Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Death of Bert Jansch

Bert Jansch died yesterday.
Back in 1976 I used to listen to the radio station of Dartmouth College (WFRD) which at the time was an extremely good college radio station with many experimental programs and progressive young students programming extraordinary music of every conceivable era and style. I've often referred to that station and its programs as my true education in music.
There was a folk program called "Byways" that, as I recall, was on from Monday through Friday from about 1 to 3pm. Most of the year I was not able to catch it being still in high school, but in summer when I could practice my guitar while listening to every song I could get my ears on, that show introduced me to Tom Rush, Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs and many others.
But there was this one song that had this guitar lick that made me think that it was the master stroke of all guitar playing. There was this funny little pause in it that made it funky as all hell. Didn't sound like "folk". Maybe sounded like "jazz". Maybe sounded like "rock". It really only sounded like itself. I thought no one could ever reproduce something so genuine and so of-the-essence of music-making.
The singer croaked a story in a not-so-great voice about a sort of rogue kind of character that may have been him or herself and that hardly made any sense. When I tried to listen to the lyrics, most of the words were unintelligible but they appeared to be telling the story of a young woman being deceived by this character with a name I couldn't make out.
However, it was the guitar fills and accompaniment that always made me stop attempting to play along and just listen. Again, it seemed to me that this was like music-making *itself*. (I don't know how to put it any better than that).
Oddly it seemed I could never find out who it was playing or what the name of the song was. And when I did at last hear the name of both the artist and the song, much like the words, they didn't make sense. They weren't words that I thought existed. They seemed like just strange sounds that maybe the DJ was mispronouncing anyway.
The artist was "Bert Jansch" and the song was "Reynardine"
Bert died yesterday in London. He was only 67.

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