R.I.P., Bert Jansch

By Bob Johnson

I checked out the official Bert Jansch website this morning (October 9), and found this (unedited) message on the homepage:

Edinburgh show Sat 20th cancelled

Bert’s Edinburgh show on Saturday 20th August has sadly had to be cancelled as Bert is unwell. Both he and his doctors were hoping he would be well enough in time to do the show, but unfortunately that has not been the case and he will be in hospital at least until next week. Bert is desperately disappointed to miss the show, and apologises profusely to all the fans and those who were hoping to see him. Hopefully see you next time!

Sadly, there will be no “next time,” as Jansch passed away on October 6. He was 67.

I feel fortunate to have seen Jansch perform a couple of years ago during one of his visits to the States. I went to see him because I had heard fellow folk singer Al Stewart talk about him for years.

At more than one concert, I’d heard Al ask the question, “How many people here have heard of Bert Jansch?” Seven or eight people would clap their hands.

“That’s pretty typical,” Al would say. “Now if I were to be playing in Britain and were to ask, ‘How many people have heard of Bob Dylan?’ everyone would clap. It’s pretty sad that Bert wasn’t better known here.”

Part of that was Jansch’s own doing. He was known as a recluse, and for long stretches of time, his concert appearances in the States were few and far between.

But I’ll always treasure the time I got to see him. I wasn’t that familiar with his songs, but I recall being mesmerized by his guitar playing. According to reports, among the fellow guitarists he influenced were Jimmy Page and Neil Young.

Because of his disdain for the spotlight, you won’t find much of Bert Jansch on YouTube. About the best we could do for this “wine song” of his, called “Nobody’s Bar,” is provide you with a 30-second snippet, now on our Wine Songs rotation here.

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