John Martyn

Driving back from an away day today, I tuned into BBC London 94.9 and found Danny Baker was playing non-stop John Martyn. It was a shock to discover the great man had died this morning. Well, not such a shock, given Martyn’s history of substance abuse.

And yes, his lifestyle was far removed from my Christian ethic. A brawling boozer. (How did he relate that to the Buddhism of his later years?) Yet one who had a way with a tender song. He hardly ever charted, but surely millions know the wonderful May You Never:

Maybe the beautiful Head And Heart:

Then, Solid Air, the song he associated with his late friend Nick Drake:

Or the love found and lost of Bless The Weather:

The echoplex masterpieces such as Glistening Glyndebourne:

An album like Grace And Danger was a divorce album to rank with Marvin Gaye‘s Here, My Dear. One World fused dub way before trip-hop was apparently invented in Bristol. Later, tracks like Sunshine’s Better 

would cross over into dance circles, although he was surely the godfather of chillout. (I remember Robert Elms playing that one to death.) That, along with his appearance on the Sister Bliss track Deliver Me:

There are several other tracks where it was difficult to track down video clips – Lonely Love or John Wayne from Piece By Piece, for example. I associate the former with a girl I rather liked. The feelings weren’t reciprocated!

There’s no theology in this, no punch line, just a deep sadness and sense of loss that someone whose music has given me great pleasure over thirty-five years is gone at the age of sixty.


  1. Pingback: John Martyn Video
  2. Thanks for putting this page together. I was struggling to remember the name of the song “Sunshine’s Better” which I remember from Robert Elms playing it again and again and again on Radio London.

    I once heard a story about John Martyn playing a gig with a plastic toy frog in his mouth. His distinctive vocal style included much mumbling and slurring of his words, and he had such a sense of humour that he could do something like this as a way of playing on that.


  3. Glad to be of service, if on a sad occasion. I think Robert Elms used to play the Talvin Singh remix of ‘Sunshine’s Better’, which – if memory serves me correctly – was on one of those Café Del Mar chillout CDs.

    I like the story about the plastic frog!


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