Al’s Ode to John Martyn

Often a musical moment finds you in the strangest ways. Last Sunday while watching my newest favorite HBO series, True Blood, with my stepdaughter, I heard a familiar voice and a familiar tune. The voice, unmistakably Dr. John, the tune I knew, but I couldn’t place it immediately. And then it hit me like a brick. It was Dr. John doing John Martyn’s “I Don’t Want to Know.” Wow. John Martyn – one of my musical heroes from college radio, when I play albums like Sold Air quite often and absolutely loved his work. Later, when my radio career took me to Macon Georgia in the late 70s, I saw John warming up for Eric Clapton and to be honest, I felt like I was the only one who knew who John was in Macon. So, after I gathered myself, I went immediately to YouTube to see what I could find. I was saddened to see that life and time has not been kind to John.

In February, John received the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for his lifetime of achievement. The award was presented to him by his old friend Phil Collins and he was later joined on stage by John Paul Jones who played mandolin with John.

John has a vocal style that is so soulful and doesn’t mask the pain he has suffered in his life – it’s chilling at times. His guitar playing is unique, in fact years ago I discussed John’s style with Michael Hedges. While we were driving to Kent to produce a television show, Michael told me that John was his favorite guitarist and one of his major influences (which, in a way, wasn’t too surprising). So we listened to John’s music most of our drive together.

I’ve offered two videos to remind us that John is still hanging in there making music with the same passion. Here’s to you John!

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