AS THIS ISSUE WAS GOING TO PRESS, we lost three titans of the roots music world: Richie Havens, George Jones, and Bob Brozman. Like many people, I was first introduced to Havens as the hard-strumming, gravel-voiced singer intoning, "Freedom, freedom, freedom ..." as he walked/danced offstage, acoustic guitar wedged under his arm, in die movie Woodstock (he opened the festival and played for three hours because many musicians were delayed en route). A poet, artist, and musician who drew inspiration from the fertile Greenwich Village scene in the early 1960s, Havens continued performing until 2010 but increasingly spent time on educational issues relating to the environment, cofounding the Northwind Undersea Institute, an oceanographie children's museum in the Bronx.
During the last few decades of his life Jones was considered to be "the greatest living country singer" and few would argue with that assessment. He was known as much for his erratic behavior (he once drove a lawn mower to the liquor store after his wife hid the car keys) as for his 14 No. 1 country singles from 1959 to 1983, three of which were duets with Tammy Wynette, with whom he was famously married for she years. Country music scholar Bill C. Malone wrote of Jones, "For the two or three minutes consumed by a song, Jones immerses himself so completely in its lyrics and in the mood it conveys, that the listener can scarcely avoid becoming similarly involved."
An indefatigable ambassador for the diverse and abundant music found in folk cultures around the world, Brozman seemingly never met a musician he couldn't find some common ground with. I first met the National steel guitarist at the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop in the early 1980s. As a shy bluegrass-oriented guitarist, it wouldn't have occurred to me to approach the high-energy blues and Hawaiian maestro, but we soon discovered a mutual love of Louis Armstrong and Django Reinhardt and were off to the races.
These three musicians all embodied the sense of possibility and freedom that anyone who picks up a guitar feels. They will all be missed, but their musical legacies will live on.
Enjoy the issue,
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
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