Singer, guitarist and composer John Martyn was a folkie with a jazz soul. An accomplished and innovative guitarist, he got his start as a teenager in Britain's thriving folk scene of the 1960s. He went on to add electronics, collaborate with Phil Collins and score a hit with the British dance band Sister Bliss. Pink Floyd's David Gilmour was a fan. Beth Orton was one of many who recorded his songs.
We were deeply saddened to learn that Scottish songwriter, guitarist, and true legend John Martyn passed away early on January 29, only weeks after being awarded Great Britain's OBE (Order of the British Empire) — not bad for a rebellious lifelong Scotsman. His website announced his death with the words: "With heavy heart and an unbearable sense of loss we must announce that John died this morning." As of this writing, the cause of that death is unknown but it hardly matters. What does is that in place of that gruff, slurring, dark, smoky voice and stunning guitar playing completely of his own design, is the silence, the gap, the void, the damn black hole in life that he filled by singing those unbearably emotional songs of his.
John Martyn, a Scottish singer and guitarist whose gentle mix of folk and jazz and innovative use of electronic effects have influenced a broad range of musicians since the 1970s, died on Thursday in Kilkenny, Ireland. He was 60.
British singer-songwriter John Martyn, best known for his 1973 album Solid Air, died today, January 29th, at the age of 60. A note on Martyn’s official Website reads, “With heavy heart and an unbearable sense of loss we must announce that John died this morning.” No cause of death was provided. In a career than spanned four decades Martyn worked with artists including Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, the Band’s Levon Helm and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. But it was Solid Air that earned him most acclaim.
In the late 1960s it was a novel, far-reaching idea when folk-rooted guitarists in the United States and England began toying with the harmonies and syncopations of jazz.
One song: more musical than another?
This is the quandary my listening habits have put me in lately. Recently (well, really, for the last year or so), I've been fascinated and enraptured by the song "May You Never" by British folk singer John Martyn. Included on his 1973 album "Solid Air," the song (later covered by Eric Clapton, though I've never heard his version) is an embarrassment of melodic and rhythmic riches. Gently loping finger-picked guitar sets the song's addictively ambling tempo. Martyn's careful use of dynamics creates an awesomely percussive sound, soft and folky yet ferociously mobile, each acoustic pluck tickling the ear.
220 page biography; first in its kind and long in the making.
The Bottom Line:
"Selected On-Air Performances from the Legendary KCRW Studios"
US radio recording of Glory Box.
John Martyn is too tough to be the folk singer you remember from the '60s. Enduring several storied decades of music making, his legacy continues with a new set of modern classics.
Band in studio performance.
Broadcast recorded 12 June 1998.