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Old Dec 21, 2008, 03:02 AM
Nou Dadoun Nou Dadoun is offline
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Davy Graham RIP

Sitting around the breakfast table this morning reading yesterday's NYT, my wife turned to me and said, "Davy Graham?" I was surprised to hear that he had passed away after a short illness, masterful guitar player whose musical career in many ways ran roughly parallel to the late John Fahey in that they both hugely influenced a whole school of guitarists which barely acknowledged their existence. Fahey got his balladry influence filtered through Appalachia but Graham was tapped into the original vein of Child Ballads and the British stand up and sing pub influences. But both also had roots in the blues, jazz and the modal improvisation of Indian and eastern musics.

Although not as well known as his peers Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, ironically more people know his song Anji though Paul Simon's version than would be able to identify any one of the three. In recent years, the Fledg'ling label (see, the folks responsible for the Chris McGregor, Brotherhood of Breath and Joe Boyd-associated productions, have undertaken a comprehensive reissue program of his sporadic releases including his 1965 acknowledged masterpiece "Folk, Blues and Beyond".

His Fledg'ling recordings are distributed by Verge in Canada (see


New York Times obit:

Davy Graham, Widely Influential British Guitarist, Dies at 68
Published: December 19, 2008

Davy Graham, a British guitarist whose musical fusions, technique and tuning shaped generations of musicians, died on Monday at his home in London. He was 68.

His Web site confirmed the death, saying it was caused by a seizure. Mr. Graham had been battling lung cancer.

To many American listeners Mr. Graham’s best-known piece of music is “Anji,” a guitar solo that Paul Simon performed on Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 album “Sounds of Silence.” But Mr. Graham’s blend of Celtic music with blues, jazz, spiky syncopations and Eastern modes — he called it folk-Baroque — has been widely influential since the early 1960s, particularly with musicians who sought to revitalize and extend British folk traditions. Among them were the members of Pentangle and Fairport Convention as well as John Martyn, Martin Carthy and the guitarist Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.

Mr. Graham popularized what guitarists call the DADGAD tuning, named for the notes on the six strings from lowest to highest. (The standard tuning is EADGBE.) The DADGAD tuning, introduced on recordings by Mr. Graham’s 1962 version of the traditional song “She Moved Through the Fair,” facilitates modal chords with the resonance of open strings. It has been used extensively in traditionalist music as well as in rock by Led Zeppelin and others.

David Michael Gordon Graham was born in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England, and grew up in London. His mother was Guyanese, his father Scottish. He took classical-guitar lessons and also learned from a Moroccan-influenced guitarist, Steve Benbow.

At the same time he was drawn to the blues of Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy and to the traditional jazz of the skiffle movement in England. During summers he visited Paris, performing on the streets. He played in British folk and blues clubs, and was part of an early-1963 lineup of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. He wrote “Angi” as a teenager for a girlfriend, and in various spellings the piece spread across the English folk scene. (Mr. Simon discovered it during his time in England in the mid-’60s.)

For “The Guitar Player,” in 1963, Mr. Graham performed duets with a percussionist on jazz and classical tunes. In 1964 he released the wide-ranging “Folk, Blues & Beyond” and the collaboration “Folk Roots, New Routes,” which included innovative duets on folk songs with the traditional singer Shirley Collins. There were Middle Eastern and Indian elements in his music, slipped into a repertory that encompassed the Beatles, Thelonious Monk and his own compositions like “Blue Raga.”

Mr. Graham, who at times in his career was billed as Davey Graham, remained better known to musicians than to the broader pop audience. The British newspaper The Guardian reported that he had been a registered heroin addict in Britain.

After releasing two albums in 1970, “The Holly Kaleidoscope” and “Godington Boundry,” Mr. Graham recorded and performed more sporadically, preferring to travel and study languages (Arabic, Turkish, Greek) and instruments (Arabic oud, Indian sarod).

“I’m a traveler really,” he once said. “I would die as a person if I stayed in place for more than a year.”

Mr. Graham’s 1970s albums included “All That Moody,” in 1976, and “Dance for Two People,” in 1979. In 1993 he made “Playing in Traffic.” He performed on the PBS series “The Blues” in 2003, and a 2005 BBC Radio interview, “Whatever Happened to Davey Graham?,” revived interest in his work, spurring reissues of his early albums.

Soon afterward he returned to regular performing, and in 2007 he recorded his final album, “Broken Biscuits.”

This year the C. F. Martin guitar company made a commemorative version of the OM 000-18 guitar, with which Mr. Graham forged his 1960s style.

He is survived by two daughters, Kim and Mercy.
Reprinted from Friday’s early editions.

Nou Dadoun
The A-Trane on the air since 1986 | CFRO 102.7 FM, Vancouver BC
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Nou Dadoun
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The A-Trane on the air since 1986 | CFRO 100.5 FM, Vancouver BC
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