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John Martyn

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John Martyn
Martyn in 2006
Martyn in 2006
Background information
Birth nameIain David McGeachy
Born(1948-09-11)11 September 1948[1]
New Malden, Surrey, England
Died29 January 2009(2009-01-29) (aged 60)
Thomastown, Ireland
GenresFolk blues, progressive folk, folk-rock, folk jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsGuitar, vocals
Years active1967–2009
LabelsIsland, WEA

Iain David McGeachy OBE (11 September 1948 – 29 January 2009) was a Scottish singer, guitar player and songwriter. His stage name was John Martyn. He made music for over 40 years. He made 23 studio albums. Most of his music was folk rock and blues.

Martyn started making music when he was 17. He was in the Scottish folk music community. His music was inspired by English folk music and American blues. He joined Island Records and started making albums. He started to make his music sound similar to jazz and rock. His most popular albums were Bless the Weather (1971), Solid Air (1973) and One World (1977). He made music with other people, such as Phil Collins. He kept making music until he died in 2009.

Career[change | change source]

1960s and 1970s[change | change source]

Martyn became a musician when he was 17. He played a mix of folk music and blues. This made him an important person in the British folk music community in the 1960s.[2] In 1967, he joined Island Records, a record label. He released an album named London Conversation in 1967.[3] One year later, he released The Tumbler.[4]

Martyn had a special way of playing the guitar. He played the acoustic guitar, but used many effect pedals with it.[5] This made the guitar sound different. The first time he played the guitar in this way was on Stormbringer! in 1970. He made this album with his wife, Beverley Martyn. He made two albums with his wife.[2] The second is named The Road to Ruin.

In February 1973, Martyn released Solid Air. The song "Solid Air" was made for singer Nick Drake.[6] The album sold many copies. In 2009, a new version of Solid Air was made. It had more songs on it. A few months later, he made Inside Out. This album was about improvised music. Later, he made more music. He visited Jamaica, and met Lee Perry. Perry was a music producer, and worked with Martyn to make new music.[7][8]

In 1977, he released One World. Many musicians helped Martyn make the album, such as Rico and Steve Winwood. Lee Perry helped him make the song "Big Muff". The album was influenced by dub music because of Perry.[9] In 1978, he played guitar on Harmony of the Spheres by Neil Ardley.[10]

1980s and 1990s[change | change source]

Martyn in 1978

At the end of the 1970s, Martyn's marriage got worse.[11] Some say that this was because he was addicted to drugs and was an alcoholic.[12] Beverly said that John hurt her.[13] Martyn said this was a "very dark" time in his life.[14] Because of this, he made the album Grace and Danger. Phil Collins played the drums on the album. It was released in October 1980. Chris Blackwell, the owner of Island Records, did not want to release the album. This was because he was a good friend of Martyn and Beverley. He thought the album was too sad to release. Martyn wanted him to release the album, so he did.[14] In the late 1980s, Martyn said Grace and Danger was his favorite album.[14] It is one of his most popular albums.

In 1981, Martyn left Island Records. He joined WEA, another record label. He made two more albums: Glorious Fool and Well Kept Secret. Both of these albums went into the top 30 on the UK Albums Chart.[2] He left WEA after making the albums, and joined Island Records again. He made three albums with Island, and then left the record label again in 1988.

Martyn joined Permanent Records and made two albums. These were The Apprentice (1990) and Cooltide (1991).[15] Phil Collins helped him make No Little Boy in 1993. This album had new versions of some of his older songs. In the late 1990s, Martyn started mixing his music with trip-hop. Some of his albums that had this type of music were And and Glasgow Walker.[16][17]

2000s[change | change source]

Martyn had to have his right leg amputated below the knee. This was because a cyst opened on his leg, and he got sepsis.[18] In July 2006, BBC made a documentary named Johnny Too Bad about this time.[19] The documentary was also about Martyn writing and making music for On the Cobbles. This was an album that was released in 2004. The album had a more acoustic sound.[20]

On January 29, 2009, Martyn died in Thomastown, County Kilkenny, Ireland.[21] He died because of acute respiratory distress syndrome. He had been living in Thomastown with his wife, Theresa Walsh.[22] Martyn was put in the Order of the British Empire in 2009. Walsh accepted the award at Buckingham Palace for him.[23] His last studio album, Heaven and Earth, was finished in 2011.[24][25]

Studio albums[change | change source]

  • London Conversation (1967)
  • The Tumbler (1968)
  • Stormbringer! (1970)
  • The Road to Ruin (1970)
  • Bless the Weather (1971)
  • Solid Air (1973)
  • Inside Out (1973)
  • Sunday's Child (1975)
  • One World (1977)
  • Grace and Danger (1980)
  • Glorious Fool (1981)
  • Well Kept Secret (1982)
  • Sapphire (1984)
  • Piece by Piece (1986)
  • The Apprentice (1990)
  • Cooltide (1991)
  • Couldn't Love You More (1992)
  • No Little Boy (1993)
  • And (1996)
  • The Church with One Bell (1998)
  • Glasgow Walker (2000)
  • On the Cobbles (2004)
  • Heaven and Earth (2011)

Other websites[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Biography". Johnmartyn.com. Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Hartenbach, Brett. "John Martyn: Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  3. "London Conversation (1967)". The Official John Martyn Website. 4 April 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  4. Hartenbach, Brett. "The Tumbler > Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved 2022-08-16.
  5. Jones, Chris. "John Martyn: Solid Air". BBC Music. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  6. "The Official John Martyn Website | Maverick singer, songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire!". Johnmartyn.com. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  7. "One World: The Story of John Martyn and Lee "Scratch" Perry". In Sheeps Clothing. Retrieved 2023-03-26.
  8. Team, uDiscover (2020-06-25). "John Martyn". uDiscover Music. Retrieved 2023-03-26.
  9. His obituary in The Times states that "The record's dubby, echoing soundscapes have been claimed as the forerunner of the 'trip-hop' style that emerged in the 1990s."
  10. Admin (1979-01-02). "Harmony Of The Spheres (1979)". John Martyn. Retrieved 2023-03-26.
  11. "The wild man of folk dies aged 60". The Independent. 30 January 2009. Archived from the original on 13 June 2022. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  12. Obituary: "John Martyn: guitarist and singer", The Times, 30 January 2009, pg. 75.
  13. Beverley Martyn, Jacki Dacosta, Sweet Honesty – The Beverley Martyn Story; ISBN 978-1-90721-188-1, Grosvenor, 2011
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "John's Diary 1980s — Martyn's biography on his website". Johnmartyn.com. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  15. Some People Are Crazy - the John Martyn Story - John Neil Munro (Polygon 2007)
  16. Bamyasi, Eddy (2020-04-20). "John Martyn Albums Ranked From Worst To Best". 6 Album Sunday. Retrieved 2023-03-26.
  17. "John Martyn". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  18. "John Martyn: Pioneering singer-songwriter who blended folk with jazz and played with Eric Clapton and Dave Gilmour – Obituaries – News". The Independent. 30 January 2009. Archived from the original on 13 June 2022. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  19. "Johnny Too Bad". Bbc.co.uk. 1 January 1970. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  20. "Biography Part 5". Johnmartyn.com. Retrieved 11 July 2020.
  21. "John Martyn's last appearance in Kytelers". Advertiser.ie. 6 February 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  22. "UK | Scotland | Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West | Songwriter Martyn dies, aged 60". BBC News. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2015.
  23. "Partner collects folk singer John Martyn's OBE for services to music". Big Muff The John Martyn Pages. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  24. "John Martyn's final recordings to be released". The Guardian. 27 April 2011. Retrieved 19 July 2020.
  25. Edwards, Mark (15 May 2011). "John Martyn Heaven and Earth". The Sunday Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 19 July 2020.