John Martyn – Au revoir Fallen Angel – Lets raise a glass and toast ‘One for the Road’ for JM
When all of the words have been written I hope John will be placed firmly where his legacy belongs, as one of the key figures that painted the canvass of rock and jazz over the last 40 years – a voice touched with raw emotion with funky guitar plugged into sophisticated musical accompaniments.
John died last Thursday 29th January 2009 at St. Lukes Hospital, Kilkenny from pneumonia. There is a service on Sunday 1st February in Kells, Co. Kilkenny and he will be cremated tomorrow.
Starting out in the 60s he set up base in London as a folk singer guitarist but it was his later experimentation with echoplex and effects pedals that became his signature. He worked closely with bassist Danny Thompson for many years and Danny’s son, Alan, followed in the footsteps of his father accompanying JM for over twenty years. It was JM’s raw emotive lyrics combined with an often slurring vocal that blended with a Jaco Pastorius-style fretless bass and keyboards to produce his unique sublime, warm, multi-layered sound.
For the last few years he had been based in Thomastown, County Kilkenny with his partner Theresa. In 2003 he had his right leg amputated following a burst cyst. His subsequent rehabliitation and recovery was featured in the BBC documentary titled <strong>’Johnny Too Bad’.
On a personal level, JM has made a major contribution to my life’s soundtrack so it was an honour to have attended his last live performance on the Grace & Danger tour at Vicar Street on Tuesday 25th November 2009. His band for the night was the usual superb trio of Alan Thomson on bass, Arran Ahmun on drums, Spencer Cozens on keybaords but with the addition of Martin Winnings on sax. Read the review of the London show at the Barbican. Watch him play ‘May You Never’ on the clip below.
‘May you never lay your head down without a hand to hold, may you never lay your bed out in the cold’