Fox, it goes deeper. A highlight of his musical life came in 2000 when he was awarded a grand prize in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, an international competition.

Truly, Lennon and the three other lads from Liverpool occupy a very special place in his heart and history – and, naturally, in his home. Throughout the studio and splashed across the rest of the cabin, John, Paul, George and Ringo are all around. Collectibles, many saved in pristine condition from the magical mystery days when the Beatles were together, occupy prime real estate on walls, bookshelves and table space. His memorabilia include album covers, a 3-D Abbey Road crossing and other figurines from various Beatles periods. Artful album covers (remember vinyl?) hold court at different spots throughout the cabin.

“This was more than music,” Fox says of his Beatles collection. To him it was a movement, a phenomenon and a significant musical revolution that lives within him and with him in a home that reflects the revolution.

This is from a man who first heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” coming over his transistor radio during a spirited touch football game in his teens. He recalls stopping in mid-play, stunned upon recog­nizing immediately that something truly remarkable was happening.

His other great love came just a few years after the break-up of the Fab 4. Perhaps not surprisingly, he met Smith at one of his gigs. It was 1972 and Fox was performing in Camp Hill, Pa, near Harris­burg. He noticed her instantly and was delighted when she came up to him during the show. Their relationship was long-distance when they first saw the Medford Lakes cabin. Fox joyously outfitted it with patterned rugs and print couches that mesh well with psychedelic rock portraits, lava lamps and throw pillows.

While the Beatles were and are a profound influence on his music, Smith was Fox’s muse. A soaring spirit and sense of life and joy were her trademark, he says. That spirit remained high throughout her battle with emphysema , when Fox was her caretaker in the home they built together. She passed in 2013.

Haunted by her memories, Fox chose not to run away from them. Instead, he did what comes most naturally to him: he made music. Fox recorded the album “Driving By the Light of the Moon” in the log cabin. He says it has helped him process the experience of loving so deeply and losing. Among the 12 songs, titles include: “If Only I Could Hear that Laugh Again” and “The Better Love Is, The Harder Love Is to Lose.” The album is currently available on Amazon.

“Music is my language,” he says, “in good times and in bad. I definitely have known both here.”

 

April 2019
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