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May you never lay your head down without a hand to hold.
January 29, 2009 8:22 AM   Subscribe

John Martyn: 11th September 1948 - 29th January 2009
posted by Kiwi (35 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Rest in Peace good sir.
posted by Liquidwolf at 8:28 AM on January 29, 2009


Sad, sad news, he was one of the most moving musicians I've ever heard . . . his lyrics and music touched me in a very profound manner when I was on the bounce back from serious depression a few years ago, and have stuck with me ever since.

"Well I wish I could fly like a bat from a cave,
from darkness of my ignorance to light,
I'd forever live on the echoes of our love,
and die like some star burning bright."

RIP
posted by protorp at 8:29 AM on January 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sad to see him go, glad to have caught him live while he was here, but he surprised many by making it this far.
posted by Abiezer at 8:36 AM on January 29, 2009


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posted by RokkitNite at 8:40 AM on January 29, 2009



posted by Substrata at 8:44 AM on January 29, 2009


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posted by kenchie at 8:47 AM on January 29, 2009


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posted by pilgrim at 8:50 AM on January 29, 2009


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posted by paddbear at 8:57 AM on January 29, 2009


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posted by aesop at 9:06 AM on January 29, 2009


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posted by foleypt at 9:09 AM on January 29, 2009


I know that it isn't all that cool to cite a musician's later work, particularly if that work is a cover, but his rendition of Portishead's "Glory Box" is heart-rippingly profound.

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posted by grabbingsand at 9:11 AM on January 29, 2009


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posted by mcbeth at 9:14 AM on January 29, 2009


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posted by porn in the woods at 9:16 AM on January 29, 2009


Just heard this very sad news. I was fortunate enough to see him play live four times, the last time just in November. The beautiful, big bear of a man was as incoherently garrulous as ever, wickedly humorous and his music and voice sublime. After decades of hard and fast living, he's finally gone. Tonight, I think a drink or two to John will be in order.
posted by theCroft at 9:18 AM on January 29, 2009


I've never heard of the fellow...where to start in his catalogue?
posted by notsnot at 9:30 AM on January 29, 2009


Just playing I'd Rather be the Devil, which I love, and thinking of the time I saw him live in Glasgow in 82, and of the many late nights he provided the soundtrack for over many years. Very sad.
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posted by aisforal at 9:32 AM on January 29, 2009


Oh man, this hurts. I very closely associate John Martyn's music with my dad; the two look sort of alike, and my dad is an accomplished guitarist as well, and Bless the Weather was a regular in his LP line-up. The fact that he was three years younger than my dad is quite sobering.
posted by shiu mai baby at 9:37 AM on January 29, 2009


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posted by fire&wings at 9:37 AM on January 29, 2009


Shit, that reminds me that I need to replace Solid Air (one of those CDs that's just given up the ghost on its own, full of bitrot).

I always wish that I'd Rather Be The Devil had kept up the stomp throughout; it always needed a radio edit for mixtapes.
posted by klangklangston at 9:43 AM on January 29, 2009


Holy shit, no!


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posted by essexjan at 9:47 AM on January 29, 2009


May he never lay his head down...
posted by bonefish at 9:50 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cannot believe I never heard of this guy before this post. wow. Strange to discover a musician I would have liked all my life after he died. Better late, heh, then never. Hard to understand his English. In that video, Hurt In Your Heart, he's crying, as a song. Made me cry and think that's the first white blues I've ever heard.

when I was on the bounce back from serious depression

It's so interesting you said that. The music one listens to when recovering from a serious depression stays with one for decades and forms a sort of landmark in one's emotional terrain. Having struggled with different types and strengths of depression from pre-teen years on, certain pieces of music take me immediately to the frame of mind at the time. A pipeline to that particular struggle.

Donovan's Josie is one song that comes to mind, age 12. At 28 it was Joan Baez's Miracles on her Blowin' Away album, which has very few songs on YouTube, like Altar Boy and the Thief.

Looking for more information about John Martyn's life, I found this Google book, Danger and Grace and this interview. Looks like he struggled with intense alcoholism and its repercussions.

John Martyn's music has a rich sophistication of emotion. Really looking forward to exploring his sound. Thank you for this gift.

Condolences to his friends and family. May he rest in peace.
posted by nickyskye at 10:13 AM on January 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


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posted by qwerty155 at 10:46 AM on January 29, 2009


John Martyn - in the small hours
posted by hodge at 12:54 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


@nickyskye: John's "English" was always a weird combination of Glaswegian and Cockney combined with a drawl that became indecipherable from his music as he grew older.

For your reference, the first bit of chat from him in that video went like this...

" I've always written from personal experience. Normally in my case it would be two o clock in the morning, drunk, on my own, with a drum machine and an electric guitar. Ah, but it's just greeting (crying), moaning to yourself and complaining in general, whinging (complaining) and giving out. That's basically it, y'know it's like old poor miserable me, *giggles*, painful at the time but I'll say it's very good for you, cleansing of the soul...that's what I really like, the power of the notes, is very good for the head, sometimes you don't have to sing a damn thing, as long as your playing on something the music says it for you...".

Good luck with the rest :)
posted by theCroft at 1:47 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Contender for greatest gig of my whole life: my wife and I drove 300 miles to catch him at a tiny club in the Lake District, accompanied by Danny Thompson. He was mesmeric, both musically and emotionally. And the banter... "I niver expected to see so many in here. Did ye all just come down from the hilltops? Left the sheep up there? Ye could have brought the sheep too, I wouldna minded."
posted by MinPin at 1:49 PM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the lovely translation theCroft. I would never have been able to get that.

And charming story MinPin. What comes across from the comments and his own words was here was a man who savored his emotions, played them really, like an instrument, surfed them, explored them. I admire that in him and the beautiful effect it has on his sound.
posted by nickyskye at 3:53 PM on January 29, 2009


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posted by sconbie at 3:57 PM on January 29, 2009


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posted by omnidrew at 9:24 PM on January 29, 2009


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posted by motty at 1:39 AM on January 30, 2009


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Bless the weather that brought you to me.
Curse the storm that takes you away....

posted by El Brendano at 2:25 AM on January 30, 2009


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posted by nicolin at 10:28 AM on January 30, 2009


Goodbye, John.
posted by birdhaus at 12:23 PM on January 30, 2009


Very sad to hear that John has laid his head down at last. I just was listening to him on last.fm a few days ago; hadn't thought about him for years. I hung out with him briefly at a post-concert party (March 1 1974) in those days when he was opening for Yes. Very nice guy, enjoying life at that moment it seemed. (In contrast, with the exception of the boisterous and sociable Rick Wakeman, Yes didn't seem to want to be at the party at all).

I never understood why he wasn't more popular or better known; his records of that time, Solid Air and Inside Out, are exquisite, with the cream of English folk-rock as his backup musicians: Richard Thompson, Simon Nicol, Tony Coe, Danny Thompson, Dave Pegg, Dave Mattacks, even Steve Winwood and Chris Wood from Traffic. Probably they were too folk for some people, too jazz for others, too blues for the rest, and they got lost in the cracks.

Looking around the Internet today, I find it interesting that when he was honored last year for lifetime achievement by the BBC — Eric Clapton was quoted as saying that John was ”so far ahead of everything, it's almost inconceivable” — Martyn himself told an interviewer that the record that changed his life was Pharoah Sanders's classic free jazz album Karma. Probably not many folk-rock musicians would say that.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:07 AM on January 31, 2009


his lyrics and music touched me in a very profound manner when I was on the bounce back from serious depression a few years ago

* * *

You've been stoning it cold
You've been living on solid air
You've been finding that gold
You've been living on solid air
I don't know what's going on inside
I can tell you that it's hard to hide
When you're living on
Solid air, solid air.

You've been getting too deep
You've been living on solid air
You've been missing your sleep
And you've been moving through solid air
I don't know what's going on in your mind
But I know you don't like what you find
When you're moving through
Solid air, solid air.


Martyn's brilliant song about a man “living on solid air” was written for one of the most famously depressed musicians of all time, Nick Drake.
posted by LeLiLo at 12:27 AM on January 31, 2009


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