«Nessuno suona come me». Anni bui per la droga. Amico di Phil Collins e Clapton, perdette una gamba per un' infezione. La regina lo onorò come Ufficiale dell' Impero.
British musician John Martyn has died aged 60. Our writer recalls a prickly encounter and examines his legend and his legacy.
Singer and guitarist John Martyn had a reputation that always preceded him. A rebel in all senses, he railed against every musical cliché and genre straitjacket they tried to pin on him – annihilating the genre barriers between folk, blues, jazz, rock and avant-garde as he bullishly rejected attempts to tame him and mould him into a sellable product.
In 'Paranoia City', the hellhole that was our home, Martyn's heartfelt concert made us feel human again.
The news of John Martyn's passing took me back to a packed gymnasium in what, at the time, was one of the most dangerous high security prisons in the country. HMP Long Lartin, a festering wound of a jail nestled in the heart of the beautiful Vale of Evesham, Worcs, held men serving some of the longest sentences in the system.
Throughout his life he kept searching for new musical forms in which to express essential themes: love, loneliness, and what it means to be alive
At the 2008 Mojo awards, where he accepted the Les Paul Award for being a phenomenal guitarist, an inspirational figure and an all-round cool guy, John Martyn gave sage, slightly slurred advice to future generations. "The power is definitely in the music, not the people," he said. "The music is the cool bit."
One song: more musical than another?
This is the quandary my listening habits have put me in lately. Recently (well, really, for the last year or so), I've been fascinated and enraptured by the song "May You Never" by British folk singer John Martyn. Included on his 1973 album "Solid Air," the song (later covered by Eric Clapton, though I've never heard his version) is an embarrassment of melodic and rhythmic riches. Gently loping finger-picked guitar sets the song's addictively ambling tempo. Martyn's careful use of dynamics creates an awesomely percussive sound, soft and folky yet ferociously mobile, each acoustic pluck tickling the ear.
Pro: One of the most influential and innovative folk musicians of the 1970s, Martyn introduced elements of jazz and blues into his sound: without his classic albums Bless The Weather and Solid Air, it's arguable that there'd be no Tunng, Four Tet or even Portishead.
Con: He's also responsible for the plague of guitar-tapping, loop-pedal-wielding idiots who batter our ears in the name of folk. Thanks, Mr Martyn, for Newton Faulkner.
BACK in 1977, when everyone who had any musical nous was pledging their allegiance to punk and ska bands, I used to spend days on end staring at the smoke-stained walls of a shabby one-bedroom flat in Lyne Street, Edinburgh, with a few close friends. The soundtrack for those long sessions was invariably John Martyn's gentle, beguiling music. Young and naïve, we thought that any man who wrote classic dope-fuelled anthems like Solid Air, One World and Bless The Weather must be a "really, really nice guy".
John Martyn has cultivated a staunch following for his improvisational picking style and mellifluous voice that has produced a mesh of jazz, blues and folk. Since his much-lauded debut releases, Solid Air and Bless The Weather, Martyn's career has been dogged by alcoholic abuse. Then, in 2003, a serious infection led to a leg amputation.
De heruitgebrachte folk-albums van John Martyn
Elk label in de jaren zestig wilde zijn eigen Bob Dylan. Island Records koos voor John Martyn, de muzikant van wie geen enkele plaat op een vorige leek. Universal brengt nu tientallen oude Island-albums opnieuw uit, waaronder die van folklegende Sandy Denny en John Martyn.
Dit voorjaar legde de BBC de laatste hand aan een documentaire over John Martyn. Hij wordt uitgezonden op BBC Four in een reeks gewijd aan de 'peetvaders van de moderne muziek'. Hoewel hij ruim 35 jaar in het vak zit geldt de Schot nog immer als een goed bewaard geheim. Een 'cult musician's cult musician'.