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Music / John Martyn

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Born Iain David McGeachy, John Martyn (September 11, 1948 - January 29, 2009) was an influential British singer-songwriter with an impressive 40-year career weaving an incredible range of genres in his work. He originally started off in the London Folk scene with other musicians including Roy Harper, Gordon Giltrap, Burt Jansch, a young Mike Oldfield, and Martyn's close friend Nick Drake. Despite five years worth of prior albums, it wasn't until 1973 that Martyn made a name for himself with Solid Air, an album that combined the best of his folk years with healthy doses of jazz-leanings. Ever since, he became more famous, especially in his native Britain, through working with big names in music, including Eric Clapton note , Phil Collins, Steve Winwood, David Gilmour and Lee "Scratch" Perry.

Despite his acclaim in British folk circles, Martyn has been just as infamied for his tumultuous home life, which led to an acrimonious separation between him and fellow singer/songwriter Beverley Martyn in 1979.

Notably, he wrote the title track of his 1973 breakout album, Solid Air, in dedication to Nick Drake, who was in the grips of suicidal depression at the time (he committed suicide the following year).

Studio Discography

  • London Conversation (1967)
  • The Tumbler (1968)
  • Stormbringer! (1970; with Beverley Martyn)
  • The Road to Ruin (1970; with Beverley Martyn)
  • Bless the Weather (1971)
  • Solid Air (1973)
  • Inside Out (1973)
  • Sunday's Child (1975)
  • One World (1977)
  • Grace and Danger (1980)
  • Glorious Fool (1981)
  • Well Kept Secret (1982)
  • Sapphire (1984)
  • Piece by Piece (1986)
  • The Apprentice (1990)
  • Cooltide (1991)
  • And (1996)
  • The Church with One Bell (1998)
  • Glasgow Walker (2000)
  • On the Cobbles (2004)
  • Heaven and Earth (2011)

Tropes related to John Martyn:

  • The Alcoholic/Drugs Are Bad: Much of his more controversial side can be owed to drugs and drink.
  • Big Fun: Was a deconstruction of this in the years before his death. Getting huskier by the late '80's, he had to have a leg amputated below the knee in 2003, owing to a burst cyst. Despite the challenges, he retained a joking demeanor like he had when he was younger.
  • Domestic Abuse/Freudian Excuse: Sadly, as revealed in a 2014 interview with The Guardian, fellow singer/songwriter and ex-wife Beverley Martyn admits to a "Luciferian" side of John in their relationship. John was revealed to have a distrust of women stemming from his mother leaving him. Tensions led to him making death threats before their 1979 separation.
    Beverley Martyn: John was my soulmate, but I was terrified of him.
  • Genre-Busting: Downplayed. He mainly found his footing in folk, but managed get his feet wet in blues, jazz, Jamaican dub, reggae, synth-rock, and Phil Collins-esque adult contemporary, before backtracking to folk. Notably, the time around his big break with Bless the Weather and Solid Air had seen to more of a jazz-mix, eventually mutating to an electronic style with an acoustic guitar plugged into fuzz boxes and reverb boxes: an innovative development for the mid-late '70s.
  • Sad Clown: In public appearances, he seemed to be a homey and friendly, if a bit drunk, guy. His home life on the other hand...
  • Stage Name: Born Iain McGeachy.
  • Violent Glaswegian: See Domestic Abuse/Freudian Excuse above. Alongside that, some stories have popped up about his wilder side, such as Paul Kossoff breaking a bottle over his head while touring in the U.S.