Personalities | John Martyn | Grace & Glory | Guitar Heroes
British singer-songwriter and guitarist John Martyn (b. 1948) was born Iain David McGeachy in England. In his 40-year career he has released 20 studio albums. Martyn’s parents divorced when he was five, and he spent his childhood in England and Scotland.
Martyn’s musical career began when he was 17. He blended blues and folk into a unique style, working in the London folk scene of the mid-Sixties. He signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island Records in 1967 and released his first album, London Conversation (1968). By 1970 Martyn had incorporated jazz into his work and developed a unique acoustic guitar sound using effects boxes. This sound was first apparent on Stormbringer in 1970, which featured Martyn’s then wife, Beverley Kutner. She also appeared on The Road To Ruin in 1970.
In 1973 Martyn released Solid Air, the title song a tribute to the singer-songwriter Nick Drake, a close friend and label mate. Martyn developed his signature slurred and guttural vocal style. Solid Air includes ‘May You Never’, perhaps Martyn’s best-known song, which was recorded by Eric Clapton and many others. Following the success of Solid Air, Martyn became experimental with Inside Out (1974), pensive with Sunday’s Child (1975) and a naturalist with One World (1977).
Martyn’s breakup with Beverley resulted in the heart-wrenching Grace And Danger (1980), the rawness of which has made the album Martyn’s most discussed work. In the late Eighties Martyn cited Grace And Danger as his favourite album. ‘Some people keep diaries’, he said. ‘I make records’. A deluxe double-disc re-master of the album was released in 2007. Phil Collins played drums and sang backing vocals on Grace And Danger and produced Martyn’s next album, Glorious Fool (1981). Martyn left Island records in 1981 and has recorded sporadically since then.
In July 2006 the documentary ‘Johnny Too Bad’ documented the period surrounding the operation to amputate John’s right leg below the knee (the result of a burst cyst) and the writing and recording of On The Cobbles (2004). In 2008 Martyn received the lifetime achievement award at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
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