Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Bert Jansch "Black Waterside"

Nothing about funerals, humanists, mortality - except in one specific sense:

I want to mark the death of Bert Jansch, and mourn for him.

People like to trace influences, estimate lineages, show off their knowledge of a genre.

All I can say is that when we first heard his first album in 1965, all of us who were trying to sing songs and play the guitar were open-mouthed. No-one we'd ever heard wove together voice and guitar like that. No-one dared sing with such a harsh, take-it-or-leave it voice. He sounded totally authentic, just his own man, and if he took a song (like this one, heard probably first by him from Annie Briggs) it became something of his own.

If you want to hear a tough song, a lament about love, lust and betrayal delivered in a totally uncompromising manner, have a watch and listen.

If you want to fancy yourself as a guitar player, approach with caution.

Don't tell me his voice is "an acquired taste." He was a phenomenon. Take him or leave him.

If you want to know more about his life, your book is "Dazzling Stranger."

Nothing else to say but goodbye, and thank you.


  1. Thanks for saying your piece about Bert. He was wonderful and is sorely missed.

  2. Lovely tribute GM - a modest man and such a fine musician.

    My memory is of a small seeming room - more a large classroom than a concert hall - in a college in Worcester. It was an evening in early summer - green leaves thronging tall windows. At the front Bert Jansch and his guitar, playing those simple seeming songs as though he was the only person in the room. And the guitar somehow scintillating.

    Did you see Pete Paphides piece in the Guardian? It has even more even more wonderful clips of Bert Jansch and Pentangle:

  3. That's it, Vale - he played and sang as though he wasn't in front of an audience - and that wasn't arrogance at all, was it? Just total immersion. He seemed to have no vanity. It was all, for him, just the music.

    No, I hadn't seen the piece. Thanks very much.

  4. Very nice tribute to a truly great singer / song writer / guitarist.

  5. He will be greatly missed by many whose lives he influenced through the years. We only met twice in 40 years but I have never forgotten his words. Sadly another great guitarist from the 60s bows out on the final curtain call.

    Doug Griffin