John Martyn Dies

BBC 6music website

Tributes begin for folker John Martyn who has passed away aged 60

29 January 2009 - The legendary singer-songwriter and a founder of the British folk scene has died. A post on John Martyn’s official site reads: "With heavy heart and an unbearable sense of loss we must announce that John died this morning." The cause is not yet known.

The Surrey born musician was born in 1948 and throughout his career worked with the likes of Nick Drake, Lee Scratch Perry and played with Phil Collins. The prolific songwriter, real name Ian David McGeachy, released his latest offering, Ain’t No Saint, in September 2008.
His music unites blues, folk, dub and funk and bands like U2 and Portishead have cited him as an influence.

"I think a lot of people love what he does. He’s just one of those one offs."
Phil Collins

After picking up the Lifetime Achievement award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards last year – the singer told 6 Music he hoped he still had plenty more music to make: "I will continue. I will die in harness dear boy. I don’t feel like giving in at all or giving up. I want to frolic and play for a wee long while yet."

The Genesis frontman and solo artist, Phil Collins, played drums and sang backing vocals on Grace and Danger and later played drums and produced Martyn’s record Glorious Fool. Speaking about Martyn, Collins said: "He's just his own guy and because he’s been so single minded throughout his whole career, he's earned a lot of respect and fear and he’s stuck with it. I think a lot of people love what he does. He's just one of those one offs."

On 31st December 08, Martyn was appointed an OBE in the New Year Honours.

He recorded his landmark album Solid Air in 1973 and had problems with drugs and alcohol throughout his career. The Kinks front man, Ray Davies, described Martyn -who recorded at his Konk Studios- as an 'innovator'. "He was a great, great performer. I was always struck by his stage presence and the way he put his music across. He did a lot of his own stuff; but he also interpreted other work. The great interpreters turn it in to their own music and it's just very sad. One of my heroes."

'Hell raiser'
John Martyn appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test several times when it was presented by Radio 2’s Bob Harris. He told us why the musician has such a legendary status: "He is up there with the most respected.
We’ll talk about the strength of the songs and touch on the imaginative and innovative use of guitar, the way that he played, the way that he created these rhythms, these walls of sound, samples before they were samples. People were in awe of that. The Solid Air album was the start, the pointer to this direction."

The presenter also spoke about the way Martyn commanded the stage when he performed: "He was a very strong, confrontational person and this would be the case when he was on stage. There was a crust of violence around him at certain times in his life, particularly in the mid-70s, where he had a reputation as an absolute hell raiser. There was an unattractive aspect to that because violence did figure quite strongly in his life, but as a music figure he was so respected."

More tributes

"Ah so sad... passing of a soul legend - was extremely lucky and blessed to have worked with him - he really was one of my heroes and a truly great musician, not to mention raconteur! Glad we had a chance to rock the dance floor together, and introduce him to a new generation who may never have got the chance to hear his extraordinary voice otherwise."
Sister Bliss

"I feel very empty and I can't stop shaking and it's very difficult to talk to anyone without cracking…but. I 'Bless The Weather that sent him to me'...a line from his song...also the man that wrote, 'You curl around me like a fern in the Spring', shows us the real person inside and one I will always love and miss having a cuddle and also a ruck with him again. Thank God for our time in NYC last year and we had a play together too, must have been written. Bless the weather that brought Theresa to John, her love and dedication allowed John to live his dream. There is no greater love. May God reward him with His blessing."
Danny Thompson