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Friday, March 27, 2015

John Renbourn passed away!

My heart is still bleeding, folks... John Renbourn has been my inspiration since early '70s, when I bought Pentangle's Reflection on Transatlantic with its folded cover so full of small and smaller and larger color pixies of John, Bert, Danny, Terry and Jacqui... a younger me was in awe, as while listening to, say, So Clear or Omie Wise, my fantasy was traveling to an exotic England, a dream I lived only a few years later... music, discs, concerts, guitars... an imaginary place I lived, day by day, from this cover artwork.

In 1976 I went to my first John's concert, in Bologna, Italy... he was playing his Guild D55 (coming in a blue Calton's guitar case), with Duck Baker and Stefan Grossman... I travelled by train and the concert was a blast for yours truly.

Not by chance I bought, owned and played a D-55, as well... down to Calton's case and peeling off the nitrocellulose lacquer and refinishing in French polish, exactly as John himself did on his Guild's.

... but back on the gig: I arrived early, so was able to have a chat with John and Stefan and Duck, as well...

I was in heaven.

The trains were stopping at night, so I was back home at 6 A.M.

I remember I stopped at a bakery and I was gifted of a fragrant, fresh baked bread.

It had the smell and flavor of freedom.

... a freedom I won on field of one of the first true concerts of many to come I attended worldwide, which still makes music my bread and butter and honey.

Never tired... hopelessly in love for the life.

I still have in my wallet a Ralph Bown card John gave to me after another concert, one of the fourteen  times I saw him alive... he wrote to me his Kingswear, Devon's address and blinked his eye.

"Come to visit... one day"

... and so I did, folks...

Next year I travelled to England with my wife and my flamenco guitar... it was same year - when in London - I called the late, missed Davey Graham and I arranged to spend three hours at his Camden Town apartment, taking a lesson but, much more, breathing the legend... and feeling so fine.

... music, again, you know...

I enjoyed Ivor Mairants and his Fylde's guitars and Denmark Street... I was in Toyland...

... and Collet's and Cecil Sharp House and Half Moon in Putney... and... and...

In a few days, heading to Devon, after Glastonbury and Stonehenge and Salisbury, I was ready - after a sort of "preparatory journey" - to reach John's house... near the sea, a tiny village... flowers and Vauxhall parked in the garden... an ancient, nice house, a cocker spaniel dog... I had some gift for John - fine wine from Italy - and the lady who hosted me and my wife was so kind... a tea, chatting... BUT John was touring Italy with Bert Jansch!!!

We spent hours at his house, chatting and visiting John's music room... the guitars hanging on the walls, piles and piles of hand-written sheet music...

I wasn't angry or deluged... the lady was so kind to let me to explore this goldmine.

... before leaving, we laughed as I taught to her vegetables names in Venetian dialect... so "eggplants" became "meansane"... "Courgettes" were "sucoi" and so on... my wife was blaming to me for my... rudeness, but John's lady was amused and we all enjoyed laughing.

... more and more times I saw John in concert, played his Bown guitar once... Stefan Grossman, in backstage, got angry with me, as he wasn't aware John himself allowed me to fingerpick his fine guitar... so we almost fucked off each other... too bad John timely arrived to explain.

I began playing John's music in mid seventies... had his "Pieces for Guitar" booklet, then all his following booklets and learned learned learned to play twenty or so of his great tunes... Luckett Sunday, Bicycle Tune, Anna Pavanna, Lady Nothynge, Bourree I & II...

The joy I still feel after decades playing John's music, the beauty of his fingerings and harmonic solutions gives to me shivers of pleasure.

John was The Hermit... his Hawick home was unique like him... unique, timeless, difficult and easy...

I have more thoughts, but everything is blurred... maybe it's far too early to express them in written form... maybe later, one day.

Only John's music has the healing power to soothe everyone who loved him and his art...

Words sounds redundant... lesser... poorer than also his tiniest trillo, vibrato or bending...

This early morning, after reading the sad news about John passing away, I was in tears, alone, in the silent house...

What I did was handling my Sovereign acoustic guitar... It was in standard tuning, so I down-tuned G to F sharp and played beloved "Bicycle Tune"... a complex tune, loop-like, yet so easy to the ears.

... and my eyes were wet, again...

John was a scholar, a teacher, a musician, an humble genius, a smiling bear, a collector, a mentor.

... and my friend, forever.

That's my humble words for him, honoring his art and uniqueness... others more clever than me wrote it better, yet I'll sincerely miss him the rest of my life, also if he'll live forever in his superb music.

1 comment:

BobG said...

Thanks for your moving tribute. I have spent time with John at his workshops and he was everything you describe. I have misty eyes just thinking about him and his music. I loved the picture of Johns house with John in the foreground. Do you have a hi-res version I could take print of.
Rob Goodwin
Aka fingerstyleguitarman on YouTube 'plainsong'