Up To The Stars

Sad news came today of the death of Bert Jansch. One of the finest guitarists of all time – and I’m not being hyperbolic here – he rose to prominence in the 60’s along with John Martyn and Davey Graham. Like them, he was astonishingly talented, and like them, he liked a drink or two. Or twenty. Saying that, unlike the somewhat difficult Martyn or the tragically lost Graham, he reined in his drinking and continued to record and perform, as well as being a gentleman who graciously accepted the plaudits rained upon him whilst giving the distinct impression he thought everyone was making a bit of a fuss about nothing.

I first heard his music thanks to the massively enthusiastic exhortations of Johnny Marr, who knows a thing or two about this most precious of arts. Marr speaks of first seeing Jansch play with Pentangle in the early ’70’s, and understanding that “all the other bands were regarded as utter lightweights, musically, physically, philosophically and lyrically”. He has a point. Whilst Jansch is ostensibly a folk guitarist, there’s all sorts thrown into the mix, R’n’B, Middle-Eastern music, you name it; with a roving, restless intelligence married to a feel for the guitar that was unparalleled. As Jansch himself explained to Will Hodgkinson in the excellent Guitar Man, most guitar playing is about getting the right feel and atmosphere rather than hitting the right notes. Though, of course, Jansch got that bit right too.

Along with Marr, he influenced the likes of Nick Drake, Jimmy Page, Bernard Butler, Devendra Banhart; oh, just anyone who’s ever picked up a guitar and wanted to make it sound more than wood and metal. Anyone who wants to make it sing and tremble. When you yourself finally shuffle from this painful earth, who is to say that you won’t be greeted at the gates of heaven by this trio of fingerpicking Gods, with Bert at their head?

MP3: Angie by Bert Jansch

Buy stuff from Amazon’s Bert Jansch Store. You’re probably best off starting with The Essential (2CD).

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1 Comment

  1. He will be missed. Pentangle was such a great group. I wish I could have seen him perform.

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