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  • Carolyn Gauthier

Performer Profile: Tom Johnston

Carolyn Gauthier, Vice President of Programs, caught up with donor and supporter Tom Johnston this week to talk about his long history with Bread & Roses Presents.

There is no mistaking the iconic sound of Tom Johnston’s voice on Doobie Brothers’ songs like Listen to the Music, Long Train Runnin’ and China Grove. His involvement with Bread & Roses goes back to the early 80s when he met our founder, the late Mimi Fariña, and did a benefit at Uncle Charlie’s in Corte Madera with the Jefferson Starship.

“Mimi was one of the nicest people I’ve ever encountered,” Johnston says. “She was a real sweetheart.” It’s no surprise that they connected, as Tom also has a heart of gold. Their many friends in common included Bonnie Raitt, Boz Scaggs, Michael Pritchard and the late Norton Buffalo, all volunteer performers for Bread & Roses.

This year the Doobie Brothers were (finally!) inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. It is a disappointment that the Hall of Fame induction ceremony has been postponed as well as the Doobie Brother's 50th Anniversary Tour. But Tom keeps a sunny attitude, spending the shelter-in-place with his wife Diane and daughter Lara.

Tom and Lara performed together for some of our institutional audiences beginning in 2007. They also played at one of our benefit concerts at Teatro Zinzanni in SF. Lara is currently a singer-songwriter working in Los Angeles and Nashville. The two of them made a cameo appearance at a Bread & Roses benefit event with Kris Kristofferson in 2019.

When Tom is not on the road, he supports us by performing at our fundraising concerts, attending other benefit events and being a member of our Circle of Advisors. He believes music is very important to the audiences we serve, especially people who are shut-in. Most of us can relate, especially at this time of greater isolation.

“Music is the universal language. It brings people up, makes us happier…. It is a wonderful thing for everyone. Music can be used as a positive force for good.”

We need that right now and always.

A favorite memory for Johnston is playing at the SF Opera House for Bread & Roses 25th Anniversary. Joining supporters like Robin Williams, Pete Seeger, Lily Tomlin, Joan Baez and others made him glad to be part of this cause. Tom, we hope you’ll be there to celebrate our 50th with us in 2024!

By Carolyn Gauthier, Vice President, Programs

1) Tom Johnston performed at our Herbst Benefit in 2003 with The Doobie Brothers and others. Photo by Andrew de Lory.

2) Tom and Lara Johnston perform at Hopmonk Novato with Kris Kristofferson in 2019. Photo by James Cacciatore.

3) Bread & Roses 25th Anniversary Benefit at SF Opera House in 200. Photo by Jay Blakesberg

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