John Renbourn, British Folk Guitarist, Is Dead at 70

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British folk guitarist John Renbourn has died. His body was found at his home in Hawick, Scotland, on March 26. He was 70.

Renbourn had failed to show up for a concert in Glasgow on March 25, prompting a search for him. His agent, Dave Smith, confirmed the death, which appears to have been due to a heart attack.

Renbourn made his name in the Sixties as a major player in Britain’s folk community, which included Bert Jansch, Davey Graham and Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkel, then in England pursuing a solo career. Renbourn and Jansch began performing together as Bert & John, though both also secured solo recording contracts.

Together they formed Pentangle, a folk-jazz amalgam that enjoyed great success in England. Their 1969 album Basket of Light yielded the hit single “Light Flight,” which became a popular theme for a BBC TV drama, Take Three Girls. The band built a following in the U.S. as well and performed at the Newport Folk Festival and at the Fillmore West with the Grateful Dead before disbanding in 1973.

Renbourn continued to record solo in the Seventies and Eighties, with his music showing a decidedly Celtic influence. Following a return to university to earn a degree in composition, he focused on writing classical music. He continued to make solo albums, and worked in group settings and in duets with guitarist Stefan Grossman.

He performed continually throughout his life and continued to influence musicians with both his music and instruction guides. Beginning with Guitar Pieces in 1972, Renbourn wrote popular instruction books covering topics that included fingerstyle guitar and Medieval and Renaissance music.

The video below is from the DVD John Renbourn Rare Performances 1965-95, and shows Renbourn and Grossman performing Charles Mingus’s tribute to Lester Young, "Goodbye Porkpie Hat."

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