British guitarist and singer-songwriter John Martyn died on January 29, 2009. Best known an innovator in the folk scene with a career that lasted for more than four decades, Mr. Martyn succumbed to double pneumonia and passed away at a hospital in Ireland. He was 60.
Born in New Malden, Surrey, England, Mr. Martyn began his professional music career at the age of 17 in the 1960s London folk scene. It wasn’t long before Mr. Martyn signed a contract with Island Records and recorded his first album London Conversation. Following up with the recording The Tumbler, Mr. Martyn shifted gears and would go on to develop a distinctive sound by using a fuzzbox, phase shifter and Echoplex with his acoustic guitar. The recordings Stormbringer! and The Road to Ruin were marked by this change in sound. It was the 1974 release of Solid Air, a tribute to singer and songwriter Nick Drake, that garnered Mr. Martyn wide acclaim and success.
Throughout his career, Mr. Martyn would release twenty studio albums and another fourteen albums. They include 1977’s One World, Sapphire released in 1984, Cooltide released in 1991, the 2000 recording Glasgow Walker and the 2004 recording On the Cobbles. He also released the live recordings of Live at Leeds and More in 1975, Live in 1994 and The Battle of Medway: July 17, 1973 released in 2007.Ain’t No Saint, a 40-year anthology, was released in 2008. Mr. Martyn also worked with such artists as Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, Levon Helm from the Band and Steve Winwood. He also collaborated with reggae star Lee “Scratch” Perry on the recording of One World.
A 2003 injury that led to part of his right leg being amputated kept Mr. Martyn from touring, but he did make an appearance with long time collaborator and bassist Danny Thompson at New York’s Joe’s Pub in 2008. Also in 2008, he received a lifetime achievement award at the BBC’s Radio 2 Folk Awards and in 2009 earned the title of an officer of the Order of the British Empire.
Mr. Martyn is survived by companion Theresa Walsh, and children Wesley, Spenser and Mhairi McGeachy.