to get insight rather than silver!
~ Proverbs 16
and the furnace for gold,
but the LORD tests the heart.
~ Proverbs 17
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.