John Martyn 1948-2009

John Martyn 1948-2009.

“John Martyn was in every respect a law unto himself. He was really a jazz artist within his “folk” exterior and he crossed all boundaries of music, especially when I introduced him to Lee “Scratch” Perry [on album One World].

He was the first white artist I signed to Island Records in 1967. I signed him because I myself am a jazz fan and I saw in him that insistence on creative freedom that I always find irresistible. His voice was like an angel’s and John at that time also looked angelic. He did a number of records for us, notably Bless The Weather and The Tumbler, but at that time I was really concentrating on Jamaican music and so we parted company.

He then signed with Joe Boyd’s Witchseason [which was distributed through Island], for whom he made some beautiful records, both solo and with his wife Beverley. When he went “electric” he did so big time. He developed an incredibly exciting live show, using the Echoplex effect on his guitar in a manner that it had never been used before. He sounded like a full band on stage, even though there was usually no more than one other musician with him.

Over the years we became good friends, although I had not seen him for more than 10 years. I was so looking forward to seeing him as I had wanted him to feature very prominently in the upcoming Island 50th anniversary events.

It is very sad to lose him. He was a wild man and a true artist.”

Music Week
2 February 2009