Three Drops of Water, One Grain of Sand
November 1, 2012 6:54 PM   Subscribe

His amazing music, ranging from haunting to groovy to velvety smooth, went barely noticed for most of his life. So it's oddly fitting that his death would pass barely noticed, too. Terry Callier died in Chicago last Saturday at age 67.

After spending the 80s as a computer programmer, following a career in music that never quite took off commercially despite 6 album releases between 1964 and 1979, Terry Callier was finally and deservedly rediscovered in the 90s thanks to Acid Jazz's Eddie Pillar who decided to re-release Terry Callier's self-funded 1983 single "I Don't Want to See Myself (Without You)" which quickly became a hit in the British club scene. 1996 marked the beginning of Terry's return to music with the release of "TC in DC", the first of 8 albums to come.

He also collaborated with a range of artists on a number of tracks including such gems as the "Dolphins" cover on Beth Orton's "Trailer Park" album (1996) and "Live With Me" with Massive Attack on Terry's own album "Hidden Conversations" (2009).
posted by Hairy Lobster (22 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Dolphins is truly one of my all time favorite covers. Huge loss.
posted by TomSophieIvy at 6:59 PM on November 1, 2012

On a personal note: I still remember exactly when I first discovered Terry Callier. I had moved to LA in 1998 and I was pretty much addicted to KCRW, which at least to my knowledge was the only radio station playing decent music in the area at the time. Mind you this was before they had online playlists so I would always have a notebook and a pen on me so I could quickly jot down what the DJs were announcing.

I was on the 101 freeway when "Lazarus Man" came on (the first track linked in the FPP) and I almost crashed my car because I was so blown away by it. Had to pull over and make sure I was going to write down what this was. The track still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

RIP Terry

posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:59 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by motty at 7:38 PM on November 1, 2012

posted by Jikido at 7:45 PM on November 1, 2012

I’ve seen a sparrow get high
and waste his time in the sky
Don't you know, he thinks it’s easy to fly,
he’s a little bit freer than I

Thanks for the beautiful lyrics and music. Fly high, Terry.
posted by ashbury at 7:52 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by scody at 8:03 PM on November 1, 2012

His death was noticed by some. The NY Times had an obituary. I didn't realize he was a computer programmer (my profession). But I was really sad to hear about his death.

I only knew him because he did a duet with Beth Orton called Pass In Time about the death of her mother. It's one of the best songs on one of my favorite albums, Central Reservation. I remember the album notes said that when they met up for the duet he said to her something like "You're going to have to sing so that you sound a little more like me, and I'm going to have to sing so that I sound a little more like you." I think that came through in the song, and I think of that quote every time I hear it. RIP Terry.
posted by A dead Quaker at 8:05 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I never heard of him before, but I'm listening to Lazarus Man right now, and I understand your need to capture his name. Thanks for bringing him to my attention.

posted by benito.strauss at 8:14 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I did not know of him, but I do love Central Reservation (and Pass In Time) very very very much.


posted by parki at 8:35 PM on November 1, 2012


Fuck this death shit. Lazarus Man is one of my favorite tracks of any kind--taking the Lazarus story and giving it an "oh, fuck, didn't think about THAT possible outcome" twist. He's far better known in Europe than he ever was here, and it's a damn shame for Americans that that's the case. I saw him perform live and it was just....


posted by tzikeh at 8:37 PM on November 1, 2012

I didn't hear about Terry Callier until Ordinary Joe was remixed by the late Nujabes.

Better late than never, I guess...
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 8:52 PM on November 1, 2012


Why did he get fired from his university programming job once they found out about his music career?
posted by chillmost at 1:05 AM on November 2, 2012

Terry Callier put music career on hold to raise his only daughter -- a nice article on the Chicago Sun-Times, with a lot of background on Collier from his daughter.

Terry Callier: Farewell to a distinctive Chicago voice -- Chicago Tribune writer Howard Reich ties together an interview he had with Callier back in 1998 to a broad review of Callier's career.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:01 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aw, shit :(

posted by bifter at 2:02 AM on November 2, 2012

chillmost: Why did he get fired from his university programming job once they found out about his music career?

The Wikipedia page on Terry says that starting in 1991, he toured on his vacation time, and I read (but lost the link to the site) that he was fired for touring too much. NME eloquently wrote Callier got sacked for moonlighting.

Here's his fan-made discography on

Crikey, after hearing is voice on a few songs, I thought Terry sounded familiar from some other source. Then I re-discovered his work with Koop: In A Heartbeat.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:18 AM on November 2, 2012

right in the middle of an already depressing situation, the news of his death generated lots of print and internet headlines, and much sadness. he was well-loved here in Greece.

posted by helion at 2:28 AM on November 2, 2012

posted by thivaia at 5:24 AM on November 2, 2012

Imagine. Not that long ago, music was something heard once and it was gone. Now, we get to keep the music. Too bad we can't keep the musicians too.

posted by kinnakeet at 5:41 AM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Thanks, A dead Quaker, for some additional insight into one of my favourite songs. That's the track the introduced me to Terry Callier too, though I've been lucky enough to track down some of his other stuff since. I tracked down a couple of live performances with the two of them and I thought it was sweet how they'd keep showing up at each other's shows and appearances.

From his obituary it sounds like he was an even more interesting man than I thought, and I'm sad to see him go. RIP.
posted by chrominance at 6:06 AM on November 2, 2012

I work at "As It Happens" on CBC Radio. On Monday night, we aired a tribute to Terry Callier, and played "Ordinary Joe", which is just the best. I thought we'd listed all the travails Mr. Callier had had to go through -- a chance to tour with Etta James & Muddy Waters as a seventeen-year-old which was kiboshed (probably correctly) by his mother; his producer disappearing into the desert for three years with the master tapes for his first album. But then we got an email from a guy who suggested we call Eddie Piller, co-founder of Acid Jazz Records in London -- the label that re-released "I Don't Want To See Myself (Without You)", giving Terry Callier the audience he deserved, decades after his career had started.

Anyway, turned out Eddie Piller had a whole 'nother story about how hard it was to get Mr. Callier to agree to...much of anything. The audio's here: As It Happens: Looking for Callier

He was an amazing singer.
posted by silnlo at 7:19 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by greta simone at 11:36 PM on November 2, 2012

I've been waiting for a TC post since his death, thought I might have to make my first MeFi post in ten years.

I first heard 'Ordinary Joe' in the soul backrooms of UK dance clubs – an absolute classic. Then I heard 'I Don't Want To See Myself' in the main rooms played alongside early Chicago House - another classic, and then 'Look At Me Now' which turned out to have already been classic for years on the Northern Soul Scene.

Then I started to track more down: 'What Color is Love' an immaculate album, then 'Fire & Ice', then 'The New Folk Sound Of Terry Callier', and they just kept on coming; Jazz, soul, folk, jazzsoulfolk, track after track ... In the nineties I was abroad and missed the first of his 'return' gigs at The Jazz Café in London. But I caught the second wave by which time he was playing multiple nights at Shepherd's Bush Empire to thousands, and yet it was as intimate a gig as I've been to – everybody who saw Terry Callier left feeling that he was a friend.

His quiet death only makes everything sound all the more poignant. He was clearly a great guy, but his discography is up there with the greats and deserves to be heard. I don't doubt he'll have far greater fame in death than he had in life.

This is my favourite – Gotta Get Closer To You – a stunning slab of Modern Soul with the TC hallmark: down and up, beauty and sadness, an uplifting melancholia. (and as always with TC there's more than meets the eye – Pharaoh Sanders on sax if the comments are to be believed).
posted by niceness at 9:06 AM on November 3, 2012

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