Country Joe's Place

John Aloysius Fahey

February 28, 1939 - February 22, 2001


Listen: Listen to my musical tribute "Thinking of John Fahey"
in RealAudio

Go to John Fahey's site and contribute to his guestbook

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From the Los Angeles Times:

Salem, Ore. -- John Fahey, an eccentric folk guitarist heralded as a unique alchemist of American roots music and a powerful influence on his peers, died Thursday. He was 61.

Mr. Fahey has been hospitalized since last week in Salem, Ore., after complaining of chest pain and, early this week, underwent a heart bypass that led to kidney failure, according to his close friend, guitarist Leo Kottke. Mr.

Fahey slipped into a coma after a second heart surgery on Thursday and was removed from life support hours later.

Mr. Fahey's music defied tidy categorization, with experimentations that mined the blues of the Mississippi Delta, melodies of the Scottish Highlands or the ragas of India.

Born John Aloysius Fahey in Takoma Park, Md., he spent many days of his youth fishing the waters of Chesapeake Bay or listening to music -- both of his parents were accomplished pianists and they took their son to numerous concerts.

In 1957, he heard a Blind Willie Johnson song that mesmerized him and he began combing the south for old blues recordings that would shape his musical mindset. His own foray into recording would become an instant rarity -- famously, only 95 copies were made of his first album, "Blind Joe Death," in 1959.

After earning a bachelor's degree from American University in Washington, D. C., he studied at the University of California at Berkeley before getting his master's degree in folklore and mythology at the UCLA. Mr. Fahey's music career blossomed after college and, eventually, he would put out more than three dozen albums. His music was the backdrop to the film "Zabriske Point," but, generally, he defied mainstream success. In recent years, his personal life was marked by medical problems, alcoholism and financial woes.

His most loyal following may have been by other guitarists, and his influence can be traced to rock bands like Sonic Youth and Mazzy Star and -- to his frustration -- many in the ranks of New Age artists. "This New Age music is all background music. . . . I've tried to write some because it sells well, but I'm incapable," Mr. Fahey told the Los Angeles Times in 1989.

Mr. Fahey also mentored Kottke, the noted guitarist whose style is perhaps closest in sensibility to his own. "John created living, generative culture," Kottke said yesterday in a statement. "With his guitar and his spellbound witness, he synthesized all the strains in American music."


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