John Martyn (singer)

John Martyn (singer)

Infobox musical artist
Name = John Martyn

Img_capt = John Martyn, 1978
Img_size =
Landscape =
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Iain David McGeachy
Alias =
Born = birth date and age|1948|9|11|df=y
New Malden, Surrey, England
Died =
Origin = London, England
Instrument = Vocals, guitar
Genre = Folk
Occupation = Singer-songwriter, guitarist
Years_active = 1965–present
Label = Island
Associated_acts =
URL = []
Notable_instruments =

John Martyn (born Iain David McGeachy on 11 September 1948 in New Malden, Surrey, England ["Some People Are Crazy - the John Martyn Story" - John Neil Munro (Polygon 2007)] ) is a British singer-songwriter and guitarist. Over a forty-year career he has released twenty studio albums and worked with artists such as Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, and Phil Collins.


Early life

Martyn was born in New Malden, Surrey, England. Martyn's parents, a pair of opera singers, divorced when he was five and he spent his childhood alternating between England and Scotland. Much of this was spent in the care of his grandmother. His strongest ties are in Glasgow, and he attended Shawlands Academy there.

Late 1960s and collaborations with Beverley Martyn

Mentored by Hamish Imlach, John Martyn's professional musical career began when he was seventeen, playing a blend of blues and folk that resulted in a unique style that made him a key figure in the London folk scene during the mid-1960s. He signed to Chris Blackwell's Island Records in 1967 and released his first album, "London Conversation", the following year.

This first album was soon followed by "The Tumbler", which was moving towards jazz. By 1970 Martyn had developed a wholly original and idiosyncratic sound: acoustic guitar run through a fuzzbox, phase-shifter, and Echoplex. This sound was first apparent on "Stormbringer!" in 1970, which featured Martyn's then wife, Beverley Kutner, as his collaborator. She also appeared on "The Road to Ruin" in 1970.


In 1973, Martyn released one of the defining British albums of the 1970s, "Solid Air", the title song a tribute to the singer-songwriter Nick Drake, a close friend and label-mate, who in 1974 died suddenly from an overdose of antidepressants. On this album, as with the one that preceded it, "Bless the Weather", Martyn collaborated with jazz bass player, Danny Thompson, with whom he proceeded to have a fruitful musical partnership which continues to this day. He also developed a new, slurred vocal style, the timbre of which resembled a tenor saxophone.

Following the commercial success of "Solid Air", Martyn quickly recorded and released the experimental "Inside Out", a more difficult album with emphasis placed on feel and improvisation rather than song structure. In 1974, he followed this with "Sunday's Child". In September of the next year he released a live album, "Live at Leeds"—Martyn had been unable to convince Island to release the record, and Martyn resorted to selling individually signed copies by mail from his home. "Live at Leeds" features Danny Thompson and drummer John Stevens, and is notable not only for the performances given, but the recording quality and incredibly quiet audience for a live recording. After releasing "Live at Leeds", Martyn took a sabbatical, including a visit to Jamaica, spending time with famous reggae producer Lee "Scratch" Perry.

In 1977, he released "One World", which led some commentators to describe Martyn as the "Father of Trip-Hop". It included tracks such as "Small Hours" and "Big Muff", a collaboration with Lee "Scratch" Perry. "One World" is notable for having been recorded outside, the album's lush soundscapes are partly the result of microphones picking up ambient sounds, such as water from a nearby lake.

1980s and breakup of marriage

Martyn's marriage to Beverley finally broke down at the end of the 1970s and, according to his official website, "John hit the self destruct button". Out of this period, described by Martyn as "a very dark period in my life" [ "John's Diary 1980s" - Martyn's biography on his website] ] , came the album "Grace and Danger".

Released in October 1980, the album had been held up for a year by Island boss Chris Blackwell. He was a close friend of John and Beverley, and found the album too openly disturbing to release. Only after intense and sustained pressure from Martyn did Blackwell agree to release the album.

Commenting on that period, Martyn said, "I was in a dreadful emotional state over that record. I was hardly in control of my own actions. The reason they finally released it was because I freaked: Please get it out! I don't give a damn about how sad it makes you feel—it's what I'm about: the direct communication of emotion. "Grace and Danger" was very cathartic, and it really hurt."

In the late 1980s Martyn would cite "Grace and Danger" as his favourite album, and said that it was "probably the most specific piece of autobiography I've written. Some people keep diaries, I make records." The album has since become one of his highest-regarded, prompting a deluxe double-disc issue in 2007, containing the original album remastered.

Phil Collins played drums and sang backing vocals on "Grace and Danger" and subsequently produced Martyn's next album, "Glorious Fool", in 1981.

Martyn left Island records in 1981, and since then his recording output has been characterised more by re-recordings and re-releases of classic tracks through several labels than by original material.

1990s and beyond

In 2001 Martyn appeared on the track "Deliver Me" by Faithless keyboard player and DJ Sister Bliss.

In July 2006 the intimate documentary "Johnny Too Bad" was screened on BBC. [ [ Johnny Too Bad] ] The programme documented the period surrounding the operation to amputate Martyn's right leg below the knee (the result of a burst cyst) and the writing and recording of "On the Cobbles" (2004), an album described by Peter Marsh on the BBC Music website as "the strongest, most consistent set he's come up with in years."

Currently residing in Ireland, Martyn is still touring. He continues to write and collaborate with various artists. He recorded a ballad entitled "Really Gone" with Ultan John which was released in November 2006. [ [ Ultan John homepage] ]

On 4 February 2008, Martyn received the lifetime achievement award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards. The award was presented by his old friend Phil Collins. The BBC website says of Martyn, "his heartfelt performances have either suggested or fully demonstrated an idiosyncratic genius." [ [ Folkaward's winner page] ] Martyn performed "Over the Hill" and "May You Never" at the ceremony, with John Paul Jones accompanying on mandolin.


tudio albums

*"London Conversation" (October 1967)
*"The Tumbler" (December 1968)
*"Stormbringer!" (February 1970) (with Beverley Martyn)
*"The Road to Ruin" (November 1970) (with Beverley Martyn)
*"Bless the Weather" (November 1971)
*"Solid Air" (February 1973)
*"Inside Out" (October 1973)
*"Sunday's Child" (January 1975)
*"One World" (November 1977)
*"Grace and Danger" (October 1980)
*"Glorious Fool" (September 1981)
*"Well Kept Secret" (August 1982)
*"Sapphire" (November 1984)
*"Piece by Piece" (February 1986)
*"The Apprentice" (March 1990)
*"Cooltide" (November 1991)
*"And" (August 1996)
*"The Church with One Bell" (covers album) (March 1998)
*"Glasgow Walker" (May 2000)
*"On the Cobbles" (April 2004)


*"Live at Leeds" (September 1975)
*"So Far So Good (1977)
*"Philentropy" (November 1983)
*"Foundations" (October 1987)
*"Couldn't Love You More" (October 1992)
*"No Little Boy" (July 1993)
*"Sweet Little Mysteries: The Island Anthology" (1994)
*"Late Night John" (2004)
*"The Battle of Medway: July 17 1973" (live) (2007)
*"Anthology" (2007)
*"The Simmer Dim" (2008)
*"The July Wakes" (2008)
*"Ain't no saint" (2008) 40-year anthology


External links

* [ John Martyn] official website
* [ John Martyn] at Allmusic

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