(Editor’s note: According to the Toronto Star and Winchester’s Wikipedia page, Jesse Winchester has not passed away. Our thoughts are with Jesse and his family in light of the confusion and misinformation, as he continues to struggle with cancer.)
I hate to post anything about this because I don’t want to believe that it’s true, but it’s being widely reported that Jesse Winchester has died.
He’s been fighting cancer of the esophagus since 2011. One of the premiere singers and songwriters of this or any time, Jesse is and always was a true Southern gentlemen. It’s well known that he made the decision to move to Canada at the height of the Vietnam war because he couldn’t in conscience support it, but it was not a decision he made lightly. Catapulted to success with the success of his first album, produced by Robbie Robertson, Jesse never quite broke through to the mainstream acceptance that his rich and varied talents so richly deserved, but anyone who heard him sing, listened to his albums, or caught a cut on You Tube can testify to his warmth, melancholy soulfulness and wry wit (“Rhumba Man,”anyone?)
I had the privilege of talking with Jesse once, on his first return tour after Jimmy Carter drafted amnesty to Vietnam ear protesters. When asked his reaction, Jesse replied with the downright honesty that was his trademark: “I cried.” He also said he wouldn’t have minded being a preacher, if he had to choose another profession than music. In his own way – free of sanctimony or false religiousity -he was one. This is the worst news I’ve heard in a long while. The fact that it’s not really unexpected doesn’t soften the blow.
The only consolation is that Jesse will be remembered for his body of work, a truly unique achievement in our time, and for the love and affection he seemed to stir in everyone who’s life he ever touched. Bear with me, I’m tech challenged, so can’t post all the examples of his wonderful tunes and performances for his many No Depression fans, but I hope others will. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I know ND readers will want to know of this sad story, and hope they join in celebrating his remarkable achievements, as an artist, and as one of the kindest, wisest and most talented souls to walk this planet.
Here’s a link to a report on VVN news about Jesse’s passing, with an exceptionally moving quote from Janis Ian:
RIP Jesse Winchester. As underrated a singer as Chet Baker. As underrated a guitarist as Willie Nelson. A man who held the audience in the palm of his hand without moving an inch. One of the best songwriters on earth. Damn damn damn.