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The Scottish-born guitarist Bert Jansch inspired a wide range of musicians, from Paul Simon to Neil Young, who compared Jansch's guitar playing to an acoustic Jimi Hendrix. And then there's Jimmy Page, who took a Jansch folk song and turned it into a Led Zeppelin rocker.
Bert Jansch died early this morning in London of lung cancer at age 67. He was one of the central figures of the British folk music scene of the 1960s and '70s.
NPR's Tom Cole has this appreciation.
TOM COLE, BYLINE: Bert Jansch recorded his self-titled first album in 1965 in his producer's home. It went on to sell a reported 150,000 copies and included a striking original about heroin.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEEDLE OF DEATH")
BERT JANSCH: (Singing) When things go wrong each day, you fix your mind to escape your misery.
COLE: It also included an instrumental that Jansch learned from another accomplished British guitarist, Davey Graham, called "Angie."
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "ANGIE")
PAUL SIMON: He really slapped strings. He really pulled them and pushed. He was really strong and, you know, that was very much his style. I don't know if he invented it, but I associate it with him a lot.
COLE: Paul Simon, who was living in London at the time, learned "Angie" from Jansch and later recorded it. They were both playing in the city's folk clubs.
SIMON: Which, in England, at the time, were really just rooms above a pub and you'd play to, like, 75 people, something like that.
COLE: At the time, Bert Jansch shared an apartment with another guitarist and told the BBC in 2008 that they got tired of playing the folk clubs.
JANSCH: I was sharing a flat with John Renbourne and me and John, because we were playing together at that point, we decided that we should open a club that was just us and invite all sorts of people along that we fancied. And, basically, that's how it started.
COLE: It was the group Pentangle, and the people they fancied were singer Jacqui McShee, bass player Danny Thompson and drummer Terry Cox. They fused backgrounds in traditional folk, blues and jazz into a fresh take on British folk music.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIFE FLIGHT")
PENTANGLE: (Singing) Let's get away, you say, find a better place miles and miles away from the city's race. Look around for someone lying in the sunshine marking time. Hear the sighs, close your eyes.
COLE: The new style came to be dubbed folk baroque and it was an essential part of a music scene that saw such bands as Fairport Convention blending traditional folk with rock.
After the original Pentangle broke up in 1973, Jansch settled into life on a farm, but after two years, hit the road again performing solo. Paul Simon says that's who Jansch was.
SIMON: He was close to an English version of Dylan, the sort of wild rebel in his lifestyle. In his playing, he was just an extraordinary player.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
COLE: Bert Jansch struggled with alcoholism. He finally got sober and, by the mid-1990s, was performing and recording again.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)
JANSCH: (Singing) Don't want no-one around if I can't have you, babe. Don't want no-one if I can't have you.
COLE: Bert Jansch continued performing until this past August, when he joined a reunited Pentangle. His last album was released in 2006 and included collaborations with such younger musicians as Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart.
Just months ago, Jansch told the BBC how much he loved the interest his music drew from young players.
JANSCH: It's always surprising me that I meet young people who are obviously not of my generation and yet, they're coming back 'round to the music I was listening to. So it's, like, fantastic, you know.
COLE: There's a lot to be heard in the music Bert Jansch was listening to, but even more in the music he played. Tom Cole, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HIGH DAYS")
JANSCH: (Singing) I got the lady from Baltimore stuck on my mind, bringing back those high days when we would hang around. You play your guitar, but you never ever finish the song. Didn't matter then and I guess it doesn't matter now.
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