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John Martyn (1948 - 2009) An Epitaph
on 31 January 2009
It's hard to believe (and painful to realise) that one
man's music can have been around in my life for
more than forty years and that now he is gone.
Together with Joni Mitchell this formidable singer/songwriter's albums
have formed a hugely important part of the musical soundtrack to my life.
That one day he would no longer be there was inevitable.
His was a life lived hard and lived mostly well .
Never a man to compromise. He plowed a deep and singular furrow
across the terrain of our musical consciousness.
A rich example of all that it might be to be a man
both in love with and at odds with the world.
That unique voice together with his irascible, unpredictable and larger-than-life
personality are preserved in a veritable treasure trove of superlative recordings.
There are many who hold up 'Solid Air' (1973) as his finest hour.
I have a strong affection for the mid-career project 'Glorious Fool' (1981).
The album I have chosen to accompany these inadequate reflections,
however, is Mr Martyn's second release 'The Tumbler' (1968).
There is a freshness and creative verve in these twelve songs
which belie his tender years.
The guitar technique is never anything less than prodigous.
The folk roots are barely contained by his raucous imagination.
The voice has not yet settled down into the familiar raw and ragged
textures of its later incarnation. Here it is a much lighter instrument
infused with whimsy, optimism, good humour and not a little sunshine.
Mr McNair (Flute), Mr Moses (Bass) and Mr Wheeler (Guitar)
contribute unobtrusively and sympathetically to the project.
It's hard to pick stand-out tracks when every last one is a winner.
'Dusty', as the first of Mr Martyn's songs I ever heard will forever
inhabit a small and special space in my heart.
The breathy, jazzy flute compliments the vocal performance perfectly.
Taken by itself this small composition contains the seeds of almost
everything which was to follow.
His legacy is inestimable.
Goodbye John and Thankyou.