and deceive me?
Why didn’t you tell me,
so I could send you away
with joy and singing
to the music of timbrels and harps?
~ Genesis 31
Influential folk musician and founder of the band Pentangle, Bert Jansch, died yesterday aged 67. He had been suffering from lung cancer.
Influential to many musicians throughout his career, including Led Zepplin’s Jimmy Page and The Smiths’ Johnny Marr, Jansch was born in 1943 in Glasgow and raised in Edinburgh. He moved to London in 1964 where he met producer Bill Leader, with whom he recorded his eponymous debut album. The producer sold the tape to Transatlantic Records, which released it in 1965. The record went on to sell 150,000 copies.
In 1967, Jansch formed The Pentangle (later just Pentangle) with vocalist Jacqui McShee, guitarist John Renbourn, bassist Danny Thompson, and drummer Terry Cox – the name representing the fact that they were a quintet. They performed their first live show at the Royal Festival Hall in London in May 1967, and released three successful albums in 1968 and 1969, again through Transatlantic. However, the subsequent three LPs received mixed responses, and amid a royalty dispute with their label, they moved to Warner/Reprise for the last record, 1972′s ‘Solomon’s Seal’. The album was not a success, and the band split on New Year’s Day 1973, leaving them to pay off debts to Warner until the early 80s.
During his time with Pentangle, Jansch had also continued to release solo work. He returned to this fulltime once Pentangle had split, though his personal life started to untangle after he split from his second wife Heather Sewell, who had previously inspired a number of his songs, and he began drinking heavily. Nevertheless, he still pursued interesting projects, including a concept album based on birdsong with multi-instrumentalist Martin Jenkins, and an albeit shortlived guitar shop in London, building his own acoustic guitars.
In 1982, Pentangle reformed for a tour and subsequently stayed together, though all but Jansch and McShee left the group over the next couple of years. Jansch stuck with it until 1995, when he also left and the band was rebranded Jacqui McShee’s Pentangle with no other original members amongst the line-up. However, the original line-up did reform briefly again in 2008, after receiving the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards’ lifetime achievement prize in 2007.
In 1987, Jansch was rushed to hospital and informed that his drinking was killing him. He chose to give it up completely, at which point many noted that his creativity, which had diminished somewhat, returned in full force resulting in a resurgence in his career. More recently, however, health problems continued. In 2005, he underwent heart surgery, and in 2009 he began receiving treatment for cancer.
Throughout all of this, though, Jansch continued to perform and record, as his work continued to influence a new generation of musicians. Beth Orton guested on his final (and 23rd) album, 2006′s ‘The Black Swan’, and in 2007 he performed live with Pete Doherty.
In August of this year, Jansch was forced to cancel a show in Edinburgh. A statement on his website said that “both he and his doctors were hoping he would be well enough in time to do the show, but unfortunately that has not been the case and he will be in hospital at least until next week”. He never recovered from his latest illness though, and passed away at a hospice in Hampstead early on Wednesday morning.
His booking agent John Barrow, with whom Jansch worked throughout his career, told the BBC yesterday: “He was very quietly spoken. People used to say to me: ‘He doesn’t talk much, does he?’ But when he could play the guitar like that, why should he be talking?”
He is survived by his third wife Loren Auerbach, and two of his sons, Kieron and Adam.
The king used the almugwood
to make supports
for the temple of the LORD
and for the royal palace,
and to make harps and lyres
for the musicians.
So much almugwood
has never been imported
or seen since that day
~ 1 Kings 10
These are the men David
put in charge of the music
in the house of the LORD
after the ark came to rest there.
~ 1 Chronicles 6
heads of Levite families,
stayed in the rooms of the temple
and were exempt from other duties
because they were responsible
for the work day and night.
~ 1 Chronicles 9
David told the leaders of the Levites
to appoint their fellow Levites
to make a joyful sound
with musical instruments:
lyres, harps and cymbals.
~ 1 Chronicles 15
When I first arrived to London, I held a bass guitar and my future was all about playing bass in bands and get psychedelic. When I first heard Bert’s first album, it completley shocked my world in such way, that I almost sold my bass guitar, just to become an acoustic guitar. More about this here.
He was responsible of the path I took in life, of being an acoustic guitar player. Of course, many other had influence on my music, but it was Jansch who started my crash on the guitar in the first place.
In my fantasys, I knew that some day we’ll collaborate musically. Please don’t think I’m arrogant or whatever, just that I truly became such a hardcore fan, that it felt like a meeting between us has got to happen. But, guess I was wrong. In anyway, god bless you, dear teacher. Rest in peace, and thanks for changing my life.
Four thousand are to be gatekeepers
and four thousand are to praise the LORD
with the musical instruments
I have provided for that purpose
~ 1 Chronicles 23
all of them trained
and skilled in music
for the LORD—
they numbered 288.
~ 1 Chronicles 25