photo by Bettina Herzner
When I first heard that he was going into the hospital this past February with sextuple bypass surgery plus repair of a mitral valve (!), I tried to reassure myself and others that John Fahey would be OK if he followed the doc's orders and took the right meds. The ravages of time and hard living were a little too much to overcome though. Dean Blackwood, John's partner at the new label he'd set up called Revenant, sent out this news on February 22nd:
A Tribute: Compiled by Jason Gross (May 2001)
"... Wednesday night, his kidneys had shut down and, following a further unsuccessful heart procedure Thursday morning, he was placed on life support. He was removed from life support sometime around 11 am today.
"Thanks to all who befriended John over the years. He wasn't always good at expressing it, but he definitely got a kick out of people."
And so it goes. Following this, the obits rehashed and reproduced old bios, saying the same things over and over again, with the same inaccuracies. Solo acoustic guitarist, started two labels for his own work and archive material, hard drinker, cantankerous son-of-a-bitch, went electronic in his last few years and got the ear of the alt crowd, blah, blah, blah... As a codger who loved to play around with 'facts' and identities on his own albums, I'm sure John would get a kick out of that.
I was gonna be damned if I left it at that though. I'd only interviewed him twice and met him once briefly but even from just that, it was obvious that there was so much to John that hadn't been said. With that in mind, I spoke to Dean about his work with John and Revenant as well as interviewed John's old friends like Barry 'Dr. Demento' Hansen (who produced some of John's albums) and pianist George Winston (who was given his first break in the biz by Fahey). Another important piece of history is the article that Byron Coley wrote for Spin Magazine in 1994 about John (appearing here in a different version) as well as his thoughtful look at John's work in the '90's. Finally, there's the 2 1/2 year old interview I did with John about his recent work and his unsentimental view of his fans and his past. Hopefully, this will provide a more complete view of one of the most unique, complex, contradictory musical figures in the 20th century.
See the rest of our John Fahey tribute
Dean Blackwood/Revenant Byron Coley on the '90's Byron visits John Dr. Demento George Winston Fahey interview
Also see our interview with Revenant's Dean Blackwood
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