Personalities | Bert Jansch | Pentangle’s Folk Hero | Guitar Heroes

A founding member of the band Pentangle, Bert Jansch (b. 1943) was born in Glasgow. He was heavily influenced by the guitarist Davey Graham and folk singers such as Anne Briggs. He has recorded 25 albums and toured extensively, influencing artists like Jimmy Page, Ian Anderson, Nick Drake and Neil Young. Jansch earned a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2001 BBC Folk Awards.

Jansch was raised in Edinburgh. As a teenager, he acquired a guitar and started visiting a local folk club, where he was introduced to the music of Big Bill Broonzy, Pete Seeger and others. Jansch became a full-time musician and spent two years playing one-night stands in British folk clubs.

In London Jansch recorded the album Bert Jansch (1965), which included Jansch’s protest song ‘Do You Hear Me Now’, later covered by Donovan. Jansch’s Jack Orion (1966), contained his first recording of ‘Blackwaterside’, recorded by Led Zeppelin as ‘Black Mountain Side’.

Jansch and John Renbourn frequently played together, and in 1966 they recorded the Bert And John album. In 1967, the duo formed the group Pentangle with singer Jacqui McShee, Danny Thompson (string bass) and Terry Cox (drums). Pentangle’s first album was released in 1968. The group toured extensively, playing many of Jansch’s original compositions. Jansch continued to record as a solo act, releasing Rosemary Lane in 1971. Pentangle split up in 1973, and Jansch withdrew temporarily from the concert circuit.

Jansch returned to music in 1977, with a new group and the album A Rare Conundrum. In the United States, he recorded Heartbreak (1978) with Albert Lee. Jansch’s 1979 album, Avocet, was one of his most ambitious.

Jansch’s subsequent albums have kept his fans loyal, and he has toured the world and performed regularly in small London venues. In 2005 Jansch teamed up again with one of his early influences, Davey Graham, for a small number of concerts in England and Scotland. Jansch underwent major heart surgery in the later part of 2005. By 2006 he was playing and recording again. The Black Swan was released in 2006. In 2009 he performed to celebrate the release of three of his older albums (LA Turnaround, Santa Barbara Honeymoon and A Rare Conundrum) on CD, but had to cancel a North American tour due to illness.

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