[*]John Martyn O
BE (born Iain David McGeachy) on 11 September 1948 in New Malden (Surrey), died 29 January 2009.
Having had the experience of working with him way back in the ‘70s, when I was the regional Promotions person for Island Records (imho, the best record company, ever)
, and seeing him perform on many occasions in all sorts of venues all over the world, I’m very sad indeed and I’m trying hard to hold my feelings in check here. The problem is that my emotions are those of a fan of his immense musical & creative talent, and also those of someone who had to deal with his, er, ’awkward’ personality from time to time - usually at an occasion that was most inappropriate or likely to be as difficult as possible for everybody else that was present at the time! Oh yes, like many others, I could tell you tales about the cantankerous, drunken, obnoxious, and downright un-lovable side of Big Bad John - but I’ve never really seen any point in that. I suspect that many artists of his calibre have a few demons and some “less-than-desirable” personality defects but, in John’s case, those traits faded into insignificance the instant he picked up his guitar and started to perform. With his catalogue of amazing songs and his unique style, he had a magical ability to mesmerise and charm audiences. And we loved him for that.
Although he started out as a ’folkie’, John wasn’t afraid to incorporate jazz, rock, reggae or contemporary influences in his music, and he wasn’t afraid to use ‘technology’ either - witness his creative use of an Echoplex machine long
before KT was even a twinkle in Mr & Mrs Tunstall’s eyes! He worked with many high-profile musicians, including his friend & long-time bass/double bass player Danny Thompson, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Phil Collins and Lee ‘Scratch‘ Perry. John had a career that spanned forty years, and he was, without a doubt
, one of the most prolific and distinctive artists of his generation.
It’s pretty well documented that John enjoyed a “rock & roll lifestyle” and that he struggled with his addiction to alcohol. However, it’s probably worth repeating his legendary quote (in Q Magazine) “If I could control myself more, I think the music would be much less interesting. I'd probably be a great deal richer but I'd have had far less fun and I'd be making really dull music."
John had a large cyst under his right knee which burst in 2003, and he had to have the lower limb amputated. Even though that required him to spend most of his time in a wheelchair, it didn‘t stop him from performing, and he was awarded an OBE in the 2009 New Year honours list.
The statement posted today on his website (http://www.johnmartyn.com
) reads: "With heavy heart and an unbearable sense of loss we must announce that John died this morning."
The cause of death has not yet been confirmed, but the music he made will live forever.