Singer/songwriter Jesse Winchester passed away today from cancer (dammit!), aged 69. He had been gravely ill for some time, and earlier this week there were premature reports of his passing. There will be lots of tributes from other singer/songwriters and folkies, remembering his four-decade career.
We didn’t hear his recordings much on the radio, but other performers treated him well. My own experiences include two songs that Emmylou Harris covered, “Defying Gravity” and “My Songbird” (from Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town), Jimmy Buffet’s version of “Biloxi” (from Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes), and one or two others. Around the time I was becoming aware of these, Jesse had broken through on the radio locally with his “Wintry Feeling,” a song that I always thought had great atmosphere to it. AllMusic.com tells me he had other radio hits, but I didn’t hear them — kind of unusual for me, given his connection to both Canada and the U.S. and my proximity to radio from both countries. Another brilliant song of his that came my way later was “Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” which I’ve heard recorded by several performers including Lyle Lovett.
Next time I do an open mic (who knows when that’ll be), I’ll have to try to work in “Defying Gravity,” the only song of his I ever performed myself. I always liked its quirkyness as well as its sincerity.